Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||J. Walter Ruben|
|Produced by||Irving Thalberg|
|Written by||George S. Kaufman|
John Lee Mahin
|Screenplay by||Frances Marion|
H. W. Hannaford
|Music by||Edward Ward|
|Edited by||Frank Sullivan|
|January 3, 1936|
Spencer Tracy plays a rough and tough fisherman ("Dutch" Muller), who leads in a strike with his fellow fishery workers against the "fat-cat" owners of a tuna cannery. The love interest Hattie (Jean Harlow), is also a tuna cannery worker. Her character has a tough exterior with her "bombshell" good looks.
Jimmie (Mickey Rooney) is a teenager who is the uncle of the two youngest children. They all live with "Pops" (Roger Imhof), Hattie, and his Aunt Lil (Una Merkel) together in the same small, apartment-like "shack" on the wharf. Aunt Lil runs the home.
The thuggish cannery owner, Nick Lewis (Joseph Calliea), is also trying to romance Hattie with his money and gifts. He has wealth, Dutch does not. Hattie falls for Dutch in the end, but this antagonism creates many struggles throughout the film. Pete (William Newell) is a family friend, along with many colorful characters.
The movie explores some cutting edge sub-themes that were socially current at the time of its release in 1936. Some scenes involve a woman having a baby while in prison, and a hobo camp deep in the woods.
Contemporary reviews from critics were generally positive, both for the film and Harlow's new "natural" look, as she darkened her hair to what the press dubbed "brownette" before the film went into production.Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times praised the moments of "robust comedy", but lamented the instances when it turned serious and a "boisterous jest skids down the slopes of melodramatic routine".Variety ran a positive review, praising the "excellent cast" and dialogue that was "vigorous and well-written".Film Daily was also positive, calling it a "lusty picture, full of action and comedy", with "fine performances" from Harlow and Tracy. The Prescott Evening Courier wrote that "Jean Harlow has never displayed her versatility to a better advantage". The Milwaukee Sentinel wrote that there was "much hilarious comedy and robust action which takes away the sting of too much pathos", and that Tracy did an "excellent job".John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote a negative review, regretting that the film "leaves Miss Harlow in the background for longish and rather dreary stretches ... I'd say of the picture that there is too much tuna fish, and not enough Harlow."
According to MGM records, the film earned $717,000 in the US, and $330,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $63,000.