27 March 2008 | bkoganbing
How Will You Do Before The Great Examiner?
The story of the man who wrote Outward Bound is probably more interesting than the play itself if that's possible. Sutton Vane was an actor who joined the army at the outbreak of World War I and was invalided out due to a bad case of shell-shock. The horrible memory of the war stayed with him even though he tried to go back to performing.
The play Outward Bound was written by Vane as a catharsis, his own message about how differently people view life at the moment of judgment. Vane could not interest any of the mainstream producers in London to back his play, he raised the money and produced it himself. It struck a chord with post World War I audiences in first the United Kingdom and then in America.
When Warner Brothers got the rights to the play they were lucky indeed to get several of the original cast from Broadway to repeat their roles for the screen. Leslie Howard, Lyonel Watts, Dudley Digges and Beryl Mercer did these parts on Broadway in 1924 when the play ran for 144 performances.
Several people find themselves on board a most mysterious ship which seems to be continually traveling in fog and only one crewman, a steward is on duty. It turns out that only a young couple, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Helen Chandler, seem to know what's happening. They're all dead and the ship is heading towards a meeting with the Great Examiner who will determine their fates.
Why they and steward Alec B. Francis are the only ones of the passengers that knows what's happening and what happens to each one you'll have to see the film for. Outward Bound with a message that's less Christian centered might very well find an audience today. Unless you believe that their are similar ships carrying people from an Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. cultures to their fates which the author by no means excludes.
Though melodramatic in spots, Outward Bound is still a haunting film about people on the brink of eternity.