This full-blooded saga of the 19th century whaling industry stars Lionel Barrymore as tough old salt Captain Bering Joy and Dean Stockwell as his grandson Jed. Anxious to embark upon a life on the sea, Jed aligns himself with Joy's first mate, Dan Lunceford (Richard Widmark). The captain disdainfully regards Dan as one of the "new breed" of whalers, who, in his mind, aren't completely up to the rigors of maritime life. Dan gains Joy's respect when he rescues Jed, even though the captain sticks to the book and relieves Dan of his duties for leaving his post. A last-reel crisis involving an iceberg provides a satisfactory gathering of climaxes. Down to the Sea in Ships proved a moneymaker for 20th Century Fox, and also demonstrated that Richard Widmark could portray a character more sympathetic than the psychos and hoodlums he'd previously essayed.
by Hal Erickson synopsis