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 ...
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George B. Seitz
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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.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wallace Beery was notoriously abusive to the juvenile performers he worked with. For one scene in "Slave Ship" he had to slap his 16 year-old co-star Mickey Rooney in the face. Beery didn't fake the action and, without warning, slapped Rooney so hard he was knocked to the floor, spoiling the take and causing outrage among the crew. Director Tay Garnett took Beery aside and told him that everyone on the set loved Rooney, and that it would be most unfortunate if some lighting equipment were to "accidentally" fall on Beery's head. Beery got the message and behaved himself for the rest of the shoot. Interestingly, Rooney was one of the very few actors to work with Beery who later expressed no resentment towards him. He said, "Not everyone loved him the way I did." See more »
I'm agreeing with the reviewer who said that William Faulkner who wrote the adapted story for the screen on which Slave Ship is based envisioned a commentary on the brutality of slavery. But I'm sure Darryl Zanuck thinking of those southern markets turned this into an adventure yarn. Later on post World War II it was 20th Century Fox that was the most daring in terms of social commentary, but not now.
Warner Baxter and Wallace Beery are captain and first mate and best friends and they happen to be in the slave trading business, a business that is both illegal and declining due to British patrol vessels. Truth be told Baxter himself is sick of the misery in which he traffics. When he starts courting and marries Elizabeth Allan he decides to get out of the business.
Sad to say Beery doesn't want to do that. As he correctly points out in this illegal business you don't have a crew, you sail with partners and he proves it. The rest of the story concerns Baxter and his attempt to gain back his ship and also win Allan back as well.
Around this time Souls At Sea over at Paramount and MGM's Stand Up And Fight also dealt with the slave trade and slavery, Souls At Sea being the better film. Still both are better than Slave Ship though it is still a good adventure story.
Interesting that Darryl Zanuck also must have paid a pretty penny to Louis B. Mayer for MGM contractees Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney who were two of his most reliable box office performers. Rooney plays the ship's cabin boy and his role is far cry from Andy Hardy. A great tribute to his talents.
Good action adventure yarn and some of the scenes involving the slaves are brutal and haunting. But this could have been a lot more.
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