The Eugene O’Neill play, one of his earliest and one carrying plenty of gutter dialog and epithets, dealt with the futility of brawn over brain, but also severely attacked capitalism and at one point, concerned the old IWW (International Workers of the World). Additionally, it took a poke at high society. Film transcription could not go into that, although the basic character, that of a ship’s stoker who felt that his strength was all that belonged in the world, is particularly well portrayed, both so far as the part itself is concerned and in the interpretation by William Bendix. He imparts to it all the ape-like qualities that could exist in a man in line with the O’Neill play.
The script given Levey by Robert D. Andrews and Decla Dunning, a well-turned one containing as much of O’Neill’s original dialog as possible and judicious, is of the present to furnish some wartime flavor, and opens in Lisbon, where a freighter is about to sail with a load of refugees. Love interest that ultimately peters out is injected through the central woman character, Susan Hayward, who plays the snobbish, badly spoiled daughter of a steel tycoon (as called for by the O’Neill story), and John Loder, second engineer of the ship. It develops that the girl is merely enticing Loder in order to achieve her selfish aims. Also, it is she who, revolting at the sight of Bendix, labels him a hairy ape.
In the play the central character was called Yank, whereas in Levey’s pic he’s Hank. Production rates tops as to settings, background, etc. Most of the dialects, among stokehole associates of Hank’s, as written by O’Neill, are missing in the film version.