Harpoon


1h 23m 1948

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1948
Premiere Information
Premiere in New Bedford, Massachusetts: 20 Oct 1948.
Production Company
Danches Bros. Productions
Distribution Company
Screen Guild Productions, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Film Length
7,533ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In 1882, Kurt Shand is shanghaiied from the streets of San Francisco by Red Dorsett to serve on his whaling ship. Kurt proves to be an inexpert harpoonist and, as he is frequently beaten, develops an intense hatred of Dorsett. Kurt jumps ship in Jabbertown, Alaska, but no ship will give him passage home as Dorsett has branded him a deserter. Kurt remains in Jabbertown, then marries Patsy, a local saloon girl, and fathers a son Michael. Twenty years later, Kurt, who reared the book-loving Mike to take vengeance on the Dorsett family, becomes involved in a fistfight with his son during a birthday party. Mike accidentally wounds Kurt mortally, and even though he had previously foresworn his father's plans of retribution, he swears to the dying man that he will take revenge against the Dorsetts. Although Dorsett has been dead for years, Mike finds his son, Red, Jr., at the Red Nugget Saloon in Jabbertown, and beats him up, then takes over his boat, The Chagnak , and most of its crew. Kitty Canon, a saloon singer, whom Red brought to Alaska with the promise of marriage, also deserts him and becomes interested in Mike. Mike renames the boat "The Flying Kate" and sets out on a whaling expedition. However, when he attempts to harpoon a whale, he becomes entangled in the tow line and is believed to have drowned. Red's men, following in another boat, find him alive, but unconscious, and drag him on board. Red then orders his crew to put Mike in a skin boat and set him adrift. Two Eskimos find him and take him to the Point Hope Mission, run by Rev. McFee and his daughter Christine, where he recovers. Meanwhile, Mike's friend, Kodiak, explains to Kitty that Mike is dead and she takes over the ship, making Kodiak the skipper. Although the price being paid for whales is increasing when Mike eventually returns to Jabbertown, he appears to Kitty unwilling to go back to sea. Later, Chris becomes concerned because the Eskimos around the mission are starving, due to a shortage of seals and walrus that season. Aware that whales, which Eskimos cannot capture on their own, have been spotted nearby, Chris decides to hold Mike to his promise that he would help them if needed and travels with several Eskimos in a long boat to Jabbertown. Kitty is jealous of Mike's friendship with Chris and, after he leaves, she tells Red about the whales's location. Red sets out after Mike, taking Kitty along as a prisoner. When Kodiak harpoons a whale, Red sends his crew out to take it. Meanwhile, Kitty escapes and Red boards Mike's main vessel. Mike's crew shoots a hole in Red's small boat with a harpoon gun and it capsizes. Red tries to attack Mike with a harpoon but Kitty pushes him away, after which Red gets caught in a rope and hangs himself. Kodiak brings in the whale, and later, Mike and Kitty are married on board the boat by Rev. McFee.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1948
Premiere Information
Premiere in New Bedford, Massachusetts: 20 Oct 1948.
Production Company
Danches Bros. Productions
Distribution Company
Screen Guild Productions, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Film Length
7,533ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The above credits and summary were taken from a cutting continuity prepared for the film's copyright registration and a very incomplete print. An opening title states that all scenes in the film, both exterior and interior, were photographed in Alaska on "the actual locale associated with the story." The cutting continuity lists the character name of "Mike Shand's" father as both "Kurt" and "Kirk." According to a Los Angeles Times news item of May 20, 1947, producer Ewing Scott originally intended to make Harpoon for Universal-International. A May 9, 1948 New York Times article stated that Scott, who had made the 1947 picture Untamed Fury with the Danches brothers (see below), finally convinced them to back a whaling story he had written. After the brothers purchased a four-year-old, 104-foot Army patrol craft, the cast and technicians, numbering twenty-six in all, left San Diego aboard the craft, which was outfitted as a floating studio, in late May 1947. According to the New York Times article, Scott spent a month filming whaling scenes in the Bering Strait but that no actual killing would be seen in the picture, as government regulations prohibited such actions by private parties. Scott also filmed walrus hunts in Russian waters, but the cutting continuity indicates that these scenes were not used in the completed film. On Kodiak Island, according to the New York Times article, actor Ernest Michens, who was first cast as "Red," suffered severe injuries when he fell through a rotting stairway, and had to be replaced. In addition, scratches on the negative necessitated costly retakes. All of the interiors were shot in Skagway in a real saloon and in the Pullen House, a Klondike museum. The company returned to California in late September 1947. The Danches brothers claimed that Harpoon cost $400,000 to make. Although this film was shot before John Bromfield's debut appearance in Sorry, Wrong Number (see below), it was not released until after that film.