Cannery Row (film)

Cannery Row is a 1982 American comedy-drama film directed by David S. Ward, starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger. The movie is adapted from John Steinbeck's novels Cannery Row (1945) and Sweet Thursday (1954).[2][3]

Cannery Row
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid S. Ward
Produced byMichael Phillips
Screenplay byDavid S. Ward
William Graham
Based onCannery Row
Sweet Thursday
by John Steinbeck
Narrated byJohn Huston
Music byJack Nitzsche
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited byDavid Bretherton
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release date
  • February 12, 1982 (1982-02-12) (United States)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11.5 million[1]
Box office$1.8 million[1]


The story is about the skid row denizens of Monterey, California, during World War II. As declining fish stocks are shutting down a previously rich fishery and the dependent canning industry, bums and prostitutes lead colorful and adventurous lives in a balmy seaside setting.

Doc, a self-employed marine biologist, lives in a dockside warehouse and researches octopi. Suzy DeSoto, a girl from the local bordello, is working there only out of necessity.

A collection of linked vignettes describes life on Cannery Row. It is depicted as an impoverished area inhabited by a motley band of people who have experienced failures, but somehow have found their niche and a community of strangely kindred souls.

Doc and Suzy don’t quite fit in, but are accepted. Mac and the boys gather frogs and sell them to give a surprise party for Doc, which turns into a brawl and breaks the tank housing Doc's octopus collection. To make amends, they buy Doc a present of a microscope but mistakenly get him a telescope, instead.

A deeper mystery revolves around why Doc stays in Cannery Row. Suzy discovers that Doc was once a professional baseball pitcher but quit.

Another character, the Seer, spends his days playing his horn. He depends on the gifts that mysteriously appear, such as groceries. Suzy eventually learns that the Seer is a former baseball player whom Doc injured with a pitch to the head, and now Doc takes care of him. Doc and Suzy ultimately find love.



Raquel Welch was cast as Suzy but was fired after the first few days of production and replaced by an actress 15 years her junior. Welch sued the filmmakers and won a reported settlement of more than $10 million in court.[4][5][6]


Critical reception

In his two-and-a-half star review, film critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film: "The movie is almost always good to look at, thanks to Richard MacDonald's sets (he linked together two giant sound stages) and Sven Nykvist's photography. And Nolte and Winger are almost able to make their relationship work, if only it didn't seem scripted out of old country songs and lonely hearts columns. It's tough to pull off a movie like this, in the semi-cynical 1980s (it would have been impossible in the truly cynical seventies). I guess we no longer believe in the essential heroism of the little guy, and in the proposition that anyone can succeed with a little luck."[7]

MGM head of production David Begelman later said he should not have greenlit the film, saying it "was beyond the reach of the filmmaker to realise the wonderful, wonderful values he had in a brilliant script."[1]


  1. Boyer, Peter; Pollock, Dale (28 March 1982). "MGM-UA AND THE BIG DEBT". Los Angeles Times. p. 11.
  2. Steinbeck, John (1993) [1945]. Cannery Row (Reprint ed.). London (1993) New York City (Original): Penguin Books (1993) Viking Press (Original). ISBN 978-0140177381.
  3. Steinbeck, John (1954). Sweet Thursday (1st ed.). New York City: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0670686865.
  4. Caulfield, Deborah (28 June 1986). "Welch Licks Wounds Of Battle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  5. Murphy, Kim (25 June 1986). "Raquel Welch Awarded $10.8 Million Over Firing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  6. Higgins, Bill (10 December 2015). "Hollywood Flashback: When Raquel Welch, Fired and Replaced by an Actress 15 Years Younger, Sued MGM (and Won)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  7. Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times film review, January 1, 1982. Accessed: June 22, 2013.
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