Souls at Sea is a good picture, second in the cycle of slave-ship films.
Narrative opens with a courtroom trial and flashes back to recount the saga of Gary Cooper and George Raft as adventurous seamen, the latter frankly a slave-trader, but Cooper of finer and seemingly nobler antecedents.
Henry Hathaway’s direction is bold, brave and sweeping. He paints the yarn [by Ted Lesser] with an indelible brush, particularly in the sequences on the seas leading up to and following the conflagration of the SS William Brown. Skillful film editing permits little that’s extraneous. Human touch when little Virginia Weidler capsizes the kerosene lamp which fires the packet from Liverpool to Philadelphia is vividly translated to the audience.
Cooper and Raft are outstanding – the former up to his usual standard; Raft a bit of a surprise as a sympathetic player who meets his dramatic opportunities more than half way. Frances Dee is a bit above Olympe Bradna’s opportunities in the principal, but relatively minor, femme roles.