Cannery Row (film)

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Cannery Row
Cannery row poster small.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David S. Ward
Produced by Michael Phillips
Screenplay by David S. Ward
William Graham
Based on Cannery Row
Sweet Thursday 
by John Steinbeck
Narrated by John Huston
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Edited by David Bretherton
Chai Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • February 12, 1982 (1982-02-12) (United States)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $5,301,539

Cannery Row is the title of a 1982 film directed by David S. Ward. It stars Nick Nolte and Debra Winger. The movie is adapted from John Steinbeck's novels Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.[1]


The story is about the skid row citizens of Monterey, California, set on the row during World War II. As declining fish stocks are shutting down a previously rich fishery and the dependent canning industry, bums and hookers lead colorful and adventurous lives in a balmy seaside setting.

Doc (Nick Nolte), a self-employed marine biologist, lives in a dockside warehouse and researches octopuses. Suzy DeSoto (Debra Winger), a girl from the local bordello, is working there only out of necessity.

A collection of linked vignettes describe the locals and life on Cannery Row. It is depicted as an impoverished area inhabited by a motley band of people who have experienced failures but somehow have found their niche and a community of strangely kindred souls.

Doc and Suzy don’t quite fit in, but are accepted. Even when good intentions turn bad -- e.g., Mac and the boys gather frogs and sell them to give a surprise party for Doc, which turns into a brawl breaking Doc’s tank with his octopus collection. They later bought him a present of a microscope - however it was a telescope,

The deeper mystery and message revolves around why Doc stays in Cannery Row. Suzy discovers that Doc was once a professional baseball pitcher but quit. Another character, the Seer (Sunshine Parker), spends his days playing his horn. He depends on the gifts that mysteriously appear, such as groceries. Suzy eventually learns that the Seer is a former baseball player whom Doc injured with a pitch to the head. Doc takes care of him. Doc and Suzy ultimately find love.



Critical reception[edit]

Film critic, Roger Ebert, wrote of the film, "The movie is almost always good to look at, thanks to Richard MacDonald's sets (he linked together two giant sound stages) and Sven Nykvist's photography. And Nolte and Winger are almost able to make their relationship work, if only it didn't seem scripted out of old country songs and lonely hearts columns. It's tough to pull off a movie like this, in the semi-cynical 1980s (it would have been impossible in the truly cynical seventies). I guess we no longer believe in the essential heroism of the little guy, and in the proposition that anyone can succeed with a little luck."[2]


  1. ^ Cannery Row at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times film review, January 1, 1982. Accessed: June 22, 2013.

External links[edit]