|SOULS AT SEA (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: story by Ted Lesser/Grover Jones/Richard Talmadge/Dale Van Every; cinematographer: Merritt Gerstad/ Charles Lang Jr.; editor: Ellsworth Hoagland; music: Boris Morros; cast: Gary Cooper ( Michael "Nuggin" Taylor), George Raft (Powdah), Frances Dee (Margaret Tarryton), Robert Cummings (George Martin), Stanley Fields (Capt. Granly), Joseph Schildkraut (Gaston de Bastonet), Virginia Weidler (Tina), Olympe Bradna (Babsie), George Zucco (Woodley), Porter Hall (Court prosecutor), Henry Wilcoxon (Stanley Tarryton), Harry Carey (Captain of "William Brown"), Monte Blue (Mate), Charles Middleton (Jury foreman), William Stack (Judge), Gilbert Emery (Capt. Martisel), Tully Marshall (Pecora); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Adolph Zukor; MCA Universal Home Entertainment (Paramount; 1937)|
|"This obscure film is so
wonderful because Raft and Cooper are dynamite
together. So who knew both laconic actors
could be so animated and such a joy to watch
by Dennis Schwartz
packed romantic adventure story directed with a
boldness by the noted bully to his actors filmmaker
Henry Hathaway ("True Grit"/"Call
Northside 777"/"Rawhide"). It's based on a story by
Ted Lesser. The screenplay is written by Grover
Jones, Richard Talmadge and Dale Van Every. It
tells of a true incident that happened in 1841 to the
ship called the William Brown.
opens at a trial in Philadelphia, in 1842,
where the sailor Michael "Nuggin"
Taylor (Gary Cooper) is unfairly on trial for
saving himself while others died he left behind from
the the shipwreck of the William Brown. In court the
story unfolds in flashback.
loquacious Shakespeare literate Nuggin, secretly an
abolitionist, is the new first mate on a slave ship
called the Blackbird. When the evil Capt. Granly (Stanley
Fields), a big operator as a slaver out
of Savannah, is murdered by the slaves for abusing
them, Nuggin agrees to assume command, as his pal
and uneducated senior mate Powdah (George Raft)
wants no part of authority. Nuggin sets the cargo of
600 hundred slaves free and subsequently allows a
British patrol ship to stop the ship and take him
back under arrest as a mutineer and slaver to
Liverpool. The case is dismissed for lack
of evidence. But Nuggin is approached by the savvy
naval intelligence agent, Barton Woodley (George
Zucco), to work a scheme to help put a
halt to the slave trade business forever. Nuggin and
Powdah sail on the William Brown for Savannah, with
Powdah unaware of Nuggin's deal. Also aboard is Lt.
Stanley Tarryton (Henry Wilcoxon),
the greedy secret slaver, in an unholy business
partnership with the ruthless British businessman
Pecora (Tully Marshall), and suspecting
Nuggin of being an anti-slaver.
goes to Savannah to make arrangements to take on
Granley's established slave trading routes and
contacts. He is forced to bring on the voyage
his attractive sister Margaret (Frances
Dee), so she won't talk. Nuggin falls madly in
love with her and she's receptive, to the great
displeasure of brother Stanley. Meanwhile Powdah falls
for the sincere Babsie (Olympe
Bradna), a lady's maid, who
wants a new start in life in the new world and to no
longer be a servant. Tragedy strikes the ship when a
friendly immigrant little girl (Virginia
Weidler) accidentally knocks over an oil
lamp and the ship catches fire. There's only
one lifeboat and Nuggin puts Margaret in it. Babsie is
severely injured when pinned under a falling beam and
Powdah stays with her on the sinking ship. When the
vile Stanley tries to force his way onto the lifeboat,
he's tossed overboard by Nuggin. While Nuggin is
keeping out a number of men rushing the overcrowded
lifeboat, Powdah knocks him out and tosses him in the
lifeboat. Then Nuggin skillfully sails it to America.
end, the agent tells the court the truth of Nuggin's
mission, and he's freed and forgiven by Margaret.
This obscure film is so wonderful because Raft and Cooper are dynamite together. So who knew both laconic actors could be so animated and such a joy to watch together!
REVIEWED ON 6/1/2015 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