ⓘ The Old Man and the Sea (1958 film)


ⓘ The Old Man and the Sea (1958 film)

The Old Man and the Sea is a 1958 American adventure drama film directed by John Sturges, who replaced the original, uncredited director Fred Zinnemann. The screenplay by Peter Viertel was based on the novella of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film stars Spencer Tracy.

Dimitri Tiomkin won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on the film. The film was also nominated for Best Color Cinematography Howe and Best Actor Tracy.


1. Plot

The Old Man in the film is a Cuban fisherman who has gone 84 days without a catch. His only friend is a 14-year-old boy named Jabby, who has been barred by his father from accompanying the Old Man out to sea. On the Old Mans 85th day out, he finally hooks a huge marlin, which he then tries to bring in and haul in from far out from shore. For three days and nights he battles the fish, which is portrayed in the film as it had been in Hemingways novella as a trial of mental and physical courage that becomes the ultimate test for him of his worth as a man.


2. Cast

  • Don Blackman as Arm wrestler
  • Don Alvarado uncredited as a waiter
  • Harry Bellaver as Martin
  • Felipe Pazos Jr. as Manolin
  • Richard Alameda as a gambler
  • Robert Alderette as a gambler
  • Spencer Tracy as The Old Man
  • Carlos Rivero as a gambler
  • Tony Rosa as a gambler
  • Joey Ray as a gambler
  • Don Diamond as Cafe proprietor

3. Production

The director originally assigned to the film was Fred Zinnemann, but he withdrew, and was replaced by John Sturges. The films budget, originally $2 million, grew to $5 million "in search of suitable fish footage." Sturges called it "technically the sloppiest picture I have ever made."

According to Turner Classic Movies, a February 2005 CNN article points out that The Old Man and the Sea was one of the first films to "use a bluescreen compositing technology invented by Arthur Widmer, that combined actors on a soundstage with a pre-filmed background."

The credits note that "Some of the marlin film used in this picture was of the worlds record catch by Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. at the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club in Peru. Mr. Glassell acted as special advisor for these sequences."


4. Music

Veteran film composer Dimitri Tiomkin composed and conducted the music for the film. His soundtrack recording, with the Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra, was recorded in the auditorium of Hollywood Post No. 43, American Legion, in Hollywood; Billboard reported that the acoustics in the Hollywood Legion were "far superior to most studio space in Hollywood and similar to that of the best concert halls." During the week of April 21, 1958, Columbia held open sessions for The Old Man and the Sea at the Legion Hall. The soundtrack was later released in both stereo and mono by Columbia Records.


5. Reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote:

Credit Leland Hayward for trying something off the beaten track in making a motion-picture version of Ernest Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea, and credit Spencer Tracy for a brave performance in its one big role. Also credit Dimitri Tiomkin for providing a musical score that virtually puts Mr. Tracy in the position of a soloist with a symphony. And that just about completes a run-down of the praiseworthy aspects of this film.

Among the films shortcomings, Crowther notes, is that "an essential feeling of the sweep and surge of the open sea is not achieved in precise and placid pictures that obviously were shot in a studio tank. There are, to be sure, some lovely long shots of Cuban villages and the colorful coast.But the main drama, that of the ordeal, is played in a studio tank, and even some fine shots of a marlin breaking the surface and shaking in violent battle are deflated by obvious showing on the process screen."

The film has been described as the "most literal, word-for-word rendition of a written story ever filmed". Time noted that "the script follows the book in almost every detail", but called the novel a fable "no more suitable for the screen than The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ". Time pointed out that Tracy was "never permitted to catch a marlin" while on location, so the "camera could never catch him at it" and the result is "Sturges must cross-cut so interminably - fish, Tracy, fish, Tracy - that Old Man loses the lifelikeness, the excitement, and above all the generosity of rhythm that the theme requires.

According to producer Hayward, Hemingway was pleased with the film, and said it had "a wonderful emotional quality and is very grateful and pleased with the transference of his material to the screen. He thought Tracy was great in light of his quarrels with him this is quite a compliment. the photography was excellent. the handling of the fishing and mechanical fish very good. Had some minor dislikes. but all in all he was terribly high on the picture and pleased with it."