Slave Ship (1937)

92 mins | Drama | 2 July 1937

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Last Slaver . Notes from a conference with Darryl Zanuck concerning the second revised treatment, in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, reveal a number of his concerns: "While in all probability the picture will be produced on a large scale, it is unlikely that we will have a name like [Clark] Gable, for instance, to cover up any of its possible weaknesses. Therefore, Mr. Zanuck feels that he cannot stress too much the fact that we must concentrate on the writing of an expert script that stands completely on its own....Watch, too, that the British are not made to appear stupid....Note: It is very important for censorship purposes that we indicate very plainly that the South is as radically opposed to slave-running as the North." Correspondence in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also at UCLA, indicates that although William Faulkner is credited onscreen with the story, he actually only contributed "additional original dialogue" to a screenplay by Sam Hellman and Gladys Lehman. A note in the files states, "Mr. Zanuck and the producer decided to give Faulkner screen credit and this was the only way they could do it, as Lehman, Hellman and Trotti had been given credit for screenplay, which is the Academy limit." At the time, AMPAS limited screen credits for screenplay to three names. Faulkner is quoted in a modern source concerning his contribution: "I'm a motion picture doctor. When they run into a section they don't like, I rework it and continue to rework it until they do like it. In Slave ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Last Slaver . Notes from a conference with Darryl Zanuck concerning the second revised treatment, in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, reveal a number of his concerns: "While in all probability the picture will be produced on a large scale, it is unlikely that we will have a name like [Clark] Gable, for instance, to cover up any of its possible weaknesses. Therefore, Mr. Zanuck feels that he cannot stress too much the fact that we must concentrate on the writing of an expert script that stands completely on its own....Watch, too, that the British are not made to appear stupid....Note: It is very important for censorship purposes that we indicate very plainly that the South is as radically opposed to slave-running as the North." Correspondence in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also at UCLA, indicates that although William Faulkner is credited onscreen with the story, he actually only contributed "additional original dialogue" to a screenplay by Sam Hellman and Gladys Lehman. A note in the files states, "Mr. Zanuck and the producer decided to give Faulkner screen credit and this was the only way they could do it, as Lehman, Hellman and Trotti had been given credit for screenplay, which is the Academy limit." At the time, AMPAS limited screen credits for screenplay to three names. Faulkner is quoted in a modern source concerning his contribution: "I'm a motion picture doctor. When they run into a section they don't like, I rework it and continue to rework it until they do like it. In Slave Ship , I reworked sections. I don't write scripts. I don't know enough about it." According to a HR news item, Trotti was assigned to the film after the proposed film The Siege of Alcazar had been canceled due to numerous protests.
       According to news items, Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney were borrowed from M-G-M for the film. According to MPH , the actual filming took 102 days. NYT noted that the production costs exceeded $1,000,000. According to news items, Otto Brower, with a camera and technical crew, took a thirty-day trip to the Florida Keys and Bermuda to shoot offshore scenes, and a company of forty traveled to Catalina Island to shoot sea scenes. According to a Aug 1936 HR news item, John Ford was originally scheduled to direct, but he asked to be excused in order to take a vacation trip to Europe following the production of three films he directed in quick succession, and Howard Hawks was announced as director. According to NYT , in Nov 1936, Tay Garnett, who had acquired the assignment of director, was suddenly switched to Love Is News (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2604). When that film was completed, he began shooting this one. According to a HR news item, Peter Lorre was signed on 15 Dec 1936 to play the role of the slave dealer, which ultimately went to Joseph Schildkraut, who was signed a few days before production began. John Carradine, who was not in the released film, was added to the cast on 18 Dec 1936, according to HR . Mary Rogers , the daughter of the late Will Rogers, was signed for the role of Nancy Marlowe but took sick with the flu during production, and Elizabeth Allan, on the day M-G-M agreed to a severance of their contract with her, signed to replace Rogers, according to news items. Tay Garnett, in his autobiography, related that the script was devised to co-star Clark Gable with Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney, but M-G-M would not let Gable go. In the legal records, correspondence dated 22 Feb 1937, after the initial shooting was completed, states that Granville Bates played the "old man." As screen credits list Herbert Heywood in that role, it is possible that during the shooting of added scenes in Mar 1937, Bates was replaced by Heywood. According to a Los Angeles Evening News news item, the barquentine Lottie Carson was used in this film. According to a modern source, blacks who were servants and chauffeurs to Hollywood stars and producers were hired to play slaves. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Jun 1937.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jun 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Jun 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 37
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 37
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 37
p. 1, 4
Los Angeles Evening News
27 Jul 1937.
---
Motion Picture Daily
4 Jun 37
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
13 Mar 37
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Jun 37
p. 56, 58
New York Times
8 Nov 1936.
---
New York Times
10 Jan 1937.
---
New York Times
17 Jun 37
p. 19.
New York Times
24 Oct 1937.
---
Variety
23 Jun 37
p. 3.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
2d cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
Ward man
Ward girl
MUSIC
Mus score
MAKEUP
Hair
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech dir
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Grip
Asst prop
Best boy
Casting dir
Technical man
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Last Slaver by George S. King (New York, 1933).
SONGS
"Lilly Dale," words and music by H. S. Thompson
"De Camptown Races," words and music by Stephen Foster
"Hades," words and music by Alfred Newman.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Last Slaver
Release Date:
2 July 1937
Premiere Information:
World premiere at New York: 17 June 1937
Production Date:
22 December 1936--mid February 1937
added scenes: 11 March--27 March 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 July 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7310
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in feet):
8,315
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3087
SYNOPSIS

