Friday, December 03, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Rulers of the Sea (1939)

RULERS OF THE SEA is an interesting drama about the battle to make the first successful crossing of the Atlantic by steamship.

The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as David Gillespie, a sailor who teams with shipbuilder John Shaw (Will Fyffe) to sell Shaw's steam engine design to financial backers. Obtaining financing to build a ship is just half the battle, as once the ship is finally completed it must then successfully make the potentially risky crossing.

British actress Margaret Lockwood plays Shaw's daughter Mary, who's concerned her father's obsession with the steam engine will land them in the poorhouse. As time goes on, David and Mary quietly develop feelings for one another. Mary is torn between her desire for security and wanting to support David and her father.

It's an interesting story, though perhaps a few minutes on the long side in its depiction of Shaw and Gillespie's very long road to success. The story might potentially be a bit dry in spots, but for the highly appealing Fairbanks and Lockwood; viewers who like these actors, as I do, will doubtless enjoy the film. Fairbanks and Lockwood have nice chemistry, and I would have loved to see them cast together in another movie.

RULERS OF THE SEA is one of two films British actress Margaret Lockwood made in the United States, the other being SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES (1939). I enjoy her so much that I wish she had made more films in the U.S., although she certainly had a fine career in England, including several titles previously reviewed here: THE LADY VANISHES (1937), BANK HOLIDAY (1938), NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940), THE MAN IN GREY (1943), and LOVE STORY (1944).

Be watching for Alan Ladd, who has a couple of scenes as a young seaman early in the film. The cast also includes George Bancroft, Montagu Love, Vaughan Glaser, and David Torrence.

RULERS OF THE SEA was directed by Frank Lloyd, who was known for directing historical sagas such as MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935), MAID OF SALEM (1937), and WELLS FARGO (1937).

This film was shot in black and white. It runs 96 minutes.

RULERS OF THE SEA is a Paramount film, and as such it's very difficult to see these days. It has not had a release on DVD or VHS, but DVD-R copies are available from out of print dealers.  Perhaps there's a chance Turner Classic Movies will show this film at some point as part of their deal to show more Paramount films.


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