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Ship of Fools (1965)

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A varied group of passengers boarding a ship bound for post-war Germany represents a microcosm of 1930s society.

Director:

Stanley Kramer

Writers:

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

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Cast

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

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

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

Taglines:

EXPLORER, MISTRESS, VAGRANT, LOAFER, ARTIST, TRAMP ... THEY ARE ALL AT THE CAPTAIN'S TABLE! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | Spanish

Release Date:

October 1965 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Narrenschiff See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Vivien Leigh spent most of her career performing in her natural British dialect on the London and New York stages and in British films. Ironically, nearly all of her work in American films depicted her as a vulnerable and often brutalized southern woman, sexually victimized by Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind (1939), Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Lee Marvin in Ship of Fools (1965). See more »

Goofs

As the passengers disembark at the end, Johann pauses on the steps to watch Amparo walk by, when Tenny appears walking down the steps behind Johann. Immediately the film cuts to a shot of the gangplank above, where Tenny is seen just leaving the ship. See more »

Quotes

[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.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Mouth (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear
(uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, Milton Ager & Edward G. Nelson
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User Reviews

 
Not as good as the novel, but still worth seeing
21 March 2007 | by Red-125See all my reviews

Ship of Fools (1965) directed by Stanley Kramer, is based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter. The film is a reasonably faithful cinematic adaptation, although it lacks the novel's subtlety and complexity. Director Kramer assembled an all-star cast--including Vivien Leigh (her last film), Simone Signoret, José Ferrer, Lee Marvin, Oskar Werner, José Greco, and George Segal.

The film takes place entirely on shipboard, except for the final scene. Naturally, the close confines of the ship and the lack of privacy bring about forced interactions, as would have been the case in reality. These interactions form the basic plot of both the book and the film.

The time is 1933, so the passengers don't know what we know--things are changing rapidly in Germany and everything will be different in just a year or two. In fact, that's the basic weakness of the plot--it's easy in retrospect to know just how wrong the Jewish salesman is when he assures people that the current unpleasantness will blow over and all will be well.

Some features of the novel were unfortunately omitted from the film, especially the roles of the Spanish twins, Ric and Rac. In the novel, they are the embodiments of senseless evil, and every chapter in which they appear is laden with foreboding. In the film, the children commit one evil act, but it makes no sense because we haven't been prepared for it.

Director Kramer made one choice I consider foolish. In the novel, a young woman named Elsa Lutz is realistically unhappy. She is unattractive, not very intelligent, not gifted or graceful, and her prospects for marriage are bleak. In the film, she is portrayed as a stunning ingénue, who will blossom into an even more stunning woman. No dramatic tension there. Porter had it right, Kramer had it wrong.

All in all, "Ship of Fools" is a classic movie by an excellent director and it's loaded with stars. It's not an essential film, but it's entertaining enough and worth renting.


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