The Sea Wolf (1941)

90 or 98 mins | Adventure | 22 March 1941

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writer:

Robert Rossen

Cinematographer:

Sol Polito

Editor:

George Amy

Production Designer:

Anton Grot

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

This film marked Canadian-born actor Alexander Knox's American motion picture debut. According to an article in 1 Oct 1937 LAEx , producer Mervyn LeRoy wanted to film the Jack London novel and planned to borrow Clark Gable from M-G-M to play the role of "Wolf Larsen." Memos reproduced in a modern source note that Warner Bros. offered Paul Muni the part of "Wolf Larsen," but he refused to consider it unless either Rafael Sabatini, Sidney Howard or Eugene O'Neill was assigned as the screenwriter. Subsequently, the film was taken out of development. In 1940, George Raft was offered the part of "George Leach," but as he considered it a bit part, he turned it down. After the success of the 1940 Warner Bros. film The Sea Hawk , the studio revived the project planning to re-use the $400,000 sets built for The Sea Hawk . Anatole Litvak was at that time assigned to direct.
       News items in HR add the following information about the production: Seventy-five carpenters were used to build the Ghost . Warner Bros. wanted Harry Carey for the film, but he was still working on Shepherd of the Hills (See Entry). According to press releases in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library, the film's world premiere was the first to be held on a ship and took place aboard the luxury liner America during a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The film received two Oscar nominations for special effects: Byron Haskin was nominated for Best Photographic Special Effects and Nathan Levinson was nominated for Best Sound ... More Less

This film marked Canadian-born actor Alexander Knox's American motion picture debut. According to an article in 1 Oct 1937 LAEx , producer Mervyn LeRoy wanted to film the Jack London novel and planned to borrow Clark Gable from M-G-M to play the role of "Wolf Larsen." Memos reproduced in a modern source note that Warner Bros. offered Paul Muni the part of "Wolf Larsen," but he refused to consider it unless either Rafael Sabatini, Sidney Howard or Eugene O'Neill was assigned as the screenwriter. Subsequently, the film was taken out of development. In 1940, George Raft was offered the part of "George Leach," but as he considered it a bit part, he turned it down. After the success of the 1940 Warner Bros. film The Sea Hawk , the studio revived the project planning to re-use the $400,000 sets built for The Sea Hawk . Anatole Litvak was at that time assigned to direct.
       News items in HR add the following information about the production: Seventy-five carpenters were used to build the Ghost . Warner Bros. wanted Harry Carey for the film, but he was still working on Shepherd of the Hills (See Entry). According to press releases in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library, the film's world premiere was the first to be held on a ship and took place aboard the luxury liner America during a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The film received two Oscar nominations for special effects: Byron Haskin was nominated for Best Photographic Special Effects and Nathan Levinson was nominated for Best Sound Effects. Several other versions of Jack London's novel have been filmed: In 1913, Hobart Bosworth directed and starred in The Sea Wolf . George Melford directed a version in 1920 for Famous Players-Lasky, which starred Noah Beery (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3896 and F1.3897). An earlier version was produced by Balboa Amusement Producing Co., but was legally banned from exhibition (though it may have been screened prior to the injuction). In 1926, Producers Distributing Corp. released a version made by the Ralph W. Ince Corp., which Ralph Ince directed and starred in, and Fox Film Corp. produced and released a version in 1930, directed by Alfred Santell and starring Milton Sills (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.4867 and F2.4668). Allied Artists released Wolf Larsen , starring Barry Sullivan and directed by Harmon Jones, in 1958; and an Italian version, starring Chuck Connors, variously titled Wolf Larsen and Legend of the Sea Wolf , was made in 1975, with Giuseppe Vari directing. In 1993, a television version, starring Charles Bronson and Christopher Reeve, was broadcast on TNT. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jan 41
p. 4.
American Cinematographer
Apr 41
p. 188.
Box Office
22 Mar 1941.
---
Daily Variety
24 Mar 41
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Mar 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 40
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 41
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
1 Oct 1937.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
14 Feb 1938.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
7 Sep 1940.
---
Motion Picture Daily
3/29/1941.
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
29 Mar 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Mar
p. 74.
New York Times
26 Mar 41
p. 27.
Variety
26 Mar 41
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SOUND
Sd spec eff
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Sea-Wolf by Jack London (New York, 1904).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 March 1941
Production Date:
4 November 1940--early January 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10338
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90 or 98
Length(in feet):
8,977
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1900, fugitive George Leach signs on to sail with the Ghost , a sailing ship captained by the cold, merciless Wolf Larsen, in order to escape the law. Before the ship leaves San Francisco Bay, it picks up writer Humphrey Van Weyden and fugitive Ruth Brewster, who were marooned when their ferry collided with another ship. Van Weyden is immediately struck by the callous nature of the crew and is further alarmed when Larsen informs him that he and Ruth will have to sail with the Ghost . While Ruth lies ill below decks, Van Weyden is put to work as the cabin boy. As the voyage progresses, Van Weyden learns that the ship is not a sealing ship, as he has supposed, but is really sailing the seas to avoid Larsen's greatest enemy, his brother. The ship's cook shows Van Weyden's candid written observations on the brutal conditions on board the ship to Larsen, who is more interested than enraged by them. He tells Van Weyden the story of his rise from cabin boy to his present position and shows him his impressive library. Amused by Van Weyden's sensitive nature, he tells the writer that by the end of the voyage he will have become as soulless as the rest of the crew. Meanwhile, Ruth takes a turn for the worse. Her only chance for survival is a blood transfusion, but Louis Prescott, the ship's doctor, is a drunk and too frightened to perform the operation. At Larsen's order, Van Weyden rouses the doctor who, using Leach's blood, saves Ruth's life. Revitalized by his success, Prescott ... +


