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Abandon Ship Movie Review

power holmes richard nolan

I wanted to include Nightmare Alley in this book, but there's no way it qualifies as an indie. How 20th Century Fox allowed Tyrone Power to sacrifice his spectacular good looks to play a carnival geek and how Edmund Goulding managed to make a movie that uncompromising under the studio system is one of the great mysteries of Hollywood, circa 1947. So I'm including this Brit flick produced independently by Power a decade later, some 20 months before his sudden death in Madrid after a make-believe sword fight with George Sanders. Power, who came from a long line of actors, desperately wanted to be taken seriously, but legions of female audience members preferred to see him as a sexy swashbuckler. And Power WAS sexy and hypnotic, no question about it. For the role of Alec Holmes, Power had to look haggard and driven, even as a sultry lifeboat passenger, Edith Middleton (Moira Lister), leered at him for the entire length of the film. As an officer on a mined ocean liner, Holmes is acting captain of a lifeboat designed to hold 14, but crammed with 17 survivors, with an additional 11 people tied to the boat. Since many have sustained critical injuries, dying crew member Frank Kelly (Lloyd Nolan) tells Holmes to abandon those who are too weak to work or all will die. Holmes resists at first, but gradually comes to realize that Kelly is right and starts ordering gravely wounded men and women into the sea. With every trace of Hollywood glamour stripped from his face, Power played Holmes as if his life depended on it—and, in a way, it did, since his critical reputation was so important to him at that point. The supporting cast is outstanding, especially Nolan, Lister, and Mai Zetterling. Director Richard Sale's tight screenplay is inspired by the true story of the William Brown, an American freighter en route from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1841, with 17 crew members and 65 Irish and Scottish passengers on board. After hitting an iceberg, the freighter split into two pieces. Because the William Brown was not a passenger ship, it carried just two lifeboats. For an excellent account of the Alexander Holmes trial that followed in 1842, you might want to check out a copy of Edward W. Knappman's indispensable Great American Trials, published by Visible Ink Press. AKA: Seven Waves Away.

1957 97m/B GB Tyrone Power, Mai Zetterling, Lloyd Nolan, Stephen Boyd, Moira Lister, James Hayter, Marie Lohr, Gordon Jackson, Finlay Currie, John Stratton, Victor Maddern, Eddie Byrne, Noel Willman, Ralph Michael, David Langton, Ferdinand “Ferdy” Mayne, Austin Trevor, Moultrie Kelsall, Jill Melford; D: Richard Sale; W: Richard Sale; C: Wilkie Cooper; M: Arthur Bliss. VHS

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