Fisherman's Wharf (film)

Fisherman's Wharf is a 1939 American drama film directed by Bernard Vorhaus from a screenplay by Bernard Schubert, Ian McLellan Hunter, and H. Clyde Lewis. The film stars Bobby Breen, Leo Carillo, Lee Patrick, and Slicker, "the silly seal". Produced by Sol Lesser for RKO Radio Pictures, who also distributed the film, it was released on February 3, 1939.

Fisherman's Wharf
Theatrical poster for the film
Directed byBernard Vorhaus
Produced bySol Lesser
Written byBernard Schubert
Ian McLellan Hunter
H. Clyde Lewis
StarringBobby Breen
Leo Carillo
Lee Patrick
Slicker, "the silly seal"
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyCharles Schoenbaum
William Dietz (backgrounds)
Edited byArthur Hilton
Bobby Breen Productions
Principal Productions
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • January 25, 1939 (1939-01-25) (Premiere-San Francisco)[1]
  • February 3, 1939 (1939-02-03) (US)[2]
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States


Carlo Roma has a happy household with his son, Tony, despite being widowed. The two enjoy a very deep bond. Along with a pet seal, Julius, the father and son live with one of Carlo's business partners, Beppo, and a housekeeper, Angelina. Beppo has been romantically interested in Angelina for decades and is constantly proposing to her, which she always declines. He runs a successful fishing fleet of three boats, one of which Beppo captains. His other two equal partners are Luigi and Pietro.

When Stella, Carlo's widowed sister-in-law, moves in with her son Rudolph, the harmony of the home is disrupted. First, Stella banishes Julius from the house. Stella then drives both Beppo and Angelina from the house. After leaving, Angelina finally consents to Beppo and the two marry. Stella, not being satisfied with the money being made from Carlo's fishing enterprise, convinces him to demote his three partners to simple employees. Disgruntled, the three leave to begin their own fishing business.

As a last straw, Rudolph has been extremely unkind to Tony. When Rudolph learns that Tony is not Carlo's biological son, he cruelly tells him. The disheartened child runs away from home, taking Carlo's fishing boat. Carlo finally understands what has been happening in his house, and orders Stella and Rudolph to leave. With the help of Beppo, the two track down Tony and the family is reunited.


(cast list as per AFI database)*[2]


An August 1938 news item let the public know that Breen was attached to the picture, which went on to state that production would begin on September 15 of that year.[3] In October it was reported that Bernard Vorhaus would helm the film.[4] And by late that month, Leo Carillo's participation had been announced.[5] Armetta was added to the cast in early November,[6] while other cast members announced in November included Slicker the seal and Lee Patrick.[7][8] The Reverend Neal Dodd, who performed hundreds of screen wedding ceremonies, would conduct his three hundredth in this film, overseeing the screen nuptials between Beppo and Angelina.[9] In December it was announced that the St. Luke's Episcopal Church Choristers, also known as Dorr's St. Luke's Choristers, would be appearing in the film.[10] Fisherman's Wharf premiered in San Francisco on January 25, 1939. In attendance were the three stars, Bobby Breen, Leo Carillo, and Henry Armetta, along with Sol Lesser.[1] The film opened nationwide on February 3, 1939.[2] The National Legion of Decency rated the film a class A-1, making it suitable for all audiences.[11]


Harrison's Reports called the picture a "pleasant mixture of comedy and drama, with deep human appeal." They felt it was one of Breen's best performances to date, and lauded both Carillo and Armetto for excellent performances. They also enjoyed Galli's musical performance in the film, as well as the contributions of the trained seal, Slicker.[12] The Film Daily described it as a fine sentimental comedy, which had all "the ingredients of a sentimental tear jerker, but..." the producer decided to emphasize the comedic aspect instead, which they felt was a good move. They complimented both the cast and the direction.[13] Motion Picture Daily, in their review of the film, lauded the acting skills of Carillo, Armetta, and Breen, and called the song, "Songs of Italy", with words and music by Frank Churchill and Paul F. Webster, "outstanding." Overall, they felt the film was a "charming picture of a father and son's mutual devotion."[14]


  1. ""Wharf" in Frisco Bow". The Film Daily. January 23, 1939. p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  2. "Fisherman's Wharf: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  3. "P.A.'s for Bobby Breen". The Film Daily. August 19, 1938. p. 10. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  4. "Hollywood Letter". Motion Picture Daily. October 11, 1938. p. 2. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  5. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. October 26, 1938. p. 7. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  6. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. November 2, 1938. p. 11. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  7. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. November 9, 1938. p. 6. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  8. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. November 15, 1938. p. 8. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  9. Wilk, Ralph (November 25, 1938). "Little from Lots". The Film Daily. p. 10. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  10. "News Flashes Off Coast Wires". The Film Daily. December 1, 1938. p. 7. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  11. "Legion Approves 7 of 8 New Pictures". Motion Picture Daily. February 1, 1939. p. 6. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  12. ""Fisherman's Wharf" with Bobby Breen, Leo Carillo and Henry Armetta". Harrison's Reports. February 11, 1939. p. 23. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  13. "Reviews of the New Films: "Fisherman's Wharf"". The Film Daily. March 1, 1939. p. 10. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  14. "Hollywood Previews: "Fisherman's Wharf"". Motion Picture Daily. January 31, 1939. p. 4. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
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