MOBY DICK - GREGORY PECK
Gregory Peck as the obsessed Captain Ahab, in search of the giant white sperm whale. Even today, this is by far the best telling of the story due to Gregory Peck's splendid performance. The model whale does some ridiculous flips and the film format and quality makes for difficult viewing. Modern CGI whales are not much better. We can only imagine what a really good remake might achieve - if only an actor can be found with Peck's forceful delivery.
MOBY DICK 1956 FILM - WARNER BROTHERS & MGM
Moby Dick is a 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick. It was directed by John Huston with a screenplay by Huston and Ray Bradbury. The film starred Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, and Leo Genn.
The movie had the ninth highest box office of the year in North America, but cost $4.5 million to make (more than double the original budget) so it lost money, and was considered a commercial disappointment. Peck also almost drowned twice during filming in stormy weather off the sea coasts of Ireland and the Canary Islands and several other performers and crew members suffered injuries.
John Huston was named best director of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review for Moby Dick, but did not receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director.
Graphic novel adaptations, DVDs and Blu-ray video films are available of this classic.
Many exterior scenes set in New Bedford were shot on location in Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland. The town has a public house, originally called Linehan's and at that time owned by Paddy Linehan, whose exterior appears in the movie. It was renamed Moby Dick's shortly after filming by Linehan. It is still owned and run by the Linehan family and boasts a fine collection of photographs taken of the cast and crew during the making of the film. While there, John Huston used the bar as his headquarters to plan each day's filming. The town's harbor basin, in front of Moby Dick's bar, was used to stand in as New Bedford's harbor, and some local people appear as extras in the ship's departure scene. Youghal's nineteenth century lighthouse also appears in a scene of the Pequod putting to sea (at sunset) on her fateful voyage.
Moby Dick was 75 ft long and weighed 12 tons, and required 80 drums of compressed air and a
hydraulic system in order to remain afloat and operational. However the artificial whale came loose from its tow-line and drifted away in a fog. Peck confirmed in 1995 that he was aboard the prop. According to Morris, after the prop was lost the Pequod was followed by a barge with various whale parts (hump, back, fin, tail). 90% of the shots of the white whale are various size miniatures filmed in a
water tank in Shepperton Studios in Surrey, near London.
John Barrymore as the obsessed Captain Ahab, in search of the giant white sperm whale. This is a poster for the 1930 film by Warner Brothers & Vitaphone.
The film went overbudget, from $2 million to around $4.4 million, which crippled Moulin Productions; Moby Dick was ultimately sold to United Artists in order to recoup some of the Mirisch brothers' debt (Warner Bros. still distributed the film, corresponding to their original licensing agreement; When the agreement ended, United Artists took over the film's distribution rights. After UA was acquired by MGM in 1981, the latter studio assumed distribution and currently holds the film’s copyright). Moby Dick did not recoup its budget upon its initial release.
In the documentary accompanying the DVD marking the 30th anniversary of the film Jaws, director Steven Spielberg states his original intention had been to introduce the Ahab-like character Quint (Robert Shaw), by showing him watching the 1956 version of the film and laughing at the inaccuracies therein. However, permission to use footage of the original film was denied by Gregory Peck as he was uncomfortable with his performance.
Peck was initially surprised to be cast as Ahab (part of the studio's agreement to fund the film was that Huston use a "name" actor as Ahab). Peck later commented that he felt Huston himself should have played Ahab. Huston had long wanted to make a film of Moby-Dick, and had intended to cast his own father, actor Walter Huston as Ahab, but he had died in 1950. Peck went on to play the role of Father Mapple in the 1998 television miniseries adaptation of Melville's novel, with Patrick Stewart as Ahab.
Peck spouts fire from his nostrils only when he has at the whale." However, The Hollywood Reporter argued, "Peck plays it...in a brooding, smoldering vein, but none the less intensely and dynamically." In modern times, critics have said Peck is: "often mesmerizing" (Barry Monush); "stoic" and "more than adequate" (Brendon Hanley of AllMovie); " "lending a deranged dignity" to the role (Leonard Maltin); "not half as bad as some alleged, and actually suggesting the ingrained, heroic misanthropy" (David Thompson); a "lightweight Ahab"(Timeout); "neither pitiable or indomitable"; and never "vengeance incarnate" (David Shipman); "miscast, completing lacking the required demonic presence" (Adrian Turner of RadioTimes);" and, "miscast" (TV Guide).
Huston always said he thought "Peck conveyed the exact quality he had wanted for the obsessed seaman." Peck himself later said "I wasn't mad enough, not crazy enough, not obsessive enough – I should have done more. At the time, I didn't have more in me." He also noted he thought he "played it too much for the richness of Melville's prose, too vocal a performance" and should have played it with a cracked voice as if his vocal cords were gone.
ESSEX - This three-masted ship was made from white oak, especially known for its strength,
measuring 87 feet (26.5 metres) and just 239 tons displacement. There were 21 men on
board, including first-time captain, George Pollard, Jr.
Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "one of the rare ones, the sort of picture people will remember and rank as one of the screen's classics ... Not only is the film immensely exciting in purely screen terms, it is a haunting philosophical study." Harrison's Reports praised the "excellence of the production values" but noted, "It is not until the last few reels, where a violent battle to the death takes place between the whale and the crew, that the action becomes highly exciting. This fierce combat with the whale has been staged in thrilling fashion and is the highlight of the film, but it is not enough to compensate for the lack of excitement in the preceding reels."
Assessments of Moby Dick have also been diverse. In 1956 Bosley Crowther wrote, the movie is a "rolling and thundering color film that is herewith devotedly recommended as one of the great motion pictures of our times," "the drama is set up on strong, realistic incidents," "space does not possibly permit us to cite all the things about this film that are brilliantly done, from the strange subdued color scheme employed to the uncommon faithfulness to the details of whaling that are observed," and "it cannot be done better, more beautifully or excitingly."
In the same year, Variety, opined the movie is "more interesting than exciting" and "does not escape the repetitiousness that often dulls chase movies." In recent years, most reviews are favorable [bh] with TV Guide asserting it is "one of most historically authentic, visually stunning and powerful adventures ever made," but some reviews are negative, with Adrian Turner of Radio Times positing, it "has some wonderful scenes but must be counted as a noble failure. The great whale always looks phony."
The graphic novel translation of Kulo Luna, omits many of the above chapters entirely, and condenses others, aiming for a lively visual read.
Map of the voyage of the Pequod, during Captain Ahab's obsessive chase around the world.
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