It's Grand Hotel on the high seas, with a remarkable cast -- particularly for the usually parsimonious Columbia Pictures. As irascible captain Helquist (Walter Connolly) pilots his boat along the Atlantic, an assortment of subplots involving a vast array of characters play themselves out. Among the passengers are bond-thief Checkett (Fred Keating) and his girlfriend Janet Grayson (Helen Vinson), private detective Schulte (Victor McLaglen), "fallen woman" Mrs. Jeddock (Wynne Gibson), and her unforgiving husband. In his final film appearance, former silent-screen idol John Gilbert gives an outstanding performance as pugnacious hard-drinking reporter Steve Bramley, forever putting the lie to the legend that he failed in talkies because his voice was inadequate. The Three Stooges also show up as musicians -- but only Larry has any lines (spoken in a Yiddish accent!). The story goes that Lewis Milestone filmed the picture on a real ocean liner to prevent John Gilbert and the other imbibers in the cast from having easy access to liquor -- a plan doomed to failure when someone smuggled several cases of booze on board. As the production went way past its budget and schedule, Columbia's business manager sent an urgent wire to Milestone: HURRY UP--THE COST IS STAGGERING. Milestone's answer: SO IS THE CAST.
by Hal Erickson synopsis