The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

86 or 89 mins | Drama | August 1958

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HISTORY

The title card reads: “Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea ,” and the film begins immediately after it. All other credits appear after the film, beginning with the statement: “This picture was directed by John Sturges.” Within the credits the following statement appears: “Some of the marlin film used in this picture was of the world’s record catch by Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. at the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club in Peru. Mr. Glassell acted as special advisor for these sequences.”
       Voice-over narration by Spencer Tracy, who also portrays “Santiago,” is heard throughout the film, interspersed with occasional dialogue. As described in the LAT review, “Tracy speaks alternately in both the 'I' and 'he' persons, in what is the most literal, word-for-word rendition of a written story every filmed.” According to an Oct 1958 SFChron article, Hemingway was considered for voice-over narration, but Tracy’s voice was used to maintain the “unity” of the film.
       In addition to being published in book form, The Old Man and the Sea appeared in its entirety in the Sep 1952 Life magazine. According to the MPH review, many expected that the sale of the book would be jeopardized by its appearance in serial form, but both the magazine and book publishers profited, and Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer for his work, in addition to being awarded the Nobel prize in 1954 in recognition for his achievement for The Old Man and the Sea and the body of his life's work. The short novel was the last of his novels to ... More Less

The title card reads: “Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea ,” and the film begins immediately after it. All other credits appear after the film, beginning with the statement: “This picture was directed by John Sturges.” Within the credits the following statement appears: “Some of the marlin film used in this picture was of the world’s record catch by Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. at the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club in Peru. Mr. Glassell acted as special advisor for these sequences.”
       Voice-over narration by Spencer Tracy, who also portrays “Santiago,” is heard throughout the film, interspersed with occasional dialogue. As described in the LAT review, “Tracy speaks alternately in both the 'I' and 'he' persons, in what is the most literal, word-for-word rendition of a written story every filmed.” According to an Oct 1958 SFChron article, Hemingway was considered for voice-over narration, but Tracy’s voice was used to maintain the “unity” of the film.
       In addition to being published in book form, The Old Man and the Sea appeared in its entirety in the Sep 1952 Life magazine. According to the MPH review, many expected that the sale of the book would be jeopardized by its appearance in serial form, but both the magazine and book publishers profited, and Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer for his work, in addition to being awarded the Nobel prize in 1954 in recognition for his achievement for The Old Man and the Sea and the body of his life's work. The short novel was the last of his novels to be published in his lifetime.
       According to a 2 Aug 1952 LAT news item, Gary Cooper had “a deal” with Hemingway to make the film; however, that project never reached fruition. An Apr 1953 Var news item reported that producer Leland Hayward had acquired film rights to the novel, as well as Hemingway’s service in preparing the script. According to the news item, Tracy was interested in playing the role of Santiago and was being considered, and because the star was on contract at M-G-M, it was expected that that studio would release the film. HR reported in Apr 1953 that Hemingway would personally supervise the film's fishing scenes. An M-G-M studio memo dated Jun 1953 that was found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library reported that the studio was planning to release the film that would star Tracy and be produced by Hayward, the memo also stated that Hemingway would write the script. Then, according to a Sep 1953 Var news item, the picture was being delayed until 1955, after Tracy’s contract with M-G-M ended.        HR production charts dated 9 Sep—23 Sep 1955 report filming in Havana, Cuba and list Hayward, Tracy, assistant director Don Page, art director Art Loel and director of photography Hans Koenekamp as working on the film, but no director is listed on these charts. Although background shots may have been filmed at this time, it is unlikely that principal photography took place in 1955. According to an 8 Oct 1955 NYT news item, Peter Viertel had just completed a screen treatment and had not yet written the final script. Also, according to the news item, director Fred Zinnemann made an “unpublicized trip” to Cuba about this time to discuss the deal with Hemingway, but he had “not yet affixed his signature to the necessary papers.” A 17 Oct 1955 DV news item reporting that Zinnemann would direct The Old Man and the Sea also stated that filming would start after the completion of the film, The Spirit of St. Louis (See Entry), which Hayward was producing.
