Souls at Sea (1937)
Paramount Studios set up a first rate production with Henry Hathaway directing this seafaring adventure with heroic Gary Cooper in the lead role and George Raft playing his loyal friend and fellow sailor. The film is told in flashback form from a courtroom where Cooper is on trial for murder and the destruction of the ship “William Brown” which is captained by Harry Carey.
The opening of the film is quite harrowing considering the era that the film was released. Coop and Raft are on a slave ship where the hold is full of would be slaves in transit who are savagely beaten only to turn the tables on their captor. From there our 2 leads are captured themselves and wrongly tortured till George Zucco appears to enlist Cooper into British Intelligence to help put a stop to the slave trade. Along the way we get a little romance with Coop and beautiful Frances Dee while Raft flirts with dark haired Olympe Bradna. The payoff for the viewer comes with the excellent visuals of the ships destruction and the ensuing carnage. Panic sets in and Cooper steps up the hero act to keep everyone in line so the life boats are not overloaded even if he has to kill to do it. Raft fans do not despair as George gets a memorable scene down the stretch.
Hathaway was of course a first rate director who had a lengthy career including True Grit, Kiss of Death and countless other memorable films. A young Robert Cummings shows up as well as character actor Paul Fix who would appear in films as late as 1979 and appeared in over 25 John Wayne films to boot. As for trivia on this feature some sources report Alan Ladd and Ward Bond appearing as unbilled sailors and other sources such as IMDB do not. I for one did not see either of them. If you spot them let me know. When it comes to Gary Cooper, I can never see his films too often as he always displays a slow moving magnetism that lures the viewer in to his world of make believe.