Cast & Crew
Jack, a sailor, along with his buddies Tripod and Ginger, feels himself an indomitable force until he falls for Joan, who repeatedly repels his advances every time he comes into port, and only after a number of years is he able to see her alone. Finally he wins her and they are married, but Joan, learning he plans to return to the sea, leaves him. Later, having become a quartermaster on an ocean liner, he finds her still unforgiving; then a storm wrecks the ship on which all are traveling, and to her grief he is lost with Tripod and Ginger, but the trio is rescued by a whaling vessel and returned to port. After receiving Jack's message, Joan, having realized her true feelings, is reunited with him.
W. L. River
W. L. River
Way for a Sailor
Based on Albert Richard Wetjen's 1928 novel of the same name, the movie follows the adventures of Jack (John Gilbert), a sailor who marries a woman and settles down, but the lure of the sea is too much and it damages his marriage. In her biography of her father Dark Star, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain wrote that Gilbert had been scheduled to make Way for a Sailor as a silent film in 1928, but it had been delayed. Gilbert was unhappy with his ten month absence from the screen and just as unhappy with his choice of co-stars. "Jack's co-star, the second of the three buddies, was to be Wallace Beery. Jack wasn't thrilled about working with Beery, who had a reputation for being difficult and mean-spirited in spite of his lovable-slob image, but he was appalled to find out what had been chosen to round out the trio. Playing the part of a seaman named Ginger, in the first and only acting appearance of his life, would be none other than Jim Tully, a former boxer turned author and buddy of Wallace Beery, who had knocked Gilbert out in a well-publicized fistfight. Whether the studio intended to humiliate Jack through this bizarre casting decision, or whether they saw it as a way to cash in on the publicity that followed the fistfight, Jack gritted his teeth and went ahead. To do otherwise who be to break his contract. Besides, he needed the money. He would finally draw a paycheck with which he could settle his mounting bills, including the work now completed on his house and the theater parties he gave in [wife] Ina Claire's honor. Way for a Sailor might not have been the picture he'd hoped for but it was a picture. He would do his damnedest to give a performance that let his fans and reviewers know that he was there to stay, one that would wash away the memory of His Glorious Night  and the critical drubbings of Redemption  that were then appearing in the papers. Adding insult to injury, Jim Tully was assigned the job of teaching Jack how to speak with a cockney accent for the picture. Jack's reaction to this, given that Tully was born in St. Louis and grew up in an orphanage, can only be imagined. Jack did more teeth-gritting when he was asked to pose with Tully in publicity stills, each man wearing boxing gloves and squaring off against the other."
Screenwriter Samuel Marx, on his first assignment as a back-lot assistant, was on the set during the shooting of night scenes in a water tank. As Fountain wrote, "It was a raw night, with a cold wind blowing. Jack and a crowd of extras were being soaked to the skin in every shot. Marx says he felt miserable just watching them. Something always seemed to go wrong with each scene, and it would have to be repeated. So Jack was being ordered into the water tank again and again. He never refused and never complained. Sam Marx couldn't be certain whether Jack was being deliberately harassed, but several of the retakes seemed unnecessary to his eye and Jack's comfort was clearly being given less consideration than might be expected for a star of his stature." According to a fan magazine at the time, Gilbert was given warm blankets and hot drinks, but the extras were not. Gilbert had his chauffeur make hot toddies for the extras. "No matter what your sentiments are regarding the Eighteenth Amendment [Prohibition], you'll have to admit it was a thoughtful gesture."
John Gilbert wanted Way for a Sailor to be his chance at being seen in a good film something he had not enjoyed since the beginning of "talkies." For reasons known only to the studio, the film's release was delayed nearly a year. By then, Gilbert knew his career was over. Mordaunt Hall seemed to agree in his New York Times review of the film, "John Gilbert's long-delayed second talking film, Way for a Sailor, has finally reached the Capitol screen. In it the great lover of the silent films is supported by Wallace Beery and Jim Tully, the tramp author and playwright. Mr. Gilbert does a little more or less restrained kissing in this nautical comedy and he endeavors to talk like a British seaman, in which he is only partly successful. Altogether, however, he gives a better performance than he did in his previous audible production. The story is a strange mixture of low comedy and unconvincing romance, with Mr. Beery walking off with what honors are to be had. A rough idea of the importance of this yarn is to be gained from a sequence in which Mr. Beery, after observing Mr. Tully throw an accordion into the sea, promptly picks up the tramp author and drops him overboard, with instructions to return with the musical instrument. There is a shipwreck, some of the scenes of which are well filmed. In fact, it is a production in which glimpses of the work aboard freighters, the rescuing of men from a sinking vessel and other such views are infinitely more interesting than the actual doings of the characters."
Producer: Sam Wood; Irving Thalberg (producer, uncredited)
Director: Sam Wood (uncredited)
Screenplay: Laurence Stallings, W.L. River; Charles MacArthur (additional dialogue); Albert Richard Wetjen (book "Way for a Sailor!"); Al Boasberg (additional dialogue, uncredited)
Cinematography: Percy Hilburn
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Film Editing: Frank Sullivan
Cast: John Gilbert (Jack), Wallace Beery (Tripod McMasters), Jim Tully (Ginger), Leila Hyams (Joan), Polly Moran (Polly), Doris Lloyd (Flossy).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Fountain, Leatrice Gilbert Dark Star
Hall, Mourdant "The Screen: Way for a Sailor: A Nautical John Gilbert" The New York Times 13 Dec 30
Way for a Sailor
A Spanish-language version of this film, En cada puerto un amor, was released in 1931.