In 1900, fugitive George Leach signs on to sail with the Ghost , a sailing ship captained by the cold, merciless Wolf Larsen, in order to escape the law. Before the ship leaves San Francisco Bay, it picks up writer Humphrey Van Weyden and fugitive Ruth Brewster, who were marooned when their ferry collided with another ship. Van Weyden is immediately struck by the callous nature of the crew and is further alarmed when Larsen informs him that he and Ruth will have to sail with the Ghost . While Ruth lies ill below decks, Van Weyden is put to work as the cabin boy. As the voyage progresses, Van Weyden learns that the ship is not a sealing ship, as he has supposed, but is really sailing the seas to avoid Larsen's greatest enemy, his brother. The ship's cook shows Van Weyden's candid written observations on the brutal conditions on board the ship to Larsen, who is more interested than enraged by them. He tells Van Weyden the story of his rise from cabin boy to his present position and shows him his impressive library. Amused by Van Weyden's sensitive nature, he tells the writer that by the end of the voyage he will have become as soulless as the rest of the crew. Meanwhile, Ruth takes a turn for the worse. Her only chance for survival is a blood transfusion, but Louis Prescott, the ship's doctor, is a drunk and too frightened to perform the operation. At Larsen's order, Van Weyden rouses the doctor who, using Leach's blood, saves Ruth's life. Revitalized by his success, Prescott stops drinking and demands that Larsen order the men to treat him with respect. Larsen agrees, but then, in front of the sailors, kicks him down the stairs. Finally beaten, Prescott climbs the ropes and, before plunging to his death, tells the men the truth about the Ghost 's mission. Leach now formulates a plan to escape from the ship. He and several other sailors throw Larsen and the first mate overboard, but Larsen manages to grab a rope and pull himself aboard. Mutiny openly breaks out, but despite a blinding headache, Larsen reasserts his authority over the men. Later, when Van Weyden discovers Leach hoarding supplies for another escape attempt, he begs to come along and reveals Larsen's secret: he becomes temporarily blind when suffering from his headaches. Leach, Van Weyden, Ruth and Johnson put to sea in a small boat only to discover that Larsen has replaced their water with vinegar. They believe their lives are saved when they see a ship in the fog, but the ship is the Ghost , which has been destroyed by Larsen's brother. When Leach boards the sinking ship to search for supplies, Larsen sees him and locks him in the storeroom. When he does not return, Ruth and Van Weyden come after him. Although Leach advises them to leave him behind, Van Weyden goes after Larsen, who shoots him. Mortally wounded, Van Weyden offers to keep Larsen company as the ship sinks if he will give the storeroom key to Ruth. Ruth frees Leach and they leave to start a new life together. Larsen, however, is left to face his death alone after Van Weyden dies from his wounds. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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