Two Years Before the Mast

The first nautical movie I remember was Two Years Before the Mast, starring Alan Ladd (1946). Much later, about 10 years ago, I read the book.

But only today, thanks to reading Moby-Dick, did I learn the full meaning of the title. (“Moby-Dick” is written both with the hyphen and without.  My copy of the book uses the hyphen, so I do, too.)

The captain and officers (mates) lived together in the stern of the ship, behind the mainmast. The ordinary seamen lived in the bow, in the forecastle, before the mainmast. The title, “Two Years Before the Mast,” tells you the author, Richard Henry Dana, is describing his two-year service aboard ship as an ordinary seaman, not an officer as would be expected from his prominent family.

(I would like to see the movie again.  I don’t remember a woman in the book, yet there she is on the movie poster, looking seductive as no woman would as the only woman aboard a ship of men. I suspect the title is the only common element in the book and movie.  Movies of that time considered themselves to be an independent media and often only loosely followed the book they were based on.)

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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