Saturday, July 10, 2010


A British historical film about steamships, co-written by Emeric Pressburger just before he went on to screen immortality in his partnership with Michael Powell. In Liverpool in 1837, the MacIver brothers (Michael Redgrave and Griffith Jones) launch a steamship despite the general belief that use of steamships in transatlantic trade is not feasible; the ship does in fact sink upon launch. Hot-tempered Jones wants to get out of the business but Redgrave gives up his interest in the company and goes to Nova Scotia to consult with Canadian ship magnate Samuel Cunard. He books passage on a ship belonging to their rival, Henry Oscar; it's overcrowded with emigrants and leaves without a full crew, and two months out, they run into a fierce storm and many of the passengers rebel. When the survivors are returned to England, Redgrave punches Oscar out, and almost punches his brother when he finds out that Jones has initiated a merger. Eventually, Redgrave does meet up with Cunard and they win a commission for an Atlantic mail contract. Jones's fiancée (Valerie Hobson) brings the brothers together, professionally at least, but soon she herself splits them apart again when she finds herself falling in love with Redgrave. The film climaxes with a transatlantic race between the steamship Britannia and Oscar's sailing ship the Queen Mary. The MacIvers and Cunard were real people, but the film apparently plays fast and loose with facts. Redgrave and Jones are both quite fine and the storm scenes (there is a second one during the final race) are pulled off nicely. [TCM]

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