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Edward H. Griffith
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
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The film is based on two original British steamships, the SS Sirius and the SS Great Western. The SS Sirius was built in 1837 and was serving the London-Cork line until the quest for steam-crossing the Atlantic took her to this adventure. She had condensers which worked with fresh water which allowed less maintenance so quicker journeys. She sailed from Cork and arrived in New York in April 22nd. 1838 after a 18-day trip, only a day ahead of the SS Great Western, which had been specially built for the Atlantic steam crossing but left England (Avonmouth, near Bristol) four days later (so she was faster, but left later). In the film the Sirius, a working replica of which was built, is renamed Dog Star (as Sirius is the dog star), but keeps her original Royal Navy captain's name (Lt. Richard Roberts). The SS Savannah, an American ship, had been the first one to cross the Atlantic in 1819 from Savannah to Liverpool, only partially using steam power and with no passengers daring to embark considering it too dangerous. See more »
Rulers Of The Sea is a fictionalized account of the first successful Atlantic voyage totally under steam power. It was the dream of sailor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and factory workman Will Fyffe. And of course in the cast is the beautiful Margaret Lockwood who is Fyffe's daughter and another reason why Fairbanks is hanging around with Fyffe.
Fairbanks has decided he's seen the last fatality on ships from captains in sail, especially like George Bancroft who are sending sailors aloft in an effort to make speed in high winds. Steam which was used in fresh river waters for decades after Robert Fulton invented the Clermont was deemed impractical for sea voyages. The problem of an engine that would burn efficiently was one and storage of fuel was another.
The first part is solved due to the native genius of Fyffe who thinks he has an engine designed in his head for the long sea voyage. It takes Doug's education and knowledge of the sea to first put it on paper and then build it. The second problem has to improvised while at sea and it almost costs them the experiment.
Though Fairbanks and Lockwood are an attractive pair of leads, the real acting honors go to Fyffe who was a big name in the English musical hall. He never was quite the entertainer that Sir Harry Lauder was, but Fyffe was far more successful on screen and Rulers Of The Sea is the film he's most known for. Alan Ladd has a small, but noticeable part as a sailor and Montague Love as always makes a fine villain. Love is a factory owner who attempts to steal Fyffe's work and the credit for same.
Frank Lloyd directed this and he has to be the most unknown director who ever won three Oscars, but who is barely known today. Lloyd won Best Director Oscars for The Divine Lady, Cavalcade, and Mutiny On The Bounty. As you will note two of those films are also sea sagas. Lloyd certainly does well by sea stories, but other than Mutiny On The Bounty his films are not well known today.
Rulers Of The Sea was the second of two films that Margaret Lockwood did in the USA the other being the Shirley Temple film Sussanah Of The Mounties over at 20th Century Fox. Note that she and Fyffe appear by permission of Gainsborough Pictures in the credits.
Although hardly a true story, Rulers Of The Sea captures the 1840s in Scotland, London and on the high seas as people dared dream of travel by water without being at the whim of the wind.
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