       Although 1956 HR production charts report that the film was being made in CinemaScope and widescreen, later charts did not and the film was released in standard format. According to a May 1956 HR news item, portions of the film were shot on location near Cojimar, Cuba, which was the actual setting of the original story and where Hemingway kept his own boat, and Boca de Jaruca, Cuba. An early 1956 NYHT article added Santa Maria, Cuba as a location site. A second crew filmed near Talera, Peru, attempting to capture footage of a large black marlin. Modern sources report that a mechanical marlin was constructed and used in some scenes. A Mar 1957 Newsweek article, noting the trouble the crew had in finding sharks and marlins to film, reported that a unit began around May of 1956 to capture footage of sharks and marlins, but, by July, only had ten minutes of usable film. A Jun 1956 HR news item reported that Art Rosson would direct a second unit shooting at Nassau.
       Meanwhile, Hemingway accompanied a crew to the west coast of South America to look for marlins and found three large ones offshore from Peru. A Mar 1957 Newsweek article reported that in Nov 1956 a crew filmed fish while sailing around Panama and the Galapagos Islands. A Jun 1956 HR news item reported that, after forty-two days of shooting, principal photography was almost completed and that Hayward and Zinnemann “abruptly co-announced” that Zinnemann was leaving the picture. According to 1956 HR production charts, filming took place in Cuba and Nassau between late Apr—late Jul in 1956.
       According to a Sep 1956 NYT , which noted the replacement of Zinnemann by John Sturges, principal shooting was being postponed until 1957, when interior sequences would be shot at the Warner Bros. studio. HR production charts note that production resumed in Jul 1957 and continued until late Aug. Sturges, in an Oct 1958 SFChron article, stated that night scenes were filmed at the studio because of the difficulty in lighting those sequences on location. According to the Times review, a tank the size of a football field was constructed for close-ups of Tracy on the skiff, and a Jul 1957 HR news item reported that frogmen were added to the technical staff where they were shooting on stage 7. In Feb 2005, the former Eastman Kodak engineer Arthur Widmer, received an Oscar to honor a lifetime of cinematic achievements. As noted in a
Feb 2005 article on CNN.com commenting on the award, The Old Man and the Sea was one of the first films to use a “bluescreen” compositing technology invented by Widmer that combined actors on a soundstage with a pre-filmed background.
       In the SFChron article, Sturges reported that Glassell caught a marlin in Peru and that several fish used in the film were caught as far away as Panama. A Jun 1957 HR news item reported that a unit would be filming near Honolulu and Kona. According to the Apr 1958 Times article, sea and sky footage was filmed around Hawaii.
       Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Jul 1957 HR news items add Ronald Velo and Roque Ybarra to the cast. A modern source adds that Hemingway's wife Mary and assistant director Don Page (who acted under the name Don Alvarado) to the cast. The character “Martin,” who is portrayed in the film by Harry Bellaver, is only spoken about in the book. A May 1956 HR news item reported that Santiago Puig, who was purportedly the inspiration for Hemingway’s story, acted as a technical advisor to the film.
       According to an Apr 1958 Times article, the film was budgeted for $2,100,000 and ended up costing about $5,000,000. As noted in a Dec 1958 LAT news item, the artistry of the film and the way it translated the novel almost verbatim onto the screen was somewhat controversial and garnered mixed reviews. Although the NYT review was generally unimpressed, the LAT review called it “one of the most beautiful pictures ever made.” The LAEx critic called the film “a poem among pictures.” Although the HR review described the film as “a beautiful piece of visual poetry,” the reviewer doubted that it could retrieve at the box office the outlay spent in producing it.
       The Var review criticized the fact that, although the film had artistic integrity, “the screen has a certain responsibility to itself, i.e., that it can go too far in borrowing from other media and neglecting its own requirements. Word pictures, with their intermingling of thoughts and description…tend to hold the reader’s attention a lot longer than those same images on a screen.”
       Dimitri Tiomkin won an Academy Award for his scoring of The Old Man and the Sea . Tracy was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to David Niven in Separate Tables (See Entry), and James Wong Howe, who was nominated for Achievement in Cinematography, lost to William H. Daniels of Gigi (See Entry). According to a Jun 1959 HR news item, the film was screened at the film festivals in Brussels, Venice, Brazil and Stratford, Ontario, Canada. In 1989, Anthony Quinn starred in a televised version of Hemingway’s novel, which aired on NBC.

