60 user 29 critic

The Whales of August (1987)

Not Rated | | Drama | 19 August 1987 (France)
Two aged sisters reflect on life and the past during a late summer day in Maine.


Lindsay Anderson


David Berry (screenplay), David Berry (play)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Libby Strong
Lillian Gish ... Sarah Webber
Vincent Price ... Mr. Maranov
Ann Sothern ... Tisha Doughty
Harry Carey Jr. ... Joshua Brackett
Frank Grimes ... Mr. Beckwith
Margaret Ladd ... Young Libby
Tisha Sterling ... Young Tisha
Mary Steenburgen ... Young Sarah
Frank Pitkin Frank Pitkin ... Old Randall
Mike Bush Mike Bush ... Young Randall


It's August. Like they have most summers, elderly widowed sisters Libby Strong and Sarah Webber, who live in Philadelphia, are staying together in the family's summer cottage on an island off the coast of Maine. The cottage, which now belongs to Sarah, has been in their family most of their lives, was the family's summer getaway from Philadelphia when they were younger. There are a few people who have been friends or acquaintances on the island, including the outspoken Tisha Dought, and Joshua Brackett. Someone new at least to Sarah's social circle is Mr. Maranov, a former Russian aristocrat. His stay on the island is threatened when his landlady, Hilda Partridge, passes away. Sarah and Libby have come to the realization they are in the respective twilight of their lives, Sarah, who still keeps busy and wants to savor life's pleasures, acts as now sightless, cantankerous and bitter Libby's caregiver. Sarah knows she can no longer take care of Libby. As such, Sarah has to make ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Screen's Immortals... A movie you'll never forget. See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Bette Davis and Mary Steenburgen; and two Oscar nominees: Lillian Gish and Ann Sothern. See more »


When the radio (or wireless) is switched on in order for Libby to listen to her favourite programme, the sound of the broadcast is heard immediately as though it were a modern transistor or digital radio. But the film is set in the mid-1950s during the era of valve wireless receivers (see also the prop used in the scene), meaning that the ladies would have to wait for several seconds while the set warms up before the programme could be heard. See more »


Mr. Maranov: Your sister is a remarkable woman. She does not make small talk.
Sarah Webber: She's unforgivable.
Mr. Maranov: No, I should not have intruded on you this morning.
Sarah Webber: Nonsense.
Mr. Maranov: No, truth. Huh huh. No, I was following an instinct of many years and your very astute sister recognized it. I have once again been set adrift.
Sarah Webber: Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Maranov.
Mr. Maranov: Oh, you needn't be my dear. I have often been adrift, but I have always stayed afloat.
Sarah Webber: But, all these years, what have you done?
Mr. Maranov: [pauses to contemplate] I have spent my life... visiting ...
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Featured in All About Bette (1994) See more »


Roses of Picardy
Music by Haydn Wood
Lyrics by Frederick Edward Weatherly
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User Reviews

A gorgeous, contemplative film
11 February 2001 | by alix-7See all my reviews

The Whales of August follow the events of just more than a day in the life of two sisters, Sarah (Lillian Gish) and Libby (Bette Davis). As Sarah follows her daily chores, from gardening to painting to preparing tea for visitors, you get a strong sense of rhythm and simplicity that is almost hypnotic. Libby, cantankerous and overbearing, is played adequately by Bette Davis. Lillian Gish, however, glows in her role, and makes me fall a bit in love with her! I found Vincent Price wonderfully suited to the role of Mr. Maranov, and Ann Sothern was quite convincing as the sisters' childhood friend.

Obviously, if you are looking for action or high drama, this isn't it. But as a meditation on aging and choosing life, it is exquisite. For those of gentler sensibilities, I highly recommend it. I saw it first in 1989, and luckily found an out of print copy this year...I hope other fans will have similar luck.

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Release Date:

19 August 1987 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Whales of August See more »

Filming Locations:

Maine, USA See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Nelson Entertainment See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (TVC)| Black and White (flashbacks)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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