Outward Bound (film)

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Outward Bound
Lobby card
Directed by Robert Milton
Written by Sutton Vane (play)
J. Grubb Alexander
Starring Leslie Howard
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Helen Chandler
Beryl Mercer
Dudley Digges
Alec B. Francis
Cinematography Hal Mohr
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • November 29, 1930 (1930-11-29)
Running time
83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Outward Bound is a 1930 American pre-Code drama film based on the 1924 hit play of the same name by Sutton Vane.[1] It stars Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Helen Chandler, Beryl Mercer, Montagu Love, Alison Skipworth, Alec B. Francis, and Dudley Digges. The film was later remade, with some changes, as Between Two Worlds (1944).


Henry and Ann, a pair of young lovers, are planning to commit suicide and are worried about what will happen to their dog when they are gone. The scene then changes to a disparate group of passengers who find themselves aboard a darkened, fog-enshrouded crewless ship, sailing to an unknown destination.

Their stories are revealed one by one. Tom Prior, a prodigal son, discovers that he's traveling with his ex-boss, Mr. Lingley, a captain of industry; his mother, Mrs. Midget, whose identity is unknown to him, is curious about how her son is doing; Mrs. Cliveden-Banks, an affected socialite, chats with Scrubby the steward; Rev. William Duke, a clergyman, is keen about his missionary work in the London slums; and the young couple, Henry and Ann, who are facing an impossible love affair and have decided that they cannot live without each other. They now wonder if they will be together forever.

In time, the passengers slowly realize what is going on—they are all dead. They will be judged during the course of the voyage, and go either to Heaven, or to Hell. Arriving at their destination, they await judgment by Thompson, the "examiner."

Henry and Ann, who made an unsuccessful suicide attempt, now hover in a sort of limbo between life and death, have not quite crossed over. Scrubby, the ship's steward, has already been condemned to sail the ship for eternity, having previously committed suicide himself. Henry is eventually saved from asphyxiation by gas poisoning when his dog breaks a window pane. He calls to Ann, she revives, and together they are rescued by neighbors and taken away in an ambulance.



Leslie Howard played the role of Henry in the stage production of Outward Bound which ran at the Ritz Theatre in New York City January 7 – May 10, 1924.[2] Dudley Digges, Beryl Mercer and Lyonel Watts all reprised their roles for the film. Alfred Lunt played Tom Prior and Margalo Gillmore played Ann.[2] In the film, Howard took Lunt's part and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. played the role originally performed by Howard.

"I never saw all of it," said Fairbanks about the film. "It gave me the creeps. Still does, just thinking about it. It was a prestige picture, never made a cent."[3]


The film survives intact and has been broadcast on television and cable(Showtime in the 1990s) from United Artists Associated. It is preserved in the Library of Congress collection.[4]


  1. ^ IBDb.com: Sutton Vane
  2. ^ a b IBDb.com: Outward Bound (1930)
  3. ^ Bawden, James; Miller, Ron (4 March 2016). Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. p. 97. 
  4. ^ Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress, (<-book title) p. 135 c.1978 by The American Film Institute

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