I recently tweeted a link to an article about an event called “Cinematic Passages: Ocean Liners on Screen” that was taking place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Sponsored by the ocean liner company Cunard, the event’s goal was to bring the golden age of ocean travel to life by showcasing the glamor of ocean travel in movies from the last 50 years. When one of my followers subsequently asked me for some recommendations of ocean liner movies that I love, it gave me the idea for this post highlighting a few of my favorites.
The reason that event caught my eye is that I absolutely love watching movies set on ocean liners (called “floating palaces” by some), and an event like that would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, I live far away from New York and could not attend. I can’t really pinpoint the reason for my fascination with ocean liners, but there is just something about them that intrigues me. Perhaps it has something to do with my nostalgia for the tv show “Love Boat” which I loved watching when I was younger, even though I know cruise ships are different than ocean liners. Or maybe it’s just that I wish I had lived back in that era and experienced the glamor and excitement of ocean liner travel for myself.
Whatever the reason may be, following is a list of some of my favorite movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s that are set on ocean liners. I will be covering five of my favorites from the 1950’s in a separate post. Please keep in mind that these movies do not all take place entirely on the featured ocean liner. Many of them have scenes that are set in other locations.
Year of Release: 1935
Directed by: Allan Dwan
Black Sheep is an example of one of many hidden gems that I’ve found through Netflix Instant. Claire Trevor, known more for her serious roles in film noir, gives a delightful and fun performance as an actress who teams up with a professional gambler (Edmund Lowe) to rescue a young man from a blackmailing jewel thief, played by the beautiful Adrienne Ames. Be sure to check it out if you have the instant streaming feature.
Year of Release: 1936
Directed by: Four-time Academy Award Winner William Wyler
Based on a play by Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth is an interesting drama starring Walter Huston as a retired automobile executive who is becoming increasingly estranged from his philandering wife, played by Ruth Chatterton. In addition to the great performances of its lead actors, the film also contains a wonderful supporting cast including Mary Astor, Paul Lukas, David Niven, Spring Byington, and Maria Ouspenskaya.
Shall We Dance
Year of Release: 1937
Directed by: Mark Sandrich
The seventh of ten movies starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Shall We Dance was supposedly one of their least popular and profitable films together. Despite that fact, there are still many things to like about this movie including a great score by George and Ira Gershwin and a fun tap dance routine by Fred and Ginger done on roller skates and set to the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”
Year of Release: 1939
Directed by: Leo McCarey
This is a movie I watched for the first time recently, having seen its remake An Affair to Remember (1957) many years ago. Although I enjoyed the remake, I don’t think anything can compare with the original. Charming performances by its stars Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne along with a warmth that is somewhat missing from the later version, I think Love Affair is one of the best romantic movies of all time.
The Lady Eve
Year of Release: 1941
Written and Directed by: Preston Sturges
This is my absolute favorite movie on my list! In my opinion, The Lady Eve is a movie that every classic film fan should see regardless of their level of interest in ocean liners. It has everything that I love most about classic films; witty dialogue, great performances by an impressive cast (Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, and Eugene Pallette), superb direction by Preston Sturges, fabulous sets, and gorgeous fashions by designer Edith Head. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, I high recommend you do so soon!
Well, that concludes the list of my favorite “ocean liner” movies from the 30’s and 40’s. If you know of or have seen any that I missed, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!
P.S. Stay tuned for a list of my favorite ocean liner movies from the 1950’s. I hope to have that posted in the next few days. Thanks for reading!