Souls at Sea

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Souls at Sea
Poster of the movie Souls at Sea.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Produced by
  • Henry Hathaway
  • Grover Jones
  • Adolph Zukor
Screenplay by
Story by Ted Lesser
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Elsworth Hoagland
Production
  company
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)
  • September 3, 1937 (1937-09-03) (USA)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Souls at Sea is a 1937 American adventure film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Gary Cooper, George Raft, and Frances Dee. Based on a story by Ted Lesser, the film is about a first mate on a slave ship who frees the slaves on the ship after a mutiny overthrows the ship's captain. The title of this film was spoofed in the Laurel and Hardy comedy film Saps at Sea (1940). The film was nominated for three Academy Awards.[1]

Plot[edit]

The story is based on two distinct early 19th-century themes, including the attempts by abolitionists (Cooper and Raft) to end the slave trade. Although the U.S. Constitution ended the importation of slaves in 1808, slaves were still being brought into the country under foreign flags. The abolition of slavery by Great Britain helped reduce legal trade in slaves by putting the British navy into action against slave traders, but even Britain had its supporters of the trade (here represented by Wilcoxon, as a British naval officer acting for the slave interests). The collision between Cooper and Wilcoxon is complicated by Wilcoxon's sister (Dee) falling in love with Cooper.

The conflict reaches its peak on board the ship William Brown. An actual ship involved in a sea tragedy of this period (the Jacksonian Age of the 1820s to 1840s), the William Brown hit an iceberg on April 19, 1841, and sank with loss of life. Here it catches fire, due to a little girl, and the ship's captain (Carey) is injured. Cooper taking over has to limit the number of people in the only lifeboat, and as a result is put on trial for murder (and defended by Zucco). In real life a seaman, one Alexander Holmes, was tried and convicted of manslaughter, but given only a fine and six months imprisonment. A later film with Tyrone Power called Seven Waves Away or Abandon Ship! (1957) dealt with the issue of the limits of lifeboat space and decisions of the first mate.

Cast[edit]

Production background[edit]

In November 1936, silent film star John Bowers heard that his old friend Henry Hathaway was directing Gary Cooper in Souls at Sea off the shore of Santa Catalina. On November 17, The 50-year-old actor rented a sixteen-foot sloop and sailed to the island, hoping to land a part in the picture only to learn that it had been cast. Bowers never returned to shore and his body was found on the beach at Santa Monica, California. Bowers' life and death is identified as inspiration for the character Norman Maine in A Star Is Born (1937).[2]

George Raft initially turned down his part and was suspended. Lloyd Nolan and Anthony Quinn stood by to replace him. Raft agreed to play the role when it was rewritten to be more sympathetic.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Souls at Sea". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  2. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 71. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9. 
  3. ^ Everett Aaker, The Films of George Raft, McFarland & Company, 2013 p 74

External links[edit]