Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1937. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly, Dale Van Every, based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. Cinematography by Harold Rosson. Produced by Louis D. Lighton. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Film Editing by Elmo Veron. Academy Awards 1937.
Rousing adventure based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling is one of the heartiest adaptations of his works. Snotty British schoolboy Freddie Bartholomew gets up to the worst kind of behaviour at school and then uses his rich father (Melvyn Douglas) as an excuse to get out of all punishments. He’s given his fair comeuppance when he falls off a steamship while traveling to Europe and ends up in a boat full of goodhearted fishermen. One of them in particular, a Portuguese optimist named Manuel (Spencer Tracy), doesn’t take any guff from the boy and develops a deep kinship with him. Bartholomew is wonderful in the lead, hatefully arrogant in the beginning and eventually sweet, and Victor Fleming’s direction is energetic and passionate without ever becoming syrupy or cheesy. The scenes involving stormy seas are impressively handled, and the screenplay is exceptionally well written.