Souls at Sea


1h 32m 1937
Souls at Sea

Brief Synopsis

An abolitionist signs on with a slaving ship to sabotage their efforts.

Photos & Videos

Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Sep 3, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In 1842 in Philadelphia, sailor Michael "Nuggin" Taylor faces trial on allegations that he caused the deaths of nineteen people from the ship William Brown . His trial is witnessed by Barton Woodley, a British secret service agent who intends to come to Michael's defense if the verdict should find against him. In court Michael's story is told: When slaves attack Granley, a renowned slaver and the brutal captain of the Blackbird , his dying command is that seaman Powdah captain the vessel and Michael, a passionate abolitionist and friend of Powdah, keep the ship on course to meet with the slave traders. Michael advises Powdah to steer the ship toward a British patrol vessel in order to keep tabs on them, and along the way, they release the slaves onto the coast. The patrol ship captures the Blackbird , and when Michael and Powdah refuse to reveal what happened to the slaves, they are hanged by their thumbs from the halyard. While they are hanging, Powdah confesses to Michael that although he is a seaman, he is afraid of the water, and is now afraid he will fall into the ocean. In order to save his friend, Michael tells his captors, including Lieutenant Stanley Tarryton, that they will confess. Later, Powdah tries to protect Michael by telling them that although he has worked slaving ships for years, Michael only recently came aboard and did not realize it was a slave ship. The captain is suspicious that the Blackbird was caught so easily and suspects that Michael deliberately steered toward them so they would be captured. In Liverpool, Michael and Powdah are acquitted for their actions, and Woodley, who is out to end slavery, takes an interest in Michael, as every ship Michael has worked on has encountered trouble and has seen the release of its slaves. Unknown to Powdah, Woodley enlists Michael to work for British intelligence and entrap the ring of slavers. At the same time, Tarryton meets with his business partner, Pecora, and they plan to take on Granley's established slave trading route. In order to do this, they immediately purchase the ship William Brown , which is departing the next morning for Philadelphia and Savannah, Georgia, and is considered the fastest packet on the seas. Michael also boards the William Brown at dawn carrying Granley's secret plans, and is met on board by Powdah. Tarryton is suspicious of Michael and is especially hostile when Michael falls in love with his sister Margaret. When Tina, the young daughter of immigrants traveling to the United States, knocks over an oil lamp below deck, a fire breaks out and ignites gunpowder, causing massive explosions. Michael struggles with Tarryton for the plans and knocks Tarryton out. The rest of the ship catches fire, and Powdah finds his girl friend, Babsie, with whom he had only just fallen in love, pinned under a fallen beam just before she dies. As Michael helps people into a lifeboat, Tarryton attacks him, but drowns after they struggle in the water. Bereft, Powdah stays on board to be with Babsie as the ship sinks, and knocks Michael into the lifeboat so he will not stop him. A mast falls into the lifeboat, and when Michael revives, he urges his fellow survivors to hang onto the edges of the boat so that it will not founder. Unfortunately, the boat is overcrowded, and the desperate people are causing it to sink. Michael shoots several people, who fall into the ocean to their death, in order to save the lives of the others. At the trial, Michael clearly feels remorse for the actions he was forced to take, and refuses to defend himself against accusations that he is a slaver. After a violent argument erupts in the courtroom when several of the survivors deny the accusations against Michael, the courtroom is cleared. Woodley suddenly appears to defend Michael and reveals enough evidence in Michael's favor to change the court's initial decision of guilty and call for a retrial. Michael and Margaret then reunite.

Cast

Gary Cooper

[Michael] "Nuggin" Taylor

George Raft

Powdah

Frances Dee

Margaret Tarryton

Henry Wilcoxon

Lieut. [Stanley] Tarryton

Harry Carey

Captain of "William Brown"

