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Hollywood Movie Memories » Blog Archive » Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Tagline – From the immortal adventure classic… of whaling men, their ships, and the sea!

Starring – Gregory Peck (Captain Ahab), Richard Basehart (Ishmael), Leo Genn (Starbuck), Harry Andrews (Stubb), Friedrich von Ledebur (Queequeg).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – John Huston

Produced By – Moulin Productions Inc.

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Rescued at sea, clinging to a floating coffin, is Ishmael. He is the lone survivor of a sunken whaler, and he has a harrowing tale to tell.

Ishmael is a young merchant marine who had decided to sign on with a whaling ship out of New Bedford, Mass. Together with the heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, they join the crew of the Pequod.

The Pequod will be under the charge of Captain Ahab, who the ship’s owners consider to be a man with a solid reputation and legendary experience. Before the voyage, the townspeople and the seamen gather for a Sunday service where the pastor gives what will be a prophetic sermon on Jonah and the whale.

While the sermon is comforting, Ishmael and Queequeg’s encounter with an apparant drunk is not. The man, who calls himself Elijah, tells the friends that the day they smell land, where there is no land, is the day Ahab will die, then return and beckon others to follow him.

The ship sets sail, but as of yet the men have not seen their captain, as Ahab, to this point, has remained in his quarters. A few days into the journey Captain Ahab finally makes an appearance. He is an imposing man with a haunted look in his eyes. His face is scarred on one side from his hairline down to his jaw. One leg is missing from the knee down and replaced with a peg made of whale bone.

He gives an emotional speech to the crew and although they believe they are on a normal whaling mission, he promises an ounce of gold to the crewman who spots the great white whale Moby Dick. Unknown to the crew is the fact that, to Captain Ahab, this journey has only one purpose… to find Moby Dick and kill him. It is this great white whale that is responsible for the captain’s disfigurement.

Years of studying the migratory habits of whales has led Ahab to believe that Moby Dick will be in the area of Bikini Atoll. The journey of the Pequod continues in that direction and all seems normal to the crew. They have encountered and killed a number of whales, salvaged the carcass, sliced the blubber, and rendered the oil.

Passing another ship, Ahab hears of the sighting of a white whale and immediately changes course to head for the area of the sighting. This change does not sit well with the crew as they were achieving great success in the hunt for whale oil. They consider going against Captain Ahab, but end up relenting to his will.

It is now clear that this trip is no more than Captain Ahab’s self-destructive obsession to find and kill the great white whale. The Captain’s obsession is so strong that he is willing to sacrifice everything including his ship, the lives of his crew, and even his own life.

The fateful encounter between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick will soon take place.

NOTABLE: Moby Dick is an adaptation of the great Herman Melville novel of the same name.

The whale, Moby Dick, proved to not only be a problem for the seaman, but also for the production crew. The fake whale used continually was breaking down and sinking, requiring it to be rebuilt many times at great cost of both time and money.

Orson Welles, who portrayed Father Mapple, had a little stage fright during filming. This problem was solved by director John Huston who kept a bottle of brandy nearby for whenever Welles felt the need to calm his nerves.

The Starbuck’s coffee chain took its name from the character Starbuck in the film.



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