This excellent, overlooked story about a tuna fisherman owes some of its heritage to Moby Dick. Edward G. Robinson is an ugly, somewhat unlovable fisherman. On a tuna-fishing trip, he saves the life of his best friend, Richard Arlen, and loses his own hand to a huge shark in the process. Another of his pals, whose daughter, Zita Johann, Robinson loves,...read more
This excellent, overlooked story about a tuna fisherman owes some of its heritage to Moby Dick. Edward G. Robinson is an ugly, somewhat unlovable fisherman. On a tuna-fishing trip, he saves the life of his best friend, Richard Arlen, and loses his own hand to a huge shark in the process.
Another of his pals, whose daughter, Zita Johann, Robinson loves, is also swallowed by the sea. When Robinson's hand is replaced by a hook, he worries that he will be rejected by heaven because he will not enter the next life "whole." Johann is so stricken by her father's death that she almost
commits suicide, but she is saved by Robinson. When the noisy, blowhard, but kindly Robinson asks Johann to marry him, she accepts, more out of affection than love. Arlen is not sure that Johann is the woman for Robinson, suspecting that she might be after his money. The wedding takes place,
however, and when Robinson invites Arlen to dance with the new bride, he doesn't notice his friend's hesitation. As Arlen and Johann dance, it's subtly apparent that they are sexually attracted to each other. Arlen loves his friend so much that he tries to stay away from Johann, but he is torn
between his passion for Johann and his camaraderie with Robinson. Then Robinson catches the two in a clinch and wants revenge. He takes Arlen out on his boat, knocks him out, puts him in a small open boat, and tosses a harpoon through the small boat's bottom, figuring Arlen will drown. An enormous
shark arrives on the scene, and Robinson launches another harpoon at it, but the rope catches around his foot and he is pulled into the water by the harpooned shark. One shark has already taken Robinson's hand, and now this maneater takes the rest of him. Arlen is rescued and the bloodied Robinson
dies in Johann's arms with Arlen looking on.
The best part of this picture is that, while its subject is a triangle of sexual passion, it never stoops to steamy sex or cheapens the emotions of its characters. All the scenes are subtle, the moods muted, the moments understated. Howard Hawks' fine directorial job holds up 50 years later. TIGER
SHARK avoids melodrama, hitting an almost matter-of-fact note as it presents the characters and their problems, intercutting the story with some superb documentary tuna-fishing footage that captures the life of the fishermen. Robinson speaks in a Portuguese accent that never slips. Vince Barnett
provides a little comedy to leaven the drama.
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