The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

The Old Man and the Seaold-man-poster
Directed by John Sturges
Written by Peter Viertel from the novel by Ernest Hemingway
Leland Hayward Productions/Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

“It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

The best part was listening to Spencer Tracy’s voice-over of Hemingway’s glorious prose.

The story takes place in a Cuban fishing village and the sea nearby over a period of about four days.  An Old Man has been unable to catch a fish for 84 days running.  He taught a Boy to fish but the Boy’s parents no longer allow him to accompany the Old Man. Nonetheless, the Boy loves him and continues to care for him on land.


The Old Man is undeterred by his bad luck and sets out exactly as usual.  His luck changes when he hooks a huge marlin.  So begins an epic battle with nature.


The novel should have been unfilmable.  The key to this movie’s success was the retention of the Old Man’s voice through Tracy’s voice-over.  The story is a brilliant meditation on man’s relationship to the natural world and I enjoyed the film and Tracy’s performance.

Dmitri Tiomkin won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.  The Old Man and the Sea was nominated in the categories of Best Actor (Tracy) and Best Cinematography, Color.


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