28 January 2012 | bkoganbing
The novel co-written by Robert Louis Stevenson is the basis for this lavish Paramount production which was to feature one of the white mountain studio's latest discoveries, Frances Farmer. Frances is the daughter of the late captain of a trading schooner in the South Seas which is in need of someone to take her to Sydney, Australia.
Who might fill the bill is Oscar Homolka who is a beached captain on a South Sea Isle barely scratching out an existence as a beachcomber along with pals, Ray Milland and Barry Fitzgerald. All three of these guys have a sad tale to tell as to how they came to such fringe circumstances of existence.
When Homolka is hired he takes the other two along and they've got different ideas about the direction of the ship and what to do with her cargo which is cases of champagne. A whole lot of drama happens on the schooner before they arrive at an island ruled by Lloyd Nolan who is a bible spouting psychotic who has the natives cowed. The sight of Farmer gets his hormones in an uproar as if the other three don't have those same issues as well.
Ebb Tide is a film badly in need of restoration. I saw a bootleg print of it and the sound could use a little enhancement as well. Oscar Homolka was billed with courtesy to British Gaumont Pictures where he had recently starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage. I'd love to know whose brilliant idea at Paramount's to have Homolka shave those trademark bushy eyebrows. I could hardly believe it was him.
Farmer was beautiful, but she wanted roles of substance as she complained in those famous memoirs of her's Will There Ever Be a Morning. Ebb Tide didn't provide her with it, but Lloyd Nolan did wonders with his role. His was a subtle performance, he conveyed so much by underplaying the fanaticism of his character.
Hopefully Ebb Tide will be earmarked for restoration and soon.