Slave Ship


1h 32m 1937

Brief Synopsis

Captain Lovett ordered his first mate Thompson to get rid of his slave-trading crew and get a more respectable bunch for standard shipping, but when he brings his new bride Nancy aboard he finds the same old setup, including slave trade.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Last Slaver
Release Date
Jul 2, 1937
Premiere Information
World premiere at New York: 17 Jun 1937
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Florida Keys, Florida, United States; Santa Catalina Island, California, United States; Bermuda
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Last Slaver by George S. King (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,315ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

The barque Wanderer gets the reputation of being a "blood ship" after a worker is killed at its launch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1857. In the next three years, a plague and an explosion kill many others aboard. Bought in an auction by Jim Lovett and renamed the Albatross , the ship is used in the slave trade, which by 1860 has become outlawed everywhere. Jim and his crew, who are also shareholders, risk hanging for large profits, as their ship is one of only three slave ships still operating. After landing in Virginia with a load of slaves, Jim meets Nancy Marlowe of Norfolk. Two months later, after he orders his first mate and friend, Jack Thompson, to get rid of the crew and hire new men who would not work on a slave ship, Jim marries Nancy and brings her aboard to travel to Jamaica, where he plans to buy a plantation and settle down. However, the crew, including Thompson and Swifty, the cabin boy, mutiny and take the ship to Africa. When Jim explains his past to Nancy, she turns away in disappointment. During the trip, Jim stays drunk. In Africa, Nancy reconciles with Jim, but after slaves are selected and sent to the ship, Thompson and crew member Lefty leave Jim ashore to face the unpaid slave dealer Danelo, who tries to kill Jim for tricking him. Jim escapes and reaches the ship where he takes control of the guns and wheel. Knowing that he cannot hold off the men for long, Jim heads for St. Helena, a British island in the Atlantic. When the crew realizes Jim's plan, they send Swifty with food to relieve Jim, who has not slept for seventy-two hours, at the wheel. Although at first Jim suspects a trick, after Nancy takes Swifty's side, Jim gives him a gun and says that he needs another man. Swifty, who all along has rebelled against the viewpoint that he is still a child, is won over, and when the crew approaches, he battles them with Jim and Nancy. When Thompson sees that St. Helena is in sight, he orders the chained slaves thrown overboard, weighted with an anchor, so that no evidence will exist to convict him. As the boat catches fire from a fallen lantern, Jim has the slaves freed so that they can swim to safety. When Thompson is about to attack him, Jim shoots him, but he is then is knocked out after falling for a ruse. When the crew abandons ship, Thompson decides that he cannot leave Jim to hang and puts him in a boat with Swifty and Nancy before he dies as the ship explodes in flames. At the trial, Nancy pleads for Jim, explaining that he freed the slaves even though he knew their existence would be proof against him. Later, on their plantation in Jamaica, Jim and Nancy's enjoyment of the quiet life is momentarily disrupted as Swifty fights with Scraps, the ship's drunken cook who rescued Nancy's dog, for a piece of pie.

