Moby Dick (1930 film)

Moby Dick is a 1930 American pre-Code film from Warner Bros., directed by Lloyd Bacon, and starring John Barrymore, Joan Bennett and Walter Lang.[2] The film is a sound remake of the 1926 silent movie, The Sea Beast, which also starred Barrymore.[3] It is the first adaption film of Moby Dick which includes a soundtrack.[2]

Moby Dick
Theatrical poster
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Produced by
Written byOliver H.P. Garrett
Screenplay byJ. Grubb Alexander
Based onMoby-Dick
by Herman Melville
StarringJohn Barrymore
Music by
CinematographyRobert Kurrle
Edited byDesmond O'Brien
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release date
  • September 30, 1930 (1930-09-30)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$797,000[1]


The film tells of a sea captain's maniacal quest for revenge on a great white whale who has bitten off his leg. Ahab meets and falls in love with Faith, the daughter of the local minister, after disembarking in New Bedford. She falls in love with him and is heartbroken when he leaves on another voyage, but saying she will wait three years for him to return. During this next voyage, Ahab loses his leg to Moby Dick, a legendary white whale. When Ahab returns to New Bedford, he mistakenly believes that the woman he loves no longer wants to see him due to his disfigurement, an opinion encouraged by Ahab's brother, who wants Faith for himself. Ahab vows revenge against the whale, and to kill it or be killed in the process, and returns to sea. Eventually, Ahab raises enough capital to buy and be captain of his own ship; but no one wants to crew with him because of his passion for destroying Moby Dick. Nonetheless, he directs his first mate to shanghai a crew—and unknowingly takes his brother on board. Although the crew mutinies, Moby Dick is sighted, and Ahab heads the harpoon boats out to spear him; driven with a bloodlust, he harpoons Moby Dick and kills him. The crew boils him down for whale oil, and they return to New Bedford, where Ahab and Faith are reunited.


Foreign language versions

One foreign language version of the 1930 film of Moby Dick was produced. The German version was titled Dämon des Meeres and was directed by Michael Curtiz.

Box Office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $579,000 domestically and $218,000 foreign.[1]

Preservation status

The film survives intact and has been broadcast on television[4] and cable and is available through Warner Archive DVD-on-demand.[5]

Comparison to novel

Moby Dick was considered a loose adaptation of the novel; Marc Di Paolo said it was "a poorly conceived and unfaithful version . . . in which Ahab . . . slays the white whale at the end and goes home to his true love."[6] Walter C. Metz said the film excludes the novel's central character Ishmael and "produces a conventional Hollywood love story between Ahab and Faith, the invented daughter of Rev. Mapple, whose moral purity reforms Ahab from a bawdy sailor into a marriageable man." Metz also said that the film focused even more on Ahab's back story than the novel itself.[7] It also has a love story which doesn't appear in the novel.[2]


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 11 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. Sala, Ángel (October 2005). "Apéndices". Tiburón ¡Vas a necesitar un barco más grande! El filme que cambió Hollywood (1st ed.). Festival Internacional de Cinema de Catalunya. p. 114. ISBN 84-96129-72-1.
  3. "Moby Dick (1930)". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  4. 1957 MOVIES FROM AAP Warner Bros Features & Cartoons SALES BOOK DIRECTED AT TV
  5. "Moby Dick (1930) (MOD)". Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  6. Di Paolo, Marc (2007). "Austen and Adaption". Emma Adapted: Jane Austen's Heroine from Book to Film. Peter Lang. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4331-0000-0.
  7. Welsh, James Michael; Lev, Peter (2007). The Literature/film Reader: Issues of Adaptation. Scarecrow Press. p. 71–73. ISBN 978-0-8108-5949-4.
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