7.5/10
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48 user 21 critic

The Sea Wolf (1941)

After being fished out of the sea by a sealer, three fugitives find themselves prisoners of the ship's brutal skipper who refuses to put them ashore and they hatch an escape plan during a crew mutiny.

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writers:

Jack London (novel), Robert Rossen (screen play)
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Edward G. Robinson ... 'Wolf' Larsen
Ida Lupino ... Ruth Brewster
John Garfield ... George Leach
Alexander Knox ... Humphrey Van Weyden
Gene Lockhart ... Dr. Prescott
Barry Fitzgerald ... Cooky
Stanley Ridges ... Johnson
David Bruce ... Young Sailor
Francis McDonald ... Svenson
Howard Da Silva ... Harrison
Frank Lackteen ... Smoke
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Storyline

Humphrey van Weyden, a writer, and fugitives Ruth Webster and George Leach have been given refuge aboard the sealer "Ghost," captained by the cruel Wolf Larsen. The crew mutinies against Larsen's many crimes, and though van Weyden, Ruth, and George try to escape Larsen's clutches, they find themselves drawn inexorably back to him as the "Ghost" sails toward disaster. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"POWER...FURY...RAGING...HATE...FEAR...UNFORGETTABLE!" The POWER and FURY of the RAGING sea surged from the pen of Jack London as he wrote this story of HATE-ridden 'Wolf' Larsen and his FEAR-crazed crew! And now, the year's greatest cast brings it to the screen...every scene alive...and UNFORGETTABLE! See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 March 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Seewolf See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,013,217 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(re-release) | (original) | (TCM print) (edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

George Raft declined the role of George Leach because it was too small. See more »

Goofs

Turning the wheel to starboard is not a mistake for the time period of the movie. The early tiller to wheel transitions resulted in the same change of rudder position. it is counter-intuitive today as most all boats with wheels now steer as a car does. Some sailboats still use the older method because of space and/or weight considerations. See more »

Quotes

Humphrey Van Weyden: What is you philosophy then Wolf?
'Wolf' Larsen: I held that life was a ferment, a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live, and that living was merely successful piggishness. Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was cut by approx. 12 minutes at some point (probably for reissue) down to 90 minutes - which is what is currently distributed on home video. The footage consists of little, but integral, moments throughout the story which add considerably to the quality of the film as a whole. The only known existing print of the original theatrical version is a 16mm print which belonged to the film's star, John Garfield. This print has reportedly been used to restore the picture to its original length. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Book Revue (1946) See more »

Soundtracks

Ma Blushin' Rosie
(uncredited)
Music by John Stromberg
Lyrics by Edgar Smith
Played on piano and sung by Jeane Cowan in the bar
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven
7 February 2006 | by krorieSee all my reviews

Jack London's novels usually dealt with the interrelationship between man and nature. Herbert Spencer had corrupted and popularized the theories of Charles Darwin as "the survival of the fittest," something Darwin never wrote and wouldn't have believed anyway. In London's best works Spencer's jargon is not promoted but rather utilized to discredit the doctrine which was being bastardized by the robber barons in the pre-Great Depression world of big business to justify their millions of largely untaxed loot. Not surprisingly London was a socialist. Power hungry, egotistical humans are depicted as animals whose characteristics they share. Wolf Larsen is not unlike a wolf who stalks his prey to devour it one piece at a time.

Though there are significant differences between the novel and the movie, "The Sea Wolf" remains true to form. London would have undoubtedly approved of the film version of perhaps his best work. Wolf Larsen who identifies with the master poet John Milton not just because Milton went blind in a similar way that Larsen was going blind but also because Satan in the serpent as described by Milton in "Paradise Lost" believes many notions that Larsen believes. That he underlines the famous passage, "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven" is indicative of how Larsen views himself.

The consummate actor Edward G. Robinson, who could play any role as if he were that particular character, breathes life into this very complex personality. Obviously Larsen has a conscience and is not totally corrupt and evil. During the famous, telling scene when Dr. Louis "Louie" J. Prescott played to perfection by Gene Lockhart is kicked down the stairs by Larsen just after the sea wolf has told the crew not to pick on him anymore, the viewer can tell by the look in Larsen's eyes and the expression on his face that he has a degree of remorse for what happens next. Satan in the serpent would not possess any remorse. The true embodiment of evil is the Igor-type creature everyone calls Cooky (Barry Fitzgerald, playing against type and giving perhaps the best performance of his career). Full of hate, insidiously mocking his crew mates and anyone else with whom he makes contact, this vile little man shows no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In some ways Larsen is actually jealous of Cooky for being more iniquitous than himself, hence why Larsen turns on him.

A major weakness is the somewhat frivolous romance between George Leach (John Garfield) and Ruth Brewster (Ida Lupino). Both fugitives, it is quite understandable how the two are attracted to each other but that the two would become so close so soon is highly unlikely. Garfield and the multi-talented Lupino were two of the best Thespians of their generation so expect standout performances by each.

A somewhat wild card in the acting department is Alexander Knox as the sensitive writer Humphrey Van Weyden. Later Knox would receive accolades playing President Woodrow Wilson. He does so well in this film the viewer wonders what would have happened had Knox not become overly identified as Wilson to the extent that he never again got a suitable role for his talents. London obviously split his personality when he wrote himself into "The Sea Wolf." His literary side is represented by Humphrey, his adventurous romantic side by Leach.


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