Cast

Warner Baxter

Jim Lovett

Wallace Beery

Jack Thompson

Elizabeth Allen

Nancy Marlowe

Mickey Rooney

Swifty

George Sanders

Lefty

Jane Darwell

Mrs. Marlowe

Joseph Schildkraut

Danelo

Miles Mander

Corey

Arthur Hohl

Grimes

Douglas Scott

Boy

Minna Gombell

Mabel

Billy Bevan

Atkins

Francis Ford

Scraps

Jane Jones

Ma Belcher

J. Farrell Macdonald

Proprietor

J. P. Mcgowan

Helmsman

De Witt Jennings

Snodgrass

Paul Hurst

Drunk

Dorothy Christy

Blonde

Charles Middleton

Slave dealer

Dewey Robinson

Bartender

Holmes Herbert

Commander

Edwin Maxwell

Auctioneer

Herbert Heywood

Old man

Winter Hall

Minister

Marilyn Knowlden

Girl

Arthur Aylesworth

Stranger

Scotty Beckett

Boy

Chester Gan

Member of crew

Bull Anderson

Member of crew

Sven Borg

Member of crew

Bobby Dunn

Member of crew

John Wallace

Member of crew

Frank Meredith

Member of crew

Bob St. Angelo

Member of crew

Jack Low

Member of crew

Jack Stoney

Member of crew

John Bleifer

Member of crew

Len Powers

Member of crew

Richard Clark

Member of crew

Jack Byron

Member of crew

Dale Van Sickle

Member of crew

George Bruggeman

Member of crew

Larry Dodds

Member of crew

Remy Oldstead

Member of crew

Art Dupuis

Member of crew

George Du Count

Member of crew

Charles Griffin

Member of crew

James Burtis

Waiter

James C. Morton

Waiter

Stymie Beard

Black man on pier

Otto Fries

Singer

Mel Kalish

Singer

Tom Kennedy

Bartender

Anita Brown

Slave woman

Eddie Dunn

Ostler

Lionel Pape

Commander

John Burton

Officer

Landers Stevens

Owner

Russ Clark

Laborer

Lon Chaney Jr.

Laborer

Fred Kelsey

Film Details

Also Known As
The Last Slaver
Release Date
Jul 2, 1937
Premiere Information
World premiere at New York: 17 Jun 1937
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Florida Keys, Florida, United States; Santa Catalina Island, California, United States; Bermuda
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Last Slaver by George S. King (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,315ft (10 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Last Slaver. Notes from a conference with Darryl Zanuck concerning the second revised treatment, in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, reveal a number of his concerns: "While in all probability the picture will be produced on a large scale, it is unlikely that we will have a name like [Clark] Gable, for instance, to cover up any of its possible weaknesses. Therefore, Mr. Zanuck feels that he cannot stress too much the fact that we must concentrate on the writing of an expert script that stands completely on its own....Watch, too, that the British are not made to appear stupid....Note: It is very important for censorship purposes that we indicate very plainly that the South is as radically opposed to slave-running as the North." Correspondence in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also at UCLA, indicates that although William Faulkner is credited onscreen with the story, he actually only contributed "additional original dialogue" to a screenplay by Sam Hellman and Gladys Lehman. A note in the files states, "Mr. Zanuck and the producer decided to give Faulkner screen credit and this was the only way they could do it, as Lehman, Hellman and Trotti had been given credit for screenplay, which is the Academy limit." At the time, AMPAS limited screen credits for screenplay to three names. Faulkner is quoted in a modern source concerning his contribution: "I'm a motion picture doctor. When they run into a section they don't like, I rework it and continue to rework it until they do like it. In Slave Ship, I reworked sections. I don't write scripts. I don't know enough about it." According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Trotti was assigned to the film after the proposed film The Siege of Alcazar had been canceled due to numerous protests.
       According to news items, Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney were borrowed from M-G-M for the film. According to Motion Picture Herald, the actual filming took 102 days. New York Times noted that the production costs exceeded $1,000,000. According to news items, Otto Brower, with a camera and technical crew, took a thirty-day trip to the Florida Keys and Bermuda to shoot offshore scenes, and a company of forty traveled to Catalina Island to shoot sea scenes. According to a August 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, John Ford was originally scheduled to direct, but he asked to be excused in order to take a vacation trip to Europe following the production of three films he directed in quick succession, and Howard Hawks was announced as director. According to New York Times, in November 1936, Tay Garnett, who had acquired the assignment of director, was suddenly switched to Love Is News (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2604). When that film was completed, he began shooting this one. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Peter Lorre was signed on December 15, 1936 to play the role of the slave dealer, which ultimately went to Joseph Schildkraut, who was signed a few days before production began. John Carradine, who was not in the released film, was added to the cast on December 18, 1936, according to Hollywood Reporter. Mary Rogers, the daughter of the late Will Rogers, was signed for the role of Nancy Marlowe but took sick with the flu during production, and Elizabeth Allan, on the day M-G-M agreed to a severance of their contract with her, signed to replace Rogers, according to news items. Tay Garnett, in his autobiography, related that the script was devised to co-star Clark Gable with Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney, but M-G-M would not let Gable go. In the legal records, correspondence dated February 22, 1937, after the initial shooting was completed, states that Granville Bates played the "old man." As screen credits list Herbert Heywood in that role, it is possible that during the shooting of added scenes in March 1937, Bates was replaced by Heywood. According to a Los Angeles Evening News news item, the barquentine Lottie Carson was used in this film. According to a modern source, blacks who were servants and chauffeurs to Hollywood stars and producers were hired to play slaves.