Souls At Sea

  • 1937
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Cooper, as first mate on a slave ship, assumes command when the captain is killed during an abortive mutiny. An abolitionist himself, Cooper sets the cargo free and subsequently allows the ship to be boarded by the crew of a British naval vessel. Cooper and his shipmate and friend Raft are brought to Liverpool to be tried for mutiny. The case is dismissed...read more

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Cooper, as first mate on a slave ship, assumes command when the captain is killed during an abortive mutiny. An abolitionist himself, Cooper sets the cargo free and subsequently allows the ship to be boarded by the crew of a British naval vessel. Cooper and his shipmate and friend Raft

are brought to Liverpool to be tried for mutiny. The case is dismissed for lack of evidence but shortly thereafter Cooper is approached by agents of a naval intelligence agency and asked to help gather information that could put a stop to the slave trade once and for all. Cooper and Raft set sail

on another ship, bound for America, and each falls in love: Cooper with Dee, whose officer brother is one of the slavers, and Raft with Bradna. Dee's brother, Wilcoxon, suspects Cooper's mission and ransacks his cabin. Cooper comes in and the two fight, the sound frightening the little girl in the

next cabin, Weidler, who knocks over a lantern that soon has the whole ship ablaze. Only one lifeboat makes it into the water and Cooper tries to stop the passengers and crew from overcrowding the boat and swamping it. Wilcoxon turns up again and the two fight some more until Cooper throws him

overboard. After seeing Dee safely into the boat, Cooper prepares to go down with the ship, but Raft comes up behind him and knocks him out, then tosses him into the dinghy. Raft, however, will not leave without Bradna, and when he finds her trapped and badly injured below deck, he stays with her

while they both go to their watery grave. Cooper regains consciousness in the lifeboat and decides it is too crowded, so he chucks a couple more passengers overboard. This callous act horrifies Dee, and after they are rescued she presses charges. Another trial convenes, and Cooper is saved when

the intelligence agent who had originally recruited him for the mission tells the court that Cooper had to save himself in order to successfully complete his important assignment. Dee promptly forgives him.

This largely undistinguished Cooper vehicle was intended by Paramount to compete head to head with MGM's MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. The studio was planning to release the film as a roadshow until somebody apparently pointed out that the film simply wasn't that good. It was recut to a more moderate

length, losing a whole scene in Queen Victoria's court and a number of cast members, including Ward Bond, Edward Van Sloan, and many others. Raft was offered his role, but turned it down, refusing to die on screen for the umpteenth time. Then he proposed a compromise: if Cooper would die in the

picture, so would he. This was totally unacceptable to the studio and they refused his offer, hiring Lloyd Nolan for the part. The studio people were not happy about having to go with Nolan, who they felt looked too much like Cooper, and when Nolan became ill, they hired Anthony Quinn for the

role. Finally Raft relented and agreed to die for the camera again, and he earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Raft still gave the producers trouble, though, initially refusing to throw a rock at Dee as called for in the script. The studio threatened to tear up

his contract and he told them to go ahead. Finally he and Cooper went for a long walk over what were then the dirt roads of Beverly Hills, and Raft explained his position. Cooper agreed with him and refused to do the picture without Raft, so the scene was cut. On location out on Catalina Island

for seven months, Raft and Cooper became close friends, and director Hathaway, notorious for bullying his actors, was informed by the two stars' agents that if they were yelled at, they would walk off the picture. Hathaway never once raised his voice to them. The film earned Oscar nominations for

Best Interior Decoration, Best Score, and Best Assistant Director (Hal Walker).

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Cooper, as first mate on a slave ship, assumes command when the captain is killed during an abortive mutiny. An abolitionist himself, Cooper sets the cargo free and subsequently allows the ship to be boarded by the crew of a British naval vessel. Cooper an… (more)

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