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Ship of Fools (1965)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance, War | October 1965 (Austria)
3:32 | Trailer
A varied group of passengers boarding a ship bound for pre-WWII Germany represents a microcosm of early 1930s society.


Stanley Kramer


Katherine Anne Porter (novel), Abby Mann (screenplay)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Vivien Leigh ... Mary Treadwell
Simone Signoret ... La Condesa
José Ferrer ... Siegfried Rieber (as Jose Ferrer)
Lee Marvin ... Tenny
Oskar Werner ... Dr. Schumann
Elizabeth Ashley ... Jenny
George Segal ... David
José Greco ... Pepe (as Jose Greco)
Michael Dunn ... Glocken
Charles Korvin ... Capt. Thiele
Heinz Rühmann ... Lowenthal (as Heinz Ruehmann)
Lilia Skala ... Frau Hutten
BarBara Luna ... Amparo (as Barbara Luna)
Christiane Schmidtmer ... Lizzi
Alf Kjellin ... Freytag


1933: An ocean liner belonging to a second-rate German company is making a twenty-six day voyage from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany. Along the way it will stop in Cuba to pick up a large group of Spanish farm laborers who are being shipped home and who will be housed like cattle in steerage. There it will also pick up La Condesa, a Spanish countess. It will stop in Tenerife, where the farm workers will disembark and where La Condesa will be sent to a German-run prison for her "traitorous" activities in Cuba. This voyage will be the last of three for the ship's doctor, Willi Schumann, who has a serious heart ailment and who thought he could find some meaning to his life through this job. Willi and La Condesa fall in love, with the ship's Captain Thiele, who is Willi's closest friend on board, believing the drug-addicted La Condesa is only using him to get her fixes. Willi and La Condesa have to figure out if there is a future for them after the voyage, as Willi's life also ... Written by Huggo

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Plot Keywords:

german | ship | american | love | germany | See All (227) »


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Drama | Romance | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Initially, director Stanley Kramer considered filming aboard an actual ship, but that was determined to be too difficult. A ship set was built at Columbia studios and a second unit filmed backgrounds at sea. The ship set extended over four sound stages and had four levels. Special effects were done at Paramount studios, so the whole set was broken down into 44 sections, each measuring 16 x 12 feet, and trucked to Paramount, according to an article in the 2 August 1964 edition of the Los Angeles Times. See more »


Tenny (Lee Marvin) states he's bought "a couple of Margaritas" for the flamenco dancer. That cocktail did not exist in 1933. See more »


[first lines]
Glocken: [walks up to the ship's railing] My name is Karl Glocken, and this is a ship of fools. I'm a fool, and you'll meet more fools as we go along. This tub is packed with them: emancipated ladies, ball players, lovers, dog lovers, ladies of joy, tolerant Jews, dwarfs - all kinds. And who knows, if you look closely enough, you may even find yourself on board.
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Referenced in Cheers: Yacht of Fools (1988) See more »


Egerländer Regimentsmarsch
Music by Wendelin Kopetzky
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User Reviews

This tub is packed with fools
27 April 2020 | by brogmillerSee all my reviews

Abby Mann, who also wrote 'Judgement at Nuremburg' for director Stanley Kramer, has here condensed the novel of Katherine Anne Porter to a little under two and a half hours but it still seems a wee bit on the long side. The weakest link is the on/off romance of the angst-ridden artist of George Segal and the insecure girlfriend of Elisabeth Ashley which becomes rather tiresome. The strongest link is the relationship between ship's doctor Schumann and La Condesa. Oskar Werner and Simone Signoret are simply stupendous and their chemistry is palpable. They are greatly aided by having beautifully written roles and the touching music of Ernest Gold. Werner received recognition for his performance from the New York Critic's Circle. At one point she asks him 'Are you happy?' His response 'Who is?' has a world of meaning. Mention has to be made of Vivien Leigh who plays a lady 'entre deux ages' as the French diplomatically say. Kramer paid tribute to her courage in taking on the role despite her physical and mental 'problems'. Needless to say her nuanced performance oozes class. She picked up a well-deserved 'L'Etoile de Cristal' before this award was renamed the Cesar. Among the uniformly excellent performances is that of Heinz Ruemann as Lowenthal, an incorrigible optimist who has chosen to go back to Germany in 1932! When asked about his fellow German Jews he asks: 'What are they going to do, kill us all?' Ruemann's presence in this film is fascinating for although he always asserted that he was a fervent anti-Nazi he certainly had a close association with Hitler and his circle. The fact that he was one of Germany's most popular actors and was married to actress Hertha Feile who was quarter Jewish no doubt enabled him to seemlessly continue his career after the war. Despite its longeurs this is a piece that leaves a deep impression as we can all relate to the guilts and regrets of these characters. In response to Schumann's 'I haven't lived' the Captain asks 'Who has?' Sorry to say the author disliked the finished product but in the world of film adaptations that is par for the course!

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English | German | Spanish

Release Date:

October 1965 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Ship of Fools See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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