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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 56
p. 336.
American Cinematographer
Mar 57
p. 132.
American Cinematographer
Sep 57
p. 581.
Beverly Hills Citizen News
10 Nov 1958.
---
Beverly Hills Citizen News
20 Jan 1959.
---
Box Office
2 Jun 1958.
---
Cosmopolitan
Aug 1958.
---
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1955.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 May 58
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
3 Nov 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1955
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1955
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1956
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1956
p. 11, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1956
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 1957
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1957
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 58
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1959.
---
Life
6 Oct 1958.
---
Look
2 Sep 1958.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
8 Nov 1958.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
7 Nov 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Jul 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Aug 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1958
Part IV, p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
21 Jun 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 May 58
p. 840.
New York Times
8 Oct 1955.
---
New York Times
30 Sep 1956.
---
New York Times
8 Oct 58
p. 41.
New York Times
12 Oct 1958.
---
New York Times
19 Oct 1958.
---
New Yorker
18 Oct 1958.
---
Newsweek
18 Mar 1957.
---
San Francisco Chronicle
22 Oct 1958.
---
Saturday Review
4 Oct 1958.
---
Time
28 Apr 1958.
---
Time
27 Oct 1958.
---
Variety
29 Apr 1953.
---
Variety
9 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
21 May 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
The scr by
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Underwater photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
SET DECORATOR
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Casting
Tech adv
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (New York, 1952).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea
Release Date:
August 1958
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 October 1958
Production Date:
late April--late July 1956
mid July--late August 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Leland Hayward Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 October 1958
Copyright Number:
LP15073
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
WarnerColor
Duration(in mins):
86 or 89
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18118
SYNOPSIS

In Cuba, the old man Santiago has not caught a fish in eighty-four days, making him the object of scorn and pity of the other fishermen. Manolin, the boy who Santiago taught to fish, has been ordered by his parents not to accompany him in his skiff, because they fear the old man is bad luck. Although he dutifully obeys his parents’ wishes, the loyal Manolin continues to help Santiago carry his heavy equipment between the boat and his shack. Manolin, who seems old for his age, loves the old man and provides him with coffee in the morning and food in the evening, partly from the money he earns working on another boat and partly begged from the generous café owner, Martin. Often, Santiago will discuss baseball with Manolin, especially the team called the Yankees and the player, Joe Di Maggio, whom he reads about in the newspaper. During the nights, Santiago often dreams about Africa and lion cubs playing on the shore, images he remembers from his youth. In the mornings, Santiago, who is always up early, walks to Manolin’s house, where he enters and gently shakes the boy’s foot to awaken him. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago and the other fishermen row out to sea and spread out over the waters. Mid-morning, Santiago is pleased to catch a bonita, a small fish that he can use for bait. About mid-day, he finds that a fish has swallowed one of his fishing lines and has begun pulling the boat slowly northwest. Santiago suspects that it is a large fish and allows it to pull the boat for four ... +


