A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

Noah's Ark (1929)

Rating: *** Threat: Global Flood

Warner Brothers. Written by Anthony Coldeway & De Leon Anthony based on a story by Darryl F. Zanuck & on the Bible; Photographed by Barney McGill &Hal Mohr; Special effects by Fred Jackman; Edited by Harald McCord; Music arranged by Louis Silvers; Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck; Directed by Michael Curtiz. B & W, Original version, 135 minutes; Restored version, 100 minutes; Youngston version, 75 minutes.


ANNOTATED CAST LIST (Biblical story characters are listed first.)

Dolores Costello (Miriam, Japheth's betrothed; Marie, German wife of Travis); George O'Brien (Japheth, Noah's youngest son; Travis, American tourist); Paul McAllistar (Noah, the arkbuilder; the army chaplain); Guinn Williams (Ham, Noah's second son; Al, friend of Travis who dies in combat); Noah Beery (King Nephilim, wicked ruler of Akkad; Nikoloff, Russian schemer); Malcolm Waite (Shem, Noah's eldest son; Bulkah); Louise Fazenda (ceremonial maiden in temple; Hilda, Al's friend at the inn); Myrna Loy (slave girl; theater troupe dancer); Anders Randolf (leader of Nephilim's troops; German man on train); Armand Kaliz (leader of Nephilim's personal guards; Frenchman on train); William V. Mung (Nephilim's guard; innkeeper); Nigel de Brulier (Nephilim's high priest; soldier); Noble Johnson (broker); Otto Hoffman (trader); John Wayne (extra).


SYNOPSIS

This picture was one of the most expensive productions of the late 1920s, and it went seriously over budget. It was the brainchild of the young Darryl F. Zanuck, who planned to outdo Cecil B. DeMille, taking The Ten Commandments (1923) as his model. Like the earlier film, the main story takes place in modern times, with an extended flashback to the Bible, telling the story of the flood. All of the major players undertook dual roles in the modern and biblical plots. The scenes with Noah were depicted on a large scale, with broad brush strokes and impressive effects. The film included a synchronized soundtrack and musical score, as well as several short talking sequences. These, however, were all in the modern story. An alternate silent version was also released.

The film begins at the end of the flood story, with God making a covenant with Noah, promising never again to destroy the Earth with a massive deluge. The film continues, portraying both the story of the tower of Babel and the worship of the golden calf. The picture then links the golden calf to the activities of the stock market on Wall Street (Interestingly, the stock market crash of 1929 happened four months after the original release of the film.) The setting finally

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