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Souls at Sea (1937)

aka Souls at Sea

"Men Against The Sea! Stark Drama No Fiction Can Equal!"

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 92 mins · English


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Small Michael 'Nuggin' Taylor
Small Powdah
Small George Martin
Small Lieutenant Stanley Tarryton
Small Margaret Tarryton
Small Captain of the William Brown


Small Henry Hathaway Director


"Men Against The Sea! Stark Drama No Fiction Can Equal!"


The story is based on two distinct early 19th-century themes, including the attempts by abolitionists (Cooper and Raft) to end the slave trade. Although the U.S. Constitution ended the importation of slaves in 1808, slaves were still being brought into the country under foreign flags. The abolition of slavery by Great Britain helped reduce legal trade in slaves by putting the British navy into action against slave traders, but even Britain had its supporters of the trade (here represented by Wilcoxon, as a British naval officer acting for the slave interests). The collision between Cooper and Wilcoxon is complicated by Wilcoxon's sister (Dee) falling in love with Cooper.

The conflict reaches its peak on board the ship William Brown. An actual ship involved in a sea tragedy of this period (the Jacksonian Age of the 1820s to 1840s), the William Brown hit an iceberg on April 19, 1841, and sank with loss of life. Here it catches fire, due to a little girl, and the ship's captain (Carey) is injured. Cooper taking over has to limit the number of people in the only lifeboat, and as a result is put on trial for murder (and defended by Zucco). In real life a seaman, one Alexander Holmes, was tried and convicted of manslaughter, but given only a fine and six months imprisonment. A later film with Tyrone Power called Seven Waves Away or Abandon Ship! (1957) dealt with the issue of the limits of lifeboat space and decisions of the first mate.