In Cuba, the old man Santiago has not caught a fish in eighty-four days, making him the object of scorn and pity of the other fishermen. Manolin, the boy who Santiago taught to fish, has been ordered by his parents not to accompany him in his skiff, because they fear the old man is bad luck. Although he dutifully obeys his parents’ wishes, the loyal Manolin continues to help Santiago carry his heavy equipment between the boat and his shack. Manolin, who seems old for his age, loves the old man and provides him with coffee in the morning and food in the evening, partly from the money he earns working on another boat and partly begged from the generous café owner, Martin. Often, Santiago will discuss baseball with Manolin, especially the team called the Yankees and the player, Joe Di Maggio, whom he reads about in the newspaper. During the nights, Santiago often dreams about Africa and lion cubs playing on the shore, images he remembers from his youth. In the mornings, Santiago, who is always up early, walks to Manolin’s house, where he enters and gently shakes the boy’s foot to awaken him. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago and the other fishermen row out to sea and spread out over the waters. Mid-morning, Santiago is pleased to catch a bonita, a small fish that he can use for bait. About mid-day, he finds that a fish has swallowed one of his fishing lines and has begun pulling the boat slowly northwest. Santiago suspects that it is a large fish and allows it to pull the boat for four hours, until he can no longer see land. When another fish tugs at another line, Santiago cuts the line, believing that he is sacrificing the second fish for a larger one that he has yet to see. Beginning to feel pity for the fish, Santiago reflects that no one can help either of them this far out. By increasing tension on the line, Santiago tries to make the fish jump out of the water so that the air sacs in its backbone will fill up and prevent it from swimming deeper, then waits patiently for results. A small bird that lands in his skiff visits Santiago briefly. To maintain his strength, Santiago eats the bonita. As the fishin line digs into his hands, the fish, a large marlin, emerges from the water. Seeing that the fish is longer than his boat, Santiago muses that although it is not as intelligent as a human, it is more noble and able. Late in the day, it begins to rain, but Santiago refuses to acknowledge that he is suffering. His thoughts turn to the Yankees and he wonders about the results of the most recent game. He then recalls a time in a Casablanca tavern, when he arm wrestled with the strongest man working on the docks, a Negro, in a game that lasted for two days and which he won. Just before dark, as his skiff passes a small island, a dolphin is caught on one of his lines and Santiago eats it raw. His “friends,” the stars, come out and Santiago begins to consider the marlin is his friend, too. Having been without sleep for almost two days, Santiago rests and dreams of a school of porpoises, then of lions and then, of whales. As the boat moves into an area of clouds, the jerking of his lines awakens him. He struggles with the marlin, his hands bleeding, and wishes that the boy were with him. As the sun rises, the marlin, which has filled its air sacs, circles around the boat. Although he feels faint, and he is experiencing exhaustion, dizziness and seeing spots before his eyes, Santiago realizes that the fish is much bigger than he thought and begins to pull it in. When he harpoons it, he claims, “I have killed this fish who is my friend.” An hour after lashing it to the boat and heading homeward, a shark appears, swimming fast. The old man harpoons and kills the shark, but not before the shark has bitten off forty pounds of flesh from the marlin, which leaves a blood trail that will lure other predators. Santiago lashes his knife to an oar and, when other sharks come, stabs at them, but they eat away at the marlin. After they are gone, the old man tells the ravaged marlin, “I went out too far, fish, no good for you or me.” Around ten o’clock at night, Santiago sees the lights of the city and feels his body ache. He apologizes to the fish for “going out too far.” More sharks come, just as he expected, and he tries to fight them off, knowing he is beaten. When he draws near his beach colony, the wind and currents bring him in. Reaching land before dawn, he finds the shore deserted and leaves the remnants of the big fish lashed to his boat while he walks slowly home, having to stop and rest on the way. The next morning, the wind is blowing too hard for the fishermen to go out. Manolin, after sleeping late, comes to the old man’s shack and, seeing the condition of his hands, cries. When Manolin fetches coffee for Santiago, he finds the other fishermen studying the bones tied to Santiago’s skiff and Martin claims there has “never been so fine a fish.” When Manolin returns to the shack with the coffee, Santiago despairs that “they beat me,” but Manolin reminds him that he did catch the marlin and announces that they will now fish together, despite his father's wishes. Santiago refuses, saying that he is not lucky anymore, but Manolin says, “The hell with luck! I will bring the luck with me.” They make plans to start again after the winds die down. In the meantime, Manolin prepares to get new equipment for them and tells the old man to heal. At the café, a party of tourists from Havana see the backbone of the fish, which has been reduced to garbage that will go out with the tide, and think it is a shark. In his shack, the old man sleeps, dreaming about the lions, as the boy watches.


+

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

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