Cast & Crew
Felipe Pazos Jr.
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.
Felipe Pazos Jr.
Alfred C. Glassell Jr.
James Wong Howe
Hans F. Koenekamp
M. A. Merrick
Arthur S. Rhoades
Arthur P. Schmidt
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
Two years in development and two years in production, The Old Man and the Sea (1958), turned out to be an endurance test for all concerned, as troubled and beset by snafus as 1963's Cleopatra, which seems astonishing when you realize the movie is essentially a one-character movie. When the story was first acquired as a property by agent Leland Hayward with Warner Bros. as the financier/distributor, Anthony Quinn and Humphrey Bogart both lobbied for the role of Santiago before losing out to Spencer Tracy. Among the directors considered for the film were John Huston, Nicholas Ray and Fred Zinnemann, who was assigned the project in the end. Teaming up with James Wong Howe, his former cinematographer on the Oscar®-winning High Noon (1952), Zinnemann sailed into stormy waters almost immediately. Hemingway, whose contempt for Hollywood was well known, was initially open to the participation of Tracy and Zinnemann but balked when he read the first screenplay draft by Paul Osborn, who had adapted John Steinbeck's East of Eden to the screen. Osborne had built up the character of Manolin, the little Cuban boy who idolizes Santiago, eliminated all the flashbacks and the story's narrator, and added new material such as a delirium sequence. Hemingway insisted that Osborn be replaced by Peter Viertel, who had adapted for the screen the author's The Sun Also Rises, a request that was granted along with Hemingway being retained as technical adviser for The Old Man and the Sea (he also appears in a brief cameo).
The first order of business was to shoot footage of the giant marlin that was to figure so prominently in the story. Pouring more than $75,000 into a lavish fishing trip organized by Hemingway, using his own boat, The Pilar, and a full crew of friends and professionals, the studio hoped to capture the footage they needed while filming off the coast of Cuba. When that proved unsuccessful, the Hemingway fishing party tried their luck in the waters off Cabo Blanco, Peru, which was an equally expensive failure. At this point, Hemingway left the project and returned to Havana while Zinnemann and the special effects department decided their ideal marlin would have to be a studio-created prop. "It had a motor inside and could wiggle its fins and tail," Zinnemann recalled in his autobiography. "It was so big that it had to be shipped - on two railroad cars - from Burbank to Miami. Hemingway hated it at first sight and christened it 'the condomatic fish.' When it was put in the Gulf Stream near Havana it sank without trace and was never seen again." It was then decided by Hayward to shoot the close-ups of Tracy at sea in a soundstage water tank and to use a double for the long shots, which would be filmed in Hawaii. At this point, Zinnemann resigned from the picture, which was shut down temporarily, until studio executives convinced John Sturges to take over the direction of The Old Man and the Sea.
Sturges had been reluctant to get involved until he saw some of the stunning ocean footage that James Wong Howe had shot and then he threw himself into the project, convincing Hayward to let him take his crew to Kona, Hawaii for additional sea scenes and then the Bahamas where they photographed the key shark attacks in the film. As for the long sought after giant marlin footage, it was finally acquired and carries the following screen credit: "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."
During the filming, Spencer Tracy had become quite disillusioned with the entire project and it was taking a physical toll on him; his close-cropped hair, which had been dyed white for the role, had naturally turned that color during the shoot. When he first arrived on the set, he was overweight (he had promised to slim down for the part) and didn't look much like the gaunt fisherman of Hemingway's story. As the production schedule grew longer, he began drinking again and often took his frustrations out on the cast and crew (Tracy's on/off struggle with alcoholism was a well known secret within the industry). At one point, the studio placed a call to Ernest Borgnine who was playing golf at the Riviera Country Club. Newspaper columnist James Balcon, who was Borgnine's golf partner that day recalled, 'Ernie went off in the golf cart and came back in about a half hour. He said, 'You won't believe this. Tracy and Hemingway got drunk and smashed up a Havana bar. The bar owner wants $150,000 to repair the damage and Jack Warner won't pay it. So Warner wants me to stand by at a moment's notice to go to Cuba and replace Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea.' (from Spencer Tracy: Tragic Idol by Bill Davidson). Luckily, it never came to that and the film finally entered post-production, where other problems arose.
Dimitri Tiomkin, who had been hired to compose the music for The Old Man and the Sea delivered a lush, symphonic score but felt the film needed a theme song and lobbied for a title tune to be sung by Mahalia Jackson. He was overruled in the end but Sturges still had other challenges to face before he delivered his final cut; most of these involved fixing continuity errors, finessing the sound design and adding numerous optical effects.
