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Two Years Before the Mast (1946)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama | 22 November 1946 (USA)
The playboy son of a wealthy shipping magnate discovers at first hand the desperate privations suffered by the crew of one of his fathers ships when he is unwillingly pressganged aboard.

Director:

John Farrow

Writers:

Seton I. Miller (screenplay), George Bruce (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Alan Ladd ... Charles Stewart
Brian Donlevy ... Richard Henry Dana
William Bendix ... First Mate Amazeen
Barry Fitzgerald ... Terence O'Feenaghty
Howard Da Silva ... Captain Francis A. Thompson
Esther Fernández ... Maria Dominguez
Albert Dekker ... Brown
Luis Van Rooten Luis Van Rooten ... 2nd Mate Foster
Darryl Hickman ... Sam Hooper
Roman Bohnen ... Macklin
Ray Collins ... Gordon Stewart
Theodore Newton ... Hayes
Tom Powers ... Bellamer
James Burke ... Carrick
Frank Faylen ... Hansen
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Storyline

Charles Stewart, the "Pilgrim" owner's playboy son, finds himself shanghaied on his father's ship commanded by cruel Captain Thompson. When scurvy breaks out he leads a mutiny and is slapped in irons. Floggings and torture abound. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

ship | scurvy | flogging | sailor | murder | See All (10) »

Taglines:

All the Lassies Love this LADD See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

22 November 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Hiena dos Mares See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 22, 1947 with Alan Ladd reprising his film role. See more »

Quotes

Captain Francis A. Thompson: Mr. Foster, remove his shirt.
2nd Mate Foster: Aye, aye, sir.
Charles Stewart: Never mind. I'll take it off.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Take Back the Heart
Written by Claribel (Charlotte Arlington Barnard) and Mrs. G.R. Gifford
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Marry Those Pelican Hooks And Be Quick About It!
17 June 2017 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

It's been years since I read the book but as I remember it there was no Allan Ladd figure in it, a ne'er do well who is shanghaied aboard the cargo ship Pilgrim. There was just Richard Henry Dana who had dropped out of Harvard because of faulty vision and signed aboard because he thought it might help clear his sight. He didn't go back to college but he left an enduring and compelling account of his trip in the 1840s from Boston to the California coast, and his return aboard the Alert.

The record wasn't only accurate. It was colorful and even lyrical. Herman Melville acknowledged it as an inspiration for Moby Dick. It's an amazingly evocative narrative. Dana Point in southern California is named after him. He and his mates stood atop the cliffs and flung cow hides down to the sailors below, to be loaded aboard the ship.

California at the time was a province of Mexico, and places like San Francisco ("Yerba Buena") and Los Angeles were villages surrounded by large Spanish land grants and ranches. Dana was a humanitarian and, coming from New England, an anti-slavery activist. His purpose was to leave an accurate record of the life of sailors aboard American ships, documenting their characters and their mistreatment.

That's about what I remember from the book. The 1946 movie with Allan Ladd seems to owe a good deal to Jack London's "Sea Wolf", the story of a wealthy young shipwreck survivor picked up by a ship and coerced into working as a members of the crew by a captain who was a madman. This skipper, Howard Da Silva, isn't nuts but insists the men carry out his wishes as if they were the word of God. Maybe Captain Bligh was the inspiration here.

Life on the Pilgram is a rough life. Ladd is assigned the most menial of duties on the deck force while a very young stowaway is appointed cook's helper. In terms of working hours, cooks have one of the roughest jobs of all. They don't strain their muscles, as we had to on the deck force of a Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Gresham, but they have to get up before any of the rest of the crew and start preparing breakfast. And they don't stop working until they've finished cleaning up after the last meal of the day, hours after the day workers have stopped.

The deck force is no picnic either. Everyone on my ship knew the story (possibly "fake news") of the boatswain's mate on a neighboring ship who slapped a seaman across the face and gave him a bloody nose, then made him get on his knees and holystone the blood off the wooden deck. The Chief BM on the Gresham went no farther than raising fist over me and threatening to belt me. Oh, it was rough duty. The blond young Swedish maids helped ease the pain.

Where was I? Yes, no sea duty today compares to what these guys go through -- twenty lashes for looking cross-eye at an officer, and so forth. What's always puzzled me is, if they're going to administer lashes, why do they always rip the shirt down his back? Why not ask him to take it off? Brian Donlevy plays Richard Henry Dana, writing the book in his spare time.

The book, as I say, was a literary gem. Dana captured the experience of working on a sailing ship, including the floggings and the scurvy. (Viz: "Limeys.") Beyond that he gave us treats on landfalls, storms, and ice bergs. Da Silva is the uncompromising and humorless captain. William Bendix is the brutal First Mate Amazeen who gets to belt Ladd on the face. If the producers needed someone to beat hell out of Ladd, more than once it was Bendix. The two men were friends, despite a temporary falling out over Ladd's lack of interest in enlisting during the war.

In Pernambuco, the Pilgrim acquires a passenger -- a beautiful young woman, what else? Compare this to The Sea Wolf, which also picks up a pretty young girl and Jack London's prose turns to mush. Actually, here, Esther Fernández as the requisite romantic role, is quite attractive and gives a respectable performance. Her career flourished in her native Mexico.

I don't think I'll give away the ending except to say there is a violent clash, some deaths, and a victory of sorts. You'll probably enjoy the move. It's aglow with resentment and tension.


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