Director-producer Stanley Kramer and scenarist Abby Mann have distilled the essence of Katherine Anne Porter’s bulky novel in a film that appeals to the intellect and the emotions.
As screen entertainment Ship of Fools is intelligent and eminently satisfying most of the time. The human cargo aboard the German ship Vera sailing from Vera Cruz to Bremerhaven (1933) is a cross-section of mass humanity that a landlubber can encounter in any metropolis.
All of the principals give strong performances from the aggressive interpretation by Jose Ferrer as a loathsome disciple of the emerging Hitlerian new order to Vivien Leigh as a fading American divorcee who gets her kicks out of leading on admirers and throwing cold water on their burning desires.
Of equal importance to the main stream of this drama, and also astutely attuned, are the contributions by Simone Signoret in the role of La Condesa and Oskar Werner as Dr Schumann, the ship’s doctor.
Also impressive are George Segal and Elizabeth Ashley as young lovers whose intellects and emotions seem to be always warring against the animal magnetism that draws them together.
1965: Best B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction.
Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Oskar Werner), Actress (Simone Signoret), Supp. Actor (Michael Dunn), Adapted Screenplay, B&W Costume Design