Olympe Bradna

Babsie

Robert Cummings

George Martin

Porter Hall

Court prosecutor

George Zucco

[Barton] Woodley

Virginia Weidler

Tina

Joseph Schildkraut

Gaston de Bastonet

Gilbert Emery

Capt. Martisel

Lucien Littlefield

Toymaker

Paul Fix

Violinist

Tully Marshall

Pecora

Monte Blue

Mate

Stanley Fields

Granley

Fay Holden

Mrs. Martin

Jameson Thomas

Pelton

Cecil Cunningham

Lady Tarrington

Grace Hampton

Old lady knitter

Colin Tapley

Donaldson

Clyde Cook

Hendry

Luana Walters

Eloise

Stanley Andrews

First mate

George Lloyd

Slaver

G. Pat Collins

Slaver

Mathew Betz

Slaver

Francis Ford

Slaver

Rollo Lloyd

Parchy

Wilson Benge

Doctor

Colin Kenny

Military guard

Craufurd Kent

Navy clerk

Robert Warwick

Vice Admiral

John Elliott

Dignitary

J. M. Sullivan

Dignitary

Allan Cavan

Dignitary

Phillips Smalley

Dignitary

Lionel Braham

Lord Mayor

Gloria Williams

Passenger

Ethel Clayton

Passenger

Phyllis Godfrey

Housemaid

Frank Benson

Gardener

David Clyde

Butler

Mary Gordon

Cook

Herbert Clifton

Ticket clerk

Carlyle O'rourke

Puppeteer

Paul Walton

Puppeteer

Rolfe Sedan

Friend of de Bastonet

Eugene Borden

Friend of de Bastonet

George Andre Beranger

Henri

Lee Shumway

Mate

Ward Bond

Sailor

Viva Tattersall

Queen Victoria

Arthur Blake

Prime minister

Harvey Clark

Court clerk

Forbes Murray

Associate justice

Davison Clark

Bailiff

Charles Middleton

Jury foreman

Olaf Hytten

Proprietor

Belle Mitchell

Fortune teller

Henry Mowbray

Bus man

Gunnis Davis

Barber

Forrester Harvey

Publicist proprietor

Jane Weir

Barmaid

Lina Basquette

Brunette

Pauline Haddon

Blonde

Lowell Drew

Jury foreman

William Stack

Judge

Paul Stanton

Defense attorney

Leslie Francis

Woolsey's secretary

George Macquarrie

Doctor

Edward Van Sloan

Ship's officer

Ben Taggart

Ship's officer

Norman Ainsley

Ticket taker

Alonzo Price

Lee Phelps

Ted Oliver

Dick Rich

Bob Mckenzie

Jane Keckley

Earl Pingree

Marty Faust

Fritzi Brunette

Margaret Daggett

Betty Lorraine

Erin La Bissoniere

Virginia Kami

Lillian Dean

Don Rowan

Agnes Ayres

Beth Hartman

Peggy Montgomery

Photo Collections

Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Sep 3, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1937

Best Director

1938

Best Score

1937

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

An opening prologue states that the "story was inspired by a trial for mass murder on the high seas [which] a century ago made legal and maritime history." According to the pressbook, the trial is recorded in the Philadelphia Public Ledger and is based on an incident that occurred on April 19, 1841 when the William Brown struck an iceberg and capsized. After crew and passengers got into the two available lifeboats, leaving thirty-one aboard the ship to drown, "seaman Alexander William Holmes assumed command and dumped excess [persons] overboard." A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Jo Swerling was to write "epilog scenes" for this film. Swerling's contribution to the final film has not been determined. A news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that Frances Farmer was considered for the lead role. Additional news items in Hollywood Reporter reveal that George Raft terminated his contract with Paramount in November 1936 due to a dispute over the roles he was given, including his role in Souls at Sea. Although production was scheduled to begin in late Oct, it was postponed due to the threat of a strike by the Pacific Coast Maritime workers, according to Hollywood Reporter, and by Paramount's search for another co-star. Hollywood Reporter noted that Lloyd Nolan was first considered, but later Anthony Quinn was selected to replace Raft. At this time, however, Raft and Paramount amended their rift, Raft's contract was renewed and he accepted the role of Powdah. Production was scheduled to resume on 21 November 1936.
       Press releases claimed the following about the production: Paramount constructed a special set with a huge tank of water and the quarterdeck of a ship for shipboard scenes. For further authenticity, the studio chartered sailing ships for ocean shots and dock scenes, and the square-rigger Star of Finland was used as the William Brown. Grant Leenhauts hired sailors who knew how to work a square-rigger to appear aboard ship. Some scenes were filmed off Santa Catalina Island, CA. According to modern sources, the film was originally intended to rival M-G-M's Mutiny on the Bounty and to be released as a road-show, however, the plans were scaled down, as was the film. Although an actress portraying Queen Victoria is credited in the CBCS, modern sources note that the scene of Queen Victoria's court was one of many deleted from the film before its general release in theaters. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Assistant Director, Hal Walker; Best Interior Decorations, Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson; and Music (Best Score), Paramount Studio Music Dept., Boris Morros, head score by W. Franke Harling and Milan Roder. Also based on a similar story is the 1956 British film Seven Waves Away, known in the United States as Abandon Ship!, directed by Richard Sale and starring Tyrone Power, Mai Zetterling and Lloyd Nolan.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1937

Alan Ladd had a bit part in the film.

Released in United States 1937