“There’s prejudice everywhere; it does no good to give it back.”
On a passenger ship travelling from Mexico to Germany in 1933 — with hundreds of displaced workers packed into steerage — numerous dramas unfold on the main deck: the ship’s doctor (Oskar Werner) falls for a drug-addicted Cuban countess (Simone Signoret) who is being sent to a Spanish prison; an artist (George Segal) and his upper-class girlfriend (Elizabeth Ashley) wonder if their relationship will last; an anti-semitic businessman (Jose Ferrer) praises the rise of fascism while a dwarf (Michael Dunn) and a Jew (Heinz Ruehmann) sit at a separate dining table; an aging beauty (Vivien Leigh) laments her stage of life; and a former baseball player (Lee Marvin) with a drinking problem can’t stop talking about his failures.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- At Sea
- George Segal Films
- Jose Ferrer Films
- Lee Marvin Films
- Simone Signoret Films
- Stanley Kramer Films
- Vivien Leigh Films
Stanley Kramer directed this adaptation of Katherine Anne Porter’s 1962 allegorical novel about a group of disparate individuals seeking elusive happiness prior to the second World War. It’s notable for featuring Vivien Leigh in her final performance, though her role is minimal:
More front-and-center is the shipboard romance between Signoret and Werner, which is both believable and absorbing:
Unfortunately, numerous other sub-plots litter the screenplay, ranging from annoying (i.e., Ashley and Segal’s “tortured” romance):
… to racist (nearly all darker-skinned characters are portrayed as prostitutes or unwashed masses):
… to insufficiently built out (i.e., Marvin’s troubled past):
As DVD Savant describes this film in his review, “very little happens besides talk. Most of the actors state their woes in position speeches and many scene-pairings amount to little.” Of minor interest is the role played by Ruehmann, who is given some of the film’s most hopeful lines:
… but overall the film is a disappointment.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Oskar Werner as Dr. Schumann
- Simone Signoret as La Condesa
- Ernest Laszlo’s Oscar-winning cinematography
No, though it may be worth a one-time look simply for Werner and Signoret’s performances.