The barque Wanderer gets the reputation of being a "blood ship" after a worker is killed at its launch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1857. In the next three years, a plague and an explosion kill many others aboard. Bought in an auction by Jim Lovett and renamed the Albatross , the ship is used in the slave trade, which by 1860 has become outlawed everywhere. Jim and his crew, who are also shareholders, risk hanging for large profits, as their ship is one of only three slave ships still operating. After landing in Virginia with a load of slaves, Jim meets Nancy Marlowe of Norfolk. Two months later, after he orders his first mate and friend, Jack Thompson, to get rid of the crew and hire new men who would not work on a slave ship, Jim marries Nancy and brings her aboard to travel to Jamaica, where he plans to buy a plantation and settle down. However, the crew, including Thompson and Swifty, the cabin boy, mutiny and take the ship to Africa. When Jim explains his past to Nancy, she turns away in disappointment. During the trip, Jim stays drunk. In Africa, Nancy reconciles with Jim, but after slaves are selected and sent to the ship, Thompson and crew member Lefty leave Jim ashore to face the unpaid slave dealer Danelo, who tries to kill Jim for tricking him. Jim escapes and reaches the ship where he takes control of the guns and wheel. Knowing that he cannot hold off the men for long, Jim heads for St. Helena, a British island in the Atlantic. When ... +


The barque Wanderer gets the reputation of being a "blood ship" after a worker is killed at its launch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1857. In the next three years, a plague and an explosion kill many others aboard. Bought in an auction by Jim Lovett and renamed the Albatross , the ship is used in the slave trade, which by 1860 has become outlawed everywhere. Jim and his crew, who are also shareholders, risk hanging for large profits, as their ship is one of only three slave ships still operating. After landing in Virginia with a load of slaves, Jim meets Nancy Marlowe of Norfolk. Two months later, after he orders his first mate and friend, Jack Thompson, to get rid of the crew and hire new men who would not work on a slave ship, Jim marries Nancy and brings her aboard to travel to Jamaica, where he plans to buy a plantation and settle down. However, the crew, including Thompson and Swifty, the cabin boy, mutiny and take the ship to Africa. When Jim explains his past to Nancy, she turns away in disappointment. During the trip, Jim stays drunk. In Africa, Nancy reconciles with Jim, but after slaves are selected and sent to the ship, Thompson and crew member Lefty leave Jim ashore to face the unpaid slave dealer Danelo, who tries to kill Jim for tricking him. Jim escapes and reaches the ship where he takes control of the guns and wheel. Knowing that he cannot hold off the men for long, Jim heads for St. Helena, a British island in the Atlantic. When the crew realizes Jim's plan, they send Swifty with food to relieve Jim, who has not slept for seventy-two hours, at the wheel. Although at first Jim suspects a trick, after Nancy takes Swifty's side, Jim gives him a gun and says that he needs another man. Swifty, who all along has rebelled against the viewpoint that he is still a child, is won over, and when the crew approaches, he battles them with Jim and Nancy. When Thompson sees that St. Helena is in sight, he orders the chained slaves thrown overboard, weighted with an anchor, so that no evidence will exist to convict him. As the boat catches fire from a fallen lantern, Jim has the slaves freed so that they can swim to safety. When Thompson is about to attack him, Jim shoots him, but he is then is knocked out after falling for a ruse. When the crew abandons ship, Thompson decides that he cannot leave Jim to hang and puts him in a boat with Swifty and Nancy before he dies as the ship explodes in flames. At the trial, Nancy pleads for Jim, explaining that he freed the slaves even though he knew their existence would be proof against him. Later, on their plantation in Jamaica, Jim and Nancy's enjoyment of the quiet life is momentarily disrupted as Swifty fights with Scraps, the ship's drunken cook who rescued Nancy's dog, for a piece of pie. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.