Ship of Fools (1965)

149 mins | Drama | 6 August 1965

Director:

Stanley Kramer

Writer:

Abby Mann

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Ernest Laszlo

Editor:

Robert C. Jones

Production Designer:

Robert Clatworthy

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures
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HISTORY

According to the 25 Apr 1962 NYT, independent producer-director Stanley Kramer purchased screen rights to Katherine Anne Porter’s recently released 1962 novel, Ship of Fools, for a $500,000 minimum, “with provisions for increased payments depending on the book’s sales.” Kramer planned to shoot the picture as a lavish production, with several million allotted for the budget, and a big-named cast. A news item in the 25 Apr 1962 DV indicated that Kramer paid a flat fee of $375,000 for film rights, and announced that Porter’s novel was already a bestseller after only two weeks in release. Filming was scheduled to begin in 1963.
       An article in the 2 Aug 1964 LAT explained Porter’s decision to accept Kramer’s bid for her novel, which took her thirty years to write. She wrote a letter to him, expressing her admiration for his 1961 picture, Judgment at Nuremberg (see entry), and stating: “‘It is hard to express how tremendously I was impressed by its terrible boldness and beauty, though I was full of horror and tears at parts of it. Remember, I was in Berlin when Hitler was coming to power…’”
       The 22 May 1962 DV reported that Kramer contributed $25,000 to the novel’s advertising campaign, in order to maintain the book’s popularity and ensure the success of his forthcoming film.
       Peter Falk was the first casting choice announced by Kramer, as noted in the 29 May 1962 DV. Theodore Bikel was also in negotiations for a lead role, according to the 3 Aug 1962 DV. Ultimately, neither Falk nor Bikel appeared in the film.
       On 13 ... More Less

