Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The first person the audience sees in Ship of Fools is dwarf Michael Dunn, who speaks to viewers directly and acts as a Greek chorus throughout the film. It begins on the deck of an ocean liner travelling from Vera Cruz to Bremerhaven. The time is the 1930s, so close and yet so far from war. The cross-section of humanity on board includes ship's doctor Oscar Werner, Spanish political activist Simone Signoret, aging coquette Vivien Leigh, hedonistic baseball player Lee Marvin, philosophical Jew Heinz Ruhmann, a smattering of pro- and anti-Hitlerites (Jose Ferrer plays the nastiest and most vocal "pro") and young lovers George Segal and Elizabeth Ashley. Yes, it's Grand Hotel at sea, a feast for stargazers and an endurance test for those who aren't comfortable with non-stop speechmaking. Despite such lines as "What can the Nazis do? Kill all six million of us?," Ship of Fools manages to stay afloat throughout its 148 minutes. Michael Dunn was nominated for an Academy Award for his interlocutory characterization; the rest of the performances range from brilliant to merely filling up the room. Other Oscars were presented to cinematographer Ernest Lazslo and to the art-direction staff. Ship of Fools was adapted by Abby Mann from the novel by Katharine Ann Porter.
artist, boating, conflict, cross-cultural-relations, drugs, high-seas, Nazism, nephew, prison, prostitute/prostitution, racism, romance, traveling, wife, worker
High Budget, High Production Values