When The Old Man and the Sea was finally previewed for a test audience in Pasadena, it received high scores from most of the viewers and Warner Bros. began positioning it as an Oscar® contender that Fall. Most of the critics responded positively as well with The Los Angeles Times calling it "one of the most beautiful pictures ever made" and The National Board of Review named it Best Picture of the Year. Even lukewarm reviews often singled out Tracy's performance for praise such as Bosley Crowther of The New York Times who noted that the actor "looks convincingly ancient, with lank white hair and stubby beard, and he performs with the creaky, painful movements of a weary, stiff-jointed old man. It is an affecting demonstration of primal fortitude, and one's heart may well bleed for this old fellow, as do his line-lacerated hands." The Old Man and the Sea went on to garner three Academy Award® nominations for Best Actor, Best Cinematography and Best Music Score; it won in the latter category. Yet the film was a box office failure in relation to the immense amount of time and money that went into it. Originally budgeted around $2 million, the movie's costs ballooned to over $5 million. As expected, Hemingway had little good to say about it in public and particularly found fault with the child actor (Felipe Pazos) who plays Manolin. He also thought "Tracy looked like he was playing Gertrude Stein as an old fat fisherman."
All things considered, The Old Man and the Sea is an intriguing curiosity and a rare attempt at a major studio art film. The film's merits and faults loom large in equal measure. James Wong Howe's color cinematography and Tiomkin's moving score are often stunning but also inconsistent, revealing bad process shots or unsubtle musical shifts in mood. Viewers seem to be divided over Tracy's performance as well with some defending it as one of his best and others finding it a tired imitation of his earlier work in Captains Courageous (1937). The film's use of religious symbolism is unsubtle and Tracy's voiceover narration often detracts from what could have been more effectively told in purely visual terms. Still, the movie is quite faithful to Hemingway's novella in story and spirit.
The Old Man and the Sea was later remade as a television movie in 1990 starring Anthony Quinn in the title role and directed by Jud Taylor. Hemingway's story also inspired a Russian short film with the same title in 1999 (directed by Alexsandr Petrov) and a Bulgarian film entitled Staretzat i moreto (2002).
Producer: Leland Hayward
Director: John Sturges: Henry King, Fred Zinnemann (both uncredited)
Screenplay: Peter Viertel; Ernest Hemingway (novel)
Cinematography: Floyd Crosby, James Wong Howe
Art Direction: Edward Carrere, Art Loel
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Film Editing: Arthur P. Schmidt
Cast: Spencer Tracy (The Old Man/Narrator), Felipe Pazos, Jr. (The Boy), Harry Bellaver (Martin), Don Diamond (Cafe Proprietor), Don Blackman (Hand Wrestler), Joey Ray (Gambler), Mary Hemingway (Tourist), Richard Alameda (Gambler), Tony Rosa (Gambler), Carlos Rivero (Gambler)
by Jeff Stafford
Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges by Glenn Lovell
Films of Spencer Tracy by Donald Deschner
Spencer Tracy: A Bio-Bibliography by James Fisher
Spencer Tracy: Tragic Idol by Bill Davidson
Fred Zinnemann: An Autobiography by Fred Zinnemann
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
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 dialog. As described in the Los Angeles Times 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 October 1958 San Francisco Chronicle 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 September 1952 Life magazine. According to the Motion Picture Herald 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 August 2, 1952 Los Angeles Times news item, Gary Cooper had "a deal" with Hemingway to make the film; however, that project never reached fruition. An April 1953 Variety 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. Hollywood Reporter reported in April 1953 that Hemingway would personally supervise the film's fishing scenes. An M-G-M studio memo dated June 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 September 1953 Variety news item, the picture was being delayed until 1955, after Tracy's contract with M-G-M ended. Hollywood Reporter production charts dated 9 September-September 23, 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 October 8, 1955 New York Times 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 October 17, 1955 Daily Variety 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 , which Hayward was producing.
Although 1956 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 New York Herald Tribune 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 March 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 June 1956 Hollywood Reporter 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 March 1957 Newsweek article reported that in November 1956 a crew filmed fish while sailing around Panama and the Galapagos Islands. A June 1956 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter production charts, filming took place in Cuba and Nassau between late April-late July in 1956.
According to a September 1956 New York Times, 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. Hollywood Reporter production charts note that production resumed in July 1957 and continued until late Aug. Sturges, in an October 1958 San Francisco Chronicle 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 July 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that frogmen were added to the technical staff where they were shooting on stage 7. In February 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 San Francisco Chronicle 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 June 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that a unit would be filming near Honolulu and Kona. According to the April 1958 Times article, sea and sky footage was filmed around Hawaii.
Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, July 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 April 1958 Times article, the film was budgeted for $2,100,000 and ended up costing about $5,000,000. As noted in a December 1958 Los Angeles Times 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 New York Times review was generally unimpressed, the Los Angeles Times review called it "one of the most beautiful pictures ever made." The Los Angeles Examiner critic called the film "a poem among pictures." Although the Hollywood Reporter 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 Variety 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 , and James Wong Howe, who was nominated for Achievement in Cinematography, lost to William H. Daniels of Gigi (see entry above). According to a June 1959 Hollywood Reporter 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.
Voted Best American Picture, Best Actor (Tracy) and One of the Year's Ten Best American Films by the 1958 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Fall October 1958
Released in United States Fall October 1958