Ship of Fools

The morning of work left me tired.  I went home to watch “Ship of Fools,” the Stanley Kramer film from 1965.  The ship was going from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany, and it started and ended with Michael Dunn breaking down the fourth wall.  Some of the stars were Vivien Leigh, Jose Ferrer, Oskar Werner, Lee Marvin, George Segal, Simone Signoret, and Jose Greco.  It all takes place in 1933.  Hitler is not even mentioned in the movie.  I think almost everyone hated the bit of the story with George Segal and Elizabeth Ashley.  Oskar Werner gained praise for his performance as the ship’s doctor, although I would not describe it as anything brilliant.  It was rather sad to see Vivien Leigh in her last role.  She didn’t do very much after “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Stanley Kramer has been described many times as being heavy-handed with his messages.  I’d say that this film follows this pattern, as did “Judgment at Nuremberg.”  The film does lumber along, and I imagine that if I were watching it in a theatre in 1965, I’d be dying for an intermission.  The film is in black and white, and I can understand that choice.  I noticed that with all the steady, controlled shots in this picture, it had to be all done in a studio.  Jose Ferrer and Lee Marvin have their loud and excessive moments.  One of the sad moments in the film is the sight of Simone Signoret being led away from the ship.  The fate of Werner seemed too symbolic, like most of the rest of the movie.  I don’t see this film as being worthy of a Best Picture Oscar nomination.  Kramer would go on to make “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Bless the Beasts & Children,” which both had some flaws, but they made a stronger connection with the audience.  I’ve seen “Oklahoma Crude” on television, but I’ve never seen “The Domino Principle” or “The Runner Stumbles.”  Kramer died in February 2001 at age 87.  In the special feature about the making of the film, everyone mentioned that they were eager to appear in a Stanley Kramer picture, especially with such an impressive cast.  Alec Baldwin had many positive things to say about the actors.  Karen Kramer, Stanley’s wife, gives an introduction to the movie.  The two were married from 1966 to 2001.  Karen is 82 years old now.  One person in the cast who seemed that she might have broken out and become a big star was Christiane Schmidtmer, who was Ferrer’s mistress.  She didn’t do much in the movies outside of Jerry Lewis’ “Boeing Boeing,” however.  She died in 2003 at age 63.  I watched the end of “The Assassination Bureau” on television.  I noticed that it had many actor from James Bond films.  I couldn’t see how Oliver Reed’s character managed to manage the Hindenburg-like situation at the end.  I kept thinking how quickly the thirty years until his death passed.  Some of the people who died on March 8 include Hector Berlioz (1869), Millard Fillmore (1874), William Howard Taft (1930), Sherwood Anderson (1941), Harold Lloyd (1971), George Stevens (1975), Joe DiMaggio (1999), and George Martin (2016).  Today is a birthday for Lester Holt (58), Aidan Quinn (58), and Micky Dolenz (72).

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