Ship of Fools
Release Year: 1965
Director: Stanley Kramer
Writers: Abby Mann (screenplay), Katherine Anne Porter (based on her 1962 novel Ship of Fools)
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, José Ferrer, Oskar Werner, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Ashley, George Segal, José Greco, Michael Dunn, Charles Korvin, Heinz Rühmann, Lilia Skala, Alf Kjellin
Rating: Won 2 Oscars: Best Cinematography – Black & White. Best Art Direction – Black & White. Nominated for 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Oskar Werner), Best Actress (Simone Signoret), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Dunne), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design – Black & White. Nominated for 3 Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actress – Drama (Simone Signoret), Best Actor (Oskar Werner).
Sunday Classic #293, week 5 2020
A passenger ship bound for pre-World War II Germany offers a microcosm of 1930s society, as its varied passenger deals with each other and discuss their dreams and worries as Adolf Hitler comes to power at home.
Stanley Kramer’s (Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961) tale of a group of very different passangers aboard a ship in 1933 offers both a look at an old Europe disappearing and traces the various directions their lives will take when they reach Bremerhaven. The German characters, from the wealthy and abrasive Nazi-supporter played by José Ferrer (Dune, 1984) to the optimistic and kind-hearted German Jew played wonderfully by German film legend Heinz Rühmann (Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, 1956), are by far the most interesting. However, there are several romances going as well. Oskar Werner (Fahrenheit 451, 1966) is the ship’s doctor who falls in love with La Condesa played by Simno Signoret (Les diaboliques, 1955). He is troubled by poor health and world-weary and she is heading for a Spanish prison. There are several other characters (including hundreds of Spanish workers returning from Cuba) and a lot of storylines. Some offer interesting comentary, while others could just a well as been cut to reduce the running time. The best drama takes place in the dining room and the doctor’s quarters, but the whole film is well worth watching. It is filled with great performances, including from German actors you might not come across everyday and is a quite extraordinary take on a “World War II” movie. Recommended.
This was the final film of Vivien Leigh who died in 1967 at the age of 57. During filming she was plagued by bouts of alcoholism and depression. This lead to her getting off on the wrong foot with her fellow cast, including Lee Marvin, however the two of them eventually became good friends.
Vivien Leigh’s character of the fading southern belle was supposed to be played by Katharine Hepburn, but as Spencer Tracy was in poor health at the time, she opted to refuse the part and stay close to home to care for him. He died in 1967.
Michael Dunn wass a convert to Catholicism and wanted to enter a Capuchin monastery where he was in formation for a while. However, life in a large and austere monastery with no eleavtors proved to strenuous for his physique and he abandoned his dream to pursue a career in acting instead.
Picture Copyright: Sony