EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA (director: Lewis Milestone; screenwriter: from the novel by Wallace Smith/Wallace Smith; cinematographer: Joseph H. August; editor: Gene Milford; cast: Victor McLaglen (Junius P. Schulte), Wynne Gibson (Mrs. Jeddock), Alison Skipworth (Mrs. Magruder), John Gilbert (Steve Bramley), Helen Vinson (Janet Grayson/Michigan Red), Fred Keating (Danny Checkett), Leon Errol (Layton, chief steward), Walter Connolly (Captain Helquist), Tala Birell (Gerta Klargi), Walter Catlett (Joe Silvers, bartender), John Wray (Mr. Jeddock), Akim Tamiroff (Latin American General), Donald Meek (Bushy bearded passenger), Claude Gillingwater (Judge Griswold), Arthur Treacher (Major Warringforth); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lewis Milestone; Columbia Pictures; 1934)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A neglected gem (it bombed at its theater release), with a
great ensemble cast carrying the episodic film (the many
colorful character actors are a trip). It was silent
screen matinee idol John
Gilbert's last film (unable to secure regular work in talkies as it was
thought his voice was too high-pitched, resulted in him being
an alcoholic and dying at the young age of 41, in 1936, of a heart
attack). Gilbert steals the pic from a terrific cast and shows those
who doubted his voice were misinformed.
Director Lewis Milestone
("Rain"/"All Quiet on the Western Front"/"Of Mice and Men"), Gilbert's
good friend and the reason he got the part, keeps it bouncy as
a Grand Hotel (1932) sophisticated comedy thriller that's set as a
seagoing tale. The Columbia big
budget film is a showcase for some of the studio's hot properties. There's
even a non-talking cameo by The Three Stooges (Moe and Curly Howard,
and Larry Fine) as band members on the
boat, who just signed with the studio. It's based on Wallace
Smith's 1933 novel, and he writes the screenplay.
Steve Bramley (John Gilbert)
is an alcoholic Hollywood reporter who leaves his beloved fiancée Gerta (Tala Birell) in LA to go on the cruise ship the San
Capador to New York, as he hopes to give up booze, write a novel and
overcome his failure to be a screenwriter. On the boat, he meets his
old drinking buddy chief steward Layton (Leon Errol)
and starts imbibing.
We soon learn that the
misanthropic captain (Walter
Connolly) hates the sea and
only became a sailor to
get out of living at home with his bushy bearded dad. The grumpy
taskmaster captain tells reporters covering the story on the ship's
departure that "I detest the sea. I'd like to see any damn-fool women
and children beat me into a lifeboat. ... I'd break them in two with my
Also boarding the boat is Junius
P. Schulte (Victor McLaglen), an ex-sergeant on the police force, now a
private detective for his own firm. He happens to be another of Steve's
drinking partners. Schulte is trailing career criminal Danny Chekett (Fred Keating), who stole $250,000 in
bonds that Schulte wants to recover. Janet Grayson
(Helen Vinson), aka for Michigan Red, travels alone and poses as a
proper Boston librarian on vacation, but is really Danny's lover and
crime partner who hides the bonds on the ship.
is kept busy chasing after the hidden bonds, there are multiple
subplots that involve the other passengers: a Latin American general (Akim Tamiroff) returns to his
revolutionary stricken country to get revenge on those who killed his
El Presidente; a grouchy judge (Claude
Gillingwater) smirks at everyone; a wealthy, bossy,
loudmouth Park Avenue dowager (Alison Skipworth) forces herself on the
younger Checkett until he relents when he realizes that she's loaded; a
former prostitute (Wynne Gibson) now a respectable lady is bullied by
her proper husband (John Wray) until she gets her revenge; a bushy bearded
Meek) reminds the captain of his dad and he jostles him like he did dad
so his beard falls into his soup; an arrogant retired British army major
(Arthur Treacher) who looks down his nose at the others; and the busy bartender (Walter Catlett) who becomes one of
Steve's closest friends.
a funny and very entertaining film, one worth seeking out even if it
never made it to DVD.
REVIEWED ON 8/27/2010 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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