According to the 25 Apr 1962 NYT, independent producer-director Stanley Kramer purchased screen rights to Katherine Anne Porter’s recently released 1962 novel, Ship of Fools, for a $500,000 minimum, “with provisions for increased payments depending on the book’s sales.” Kramer planned to shoot the picture as a lavish production, with several million allotted for the budget, and a big-named cast. A news item in the 25 Apr 1962 DV indicated that Kramer paid a flat fee of $375,000 for film rights, and announced that Porter’s novel was already a bestseller after only two weeks in release. Filming was scheduled to begin in 1963.
       An article in the 2 Aug 1964 LAT explained Porter’s decision to accept Kramer’s bid for her novel, which took her thirty years to write. She wrote a letter to him, expressing her admiration for his 1961 picture, Judgment at Nuremberg (see entry), and stating: “‘It is hard to express how tremendously I was impressed by its terrible boldness and beauty, though I was full of horror and tears at parts of it. Remember, I was in Berlin when Hitler was coming to power…’”
       The 22 May 1962 DV reported that Kramer contributed $25,000 to the novel’s advertising campaign, in order to maintain the book’s popularity and ensure the success of his forthcoming film.
       Peter Falk was the first casting choice announced by Kramer, as noted in the 29 May 1962 DV. Theodore Bikel was also in negotiations for a lead role, according to the 3 Aug 1962 DV. Ultimately, neither Falk nor Bikel appeared in the film.
       On 13 Jun 1962, NYT reported that Kramer was returning to Columbia Pictures for distribution of his independently produced Ship of Fools, after a long-time collaboration with United Artists. Columbia reportedly dropped their overhead costs to 22.5 % the previous week, the lowest of any major studio, in order to attract independent productions. The article noted that Kramer was granted a $4 million budget and “complete artistic freedom” by Columbia. Six months later, the 22 Jan 1962 DV indicated a 15 Apr 1963 start date.
       Following his big budget production of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, see entry), Kramer changed his mind about doing the same with Ship of Fools, and decided to produce the picture with a cast of newcomers, on a small budget. In the end, however, he hired mostly well-known stars for the leading roles.
       Production was delayed several times, with the 11 Dec 1963 DV announcing an Apr 1964 start date, and the 2 Jan 1964 DV noting that principal photography would begin in May 1964. Filming finally got underway on 22 Jun 1964, according to that day’s DV.
       In the months leading up to filming, multiple casting announcements were made. The 20 Feb 1964 DV reported Greer Garson was in talks for the “La Condesa” role. However, the 9 Mar 1964 DV announced that Simone Signoret was given the part. According to the 26 Feb 1964 DV, Jane Fonda was favored for a role, and the 3 Mar 1964 NYT noted that actor Michael Dunn would be making his feature film debut as “Glocken.” On 6 Apr 1964, DV reported the casting of James MacArthur, and the 4 Jun 1964 DV announced plans for Spencer Tracy to star in a leading role, but neither Fonda, MacArthur, nor Tracy appeared in the picture.
       According to the 3 Jun 1964 Var, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) made complaints about the casting of five Spanish actors who were non-union: José Santiago Martinez, Maribel DeCirez Garcia, Carmen Robles Quintero, Justo Robles Quintero, and Manuella de Jerez. SAG argued that the actors were given roles in Ship of Fools, at the cost of denying work to SAG members. Columbia vice president Mike Frankovich responded that the claims were “unfair and unfounded,” and that the casting decisions had been cleared by the Immigration Bureau, which SAG ceded to in casting disputes.
       With production underway on 22 Jun 1964, Stanley Kramer told the 14 Jul 1964 NYT about the difficulties he and screenwriter Abby Mann encountered due to the novel’s “maze of plots and characters,” resulting in “two years of arduous preparation.” Mann noted that novelist Porter had offered her support, telling the filmmakers: “Don’t be blocked by the book. Do the film in your own style - and do a good film.”
       Filming on an actual ship had been considered by Kramer, but was deemed too problematic, according to NYT. Instead, a boat set was built at the Columbia Studios in Hollywood, CA, with background scenes filmed at sea by a second unit. According to the 2 Aug 1964 LAT, the ship set took over four sound stages and consisted of four levels. Special effects sequences were filmed “a nautical mile away” at Paramount Studios, where the ship was transported in forty-four sections, each measuring sixteen-by-twelve feet.
       The 9 Sep 1964 DV announced that principal photography completed that day.
       Five months later, Kramer held a screening for test audiences at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, CA, as reported in the 8 Feb 1965 DV. A Sep 1965 release date was announced. However, Ship of Fools received an earlier release, on 6 Aug 1965.
       The 23 Mar 1965 DV noted that Ned Washington had been hired to write the lyrics to Ernest Gold’s title song, “Ship Of Fools,” and an advertisement in the 7 Jul 1965 Var stated that composer Arthur Fiedler of The Boston Pops was arranging the score.
       The 2 Jul 1965 LAT reported that the West Coast premiere would be held on 4 Aug 1965 at the Warner Beverly Hills Theatre, with a benefit premiere the following night in support of the Cardiac Research Foundation for St. Joseph and St. John’s hospitals. Marlon Brando was listed as the honorary chairman of the foundation. An exclusive engagement was to follow at the same theater on 6 Aug 1965, according to an advertisement in the 29 Jul 1965 DV.
       Ship of Fools was praised by critics and audiences, and the 26 Dec 1965 NYT deemed it one of the “Ten Best Films of 1965.” The picture won two Academy Awards for Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Art Direction (Black-and-White) Six additional nominations included: Writing (Screenplay -based on material from another medium); Costume Design (Black-and-White); Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Dunn); Actor (Oskar Werner); Actress (Simone Signoret); and Best Picture. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1962
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 May 1962
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
29 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1962
p. 6.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Jan 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Feb 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Mar 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1965
p. 12.
Daily Variety
4 May 1965
p. 3, 15.
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1964
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1965
Section D, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1965
Section K, p. 1.
New York Times
25 Apr 1962
p. 33.
New York Times
13 Jun 1962
p. 47.
New York Times
3 Mar 1964
p. 31.
New York Times
14 Jul 1964
p. 28.
New York Times
26 Dec 1965
pp. 8-9.
Variety
3 Jun 1964
p. 5.
Variety
7 Jul 1965
p. 45.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Stanley Kramer Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Chief elec
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost des
Miss Leigh's clothes
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
Main titles
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit loc mgr
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter (Boston, 1962).
SONGS
"Heute Abend geh'n wir bummeln auf der Reeperbahn," "Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann," words and music by Ernest Gold and Jack Lloyd.
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 August 1965
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 July 1965
Los Angeles premiere at the Warner Beverly Hills Theatre: 4 August 1965
Production Date:
22 June--8 September 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures
Copyright Date:
1 August 1965
Copyright Number:
LP31095
Duration(in mins):
149
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1933, a German ocean liner bound for Bremerhaven leaves Vera Cruz with a variety of well-off passengers and a group of Spanish laborers who are being repatriated. The Germans, including the anti-Semite Rieber, are privileged to sit at the captain's table, except for Lowenthal, a Jew, and Glocken, a dwarf. Later, the two outcasts are joined by Freytag, when he is found to be married to a Jewess. Dr. Schumann, the ship's doctor, who is suffering from a fatal heart condition, is tending La Condesa, a drug-addicted Spanish noblewoman being shipped to prison on charges of agitating for social reform, and they fall in love. Bill Tenny, an ex-baseball player, feels that his life is a failure because he could not hit an outside curve. David and Jenny, a young unmarried American couple, quarrel because David, a painter, is unhappy living on his wife's income. Mrs. Treadwell, an aging divorcée, flirts and drinks in a desperate attempt to forget her loneliness. Graf, an evangelist, causes a riot among the laborers when he preaches. Graf's nephew, Johann, has an abbreviated affair with a young prostitute who is traveling with a Spanish dance group led by her pimp, Pepe. Jenny consoles Elsa, a Swiss girl who despairs of ever being found attractive, and Lowenthal assures her of her desirability. All disembark at Bremerhaven, except for La Condesa, who had landed earlier at an island prison, and Dr. Schumann, who died of a heart attack after La Condesa's ... +


In 1933, a German ocean liner bound for Bremerhaven leaves Vera Cruz with a variety of well-off passengers and a group of Spanish laborers who are being repatriated. The Germans, including the anti-Semite Rieber, are privileged to sit at the captain's table, except for Lowenthal, a Jew, and Glocken, a dwarf. Later, the two outcasts are joined by Freytag, when he is found to be married to a Jewess. Dr. Schumann, the ship's doctor, who is suffering from a fatal heart condition, is tending La Condesa, a drug-addicted Spanish noblewoman being shipped to prison on charges of agitating for social reform, and they fall in love. Bill Tenny, an ex-baseball player, feels that his life is a failure because he could not hit an outside curve. David and Jenny, a young unmarried American couple, quarrel because David, a painter, is unhappy living on his wife's income. Mrs. Treadwell, an aging divorcée, flirts and drinks in a desperate attempt to forget her loneliness. Graf, an evangelist, causes a riot among the laborers when he preaches. Graf's nephew, Johann, has an abbreviated affair with a young prostitute who is traveling with a Spanish dance group led by her pimp, Pepe. Jenny consoles Elsa, a Swiss girl who despairs of ever being found attractive, and Lowenthal assures her of her desirability. All disembark at Bremerhaven, except for La Condesa, who had landed earlier at an island prison, and Dr. Schumann, who died of a heart attack after La Condesa's departure. +

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

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