Frame enlargement: Silent Era
Down to the Sea in Ships
B&W : Twelve reels
Directed by Elmer Clifton
Cast: Marguerite Courtot [Patience Morgan], Raymond McKee [Thomas Allan Dexter], J. Thornton Baston [Samuel Siggs], William Walcott [Charles W. Morgan], Clara Bow [‘Dot’ Morgan], James Turfler [Jimmy], Patrick Hartigan [Jake Finner], William Cavanaugh [‘Thunderbolt Bill’], Leigh R. Smith [‘Scuff’ Smith], Curtis Pierce [town crier], Ada Laycock [Henny Clark]; Elizabeth Foley [Patience, as baby], Thomas White [Thomas, as baby], Juliette Courtot [Judy Peggs], Clarice Vance [Nahoma], Captain James A. Tilton [Captain of the ‘Morgan’]
Whaling Film Corporation production; distributed by W.W. Hodkinson Corporation. / Produced by Elmer Clifton. Scenario by John L.E. Pell. Production staff, P. Major, Leign R. Smith, Phelps Decker, Paul F. Maschke, Harry Thompson and Elizabeth Musgrave. Technical advisors, James F. Avery, Benjamin D. Cleveland, Antonoe T. Edwards, Henry J. Mandly, Antone J. Mandly, William J. Shockley, George F. Tilton and Captain James A. Tilton. Cinematography by A.G. Penrod (Alexander G. Penrod), with additional cinematography by Paul H. Allen + [Maurice E. Kains and Albert Doubrava]. Music score arranged by Henry F. Gilbert. Presented by Elmer Clifton. / Premiered November 1922 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Released 4 March 1923. / Standard 35mm spherical 1.33:1 format. / The film was later edited to 8900 feet in nine reels. Not Bow’s first film, as is often noted — the first being Beyond the Rainbow (1922). Bow’s scenes had been edited out of the previous film before release; this film was the first in which the public saw her.
Synopsis: William W. Morgan, a devout Quaker, controls a fleet of whaling ships that sails from New Bedford. His daughter Patience is beautiful and obedient. His granddaughter Dot however is a young mischievous cypher to him, orphaned at sea, and now growing into young womanhood. The godless Jake Finner and Samuel Siggs, a Chinese-American, plan to steal Morgan’s whaling ships for the transport of African gold. On top of that Finner wants to steal Morgan’s daughter. Finner has Siggs dress as a Quaker to infiltrate the Morgan business. Impressing at work, Siggs soon obtains permission to speak with Morgan’s daughter, Patience, and quickly presses her to marry him. Meanwhile, Thomas Allan Dexter arrives home from college to Patience and they rekindle their childhood friendship to a quickly evolving proposal of marriage. However, the rigid Morgan will not allow his daughter to marry other than a Quaker whaler, and Dexter immediately signs on as a whaler. Finner arranges to place Dexter on a ship where he will never come back. / When the whaler departs the next day, the ship carries not only the shangied Dexter but also Dot, who has disguised herself as a sailor to be with Jimmy, the young cabin boy she is infatuated with. Their simultaneous disappearance from the village leads the town gossips to conclude that they have departed west together. Onboard the ship, Dexter makes what he can of the situation and sets to work. Jimmy, meanwhile, hides and reluctantly cares for the stowaway Dot. / The film then contains semi-documentary footage of whalers at work. Finner coldcocks the captain and throws him overboard, then concocts a cover story and assumes command of the ship. Now heading for Africa, the crew is split between greed for gold and for returning home. Finner discovers Dot below. With half the crew on the verge of mutiny, Dexter leads a successful revolt. With Finner’s men in the brig, they set sail for home. / Blinded by the loss at sea of his only son, Morgan presses Patience to marry Siggs to obtain a grandson. Swooning at the thought, Patience declines but she is swayed by the desperate and elderly Morgan. On the way home, Dexter leads the remaining crew in the killing of another whale. On Patience’s wedding day, the ship encounters a storm and Dexter learns the truth of the plot. Finner escapes overboard close to shore. Meanwhile, Dexter is trying to track down Patience before she is married but is detained by Finner. Providence intervenes and Dexter arrives in time to keep Patience from completing her vows. // Additional synopsis available in AFI-F2 n. F2.1430.
Survival status: Print exists.
Current rights holder: Public domain.
Keywords: Animals: Whales - USA: Massachusetts: New Bedford - Whaling
Listing updated: 16 October 2011.
References: Film credits, film viewing : AFI-F2 n. F2.1430; Baer-Film p. 72; Bardèche-History p. 298; Brownlow-Parade p. 183; Everson-American p. 297; Kerr-Silent p. 37; Maltin-Guide p. 341; Sherwood-Best pp. xvii, 163; Vermilye-Twenties pp. 69-70; Weaver-Twenty p. 56 : ClasIm-225 p. 12.
Home video: DVD.