Cast & Crew
After Captain William Horatio Ambrose and his crew are awarded the prestigious Lloyd medal by the British government for their courageous service saving the H.M.S. Arabella , the captain promises to recount the adventure to eager reporter Peters. At a nearby bar, Ambrose explains that he comes from a long line of brave sailors dating back to the Stone Age, but in reality, his forefathers were doomed to failure on their sea voyages. Ambrose goes on to claim that the family motto is "all at sea"; however, he is actually haunted by an acute case of seasickness, which has prevented him from ever leaving land. When Peters suggests they might need to sober up with tea, the drunken captain grabs his jug of rum, compliments of the bartender, and takes Peters to his bank to continue drinking and relaying his story. The bank owner at first refuses to allow the two to drink in the lobby, but then relents once the famous captain begins his tale about the Arabella : Wanting a vessel of his own, the aging Ambrose spent his entire life savings on the Arabella , a vessel docked in Sandcastle. It is soon revealed that Ambrose purchased not a boat, but a very grand and slightly rundown tourist pier at a very inflated price. The pier's existing workers, although dressed in Navy costume, have no military experience except for one spritely young man named Thomas, whom Ambrose quickly promotes to chief officer. Figg, the most obstinate worker, resents the stern captain's demands to rehabilitate the pier and promptly quits. As Ambrose inspects the remnants of the pier's entertainment equipment, he discovers that the slot machines have been shut down by the local council due to complaints from councilwoman Barrington, a nearby bathing hut entrepreneur. When Ambrose decides to ignore the ruling, several council members wheel the machines to the police station where an officer explains to Ambrose that gambling, legally described as a game in which luck predominates over skill, is strictly forbidden. However, when young crewman Reggie Skinner demonstrates his "skill" by repeatedly winning the game, the machines are returned to Ambrose. Back at the pier, an ornery teenage audience, frustrated that the theater troupe has quit, begins to rip the seats out of the theater. Ambrose gleefully joins in the demolition, taking their action as an inspiration to convert the area into a dance hall. Excited to have a place of their own, the teenagers then decorate the room and throw a dance with a live band, but the night ends abruptly when Superintendent Browning announces that Ambrose does not have a city permit for dancing and music. When the council later rejects his permit applications, Ambrose decides to convert one of the rooms into a bar instead. Days later, when Barrington protests to the council that captain is corrupting the community, Mayor Crowley reveals the council's plan to demolish the pier and Barrington's huts to make room for a tourist road along the coastline which he refers to as the "marine drive." Barrington resigns in protest, claiming that Crowley, who will get the construction contract, has devised the scheme for his own financial gain. Later, Ambrose spots Barrington weeping near her huts and invites her to his home, the pier's slanted-floored fun house. After several cups of coffee spiked with rum, a drunken Barrington reveals the council's plans to her former enemy. Softened by her truthfulness, Ambrose reveals his chronic seasickness to her. The two then devise a scheme to move her huts to the pier and register the pier as a ship. When the pier's extreme dimensions cause suspicion at the English bureau, Ambrose goes to the consul from the country of Liberama, who registers the ship without question to profit from the fees. Days later, the teenagers and crew transform the pier into a sea-going vessel complete with a steam chimney and gangplank. Just after Barrington christens the ship H.M.S. Arabella , Crowley serves Ambrose with a compulsory purchase order, but the captain retorts that local government has no authority on ships and provides him with his registration. Later, Crowley and conspiring council members Bullen and Garrod decide to force Ambrose out of business with exorbitant daily harbor dues, but Ambrose, proficient in the harbor laws, informs them that they cannot charge him if the ship is unmoored. He then "unmoors" Arabella by destroying the gangplank. Later that day, while the passengers are enjoying games, drinks and bingo onboard, Crowley, Bullen and Garrod ask Figg, now a dredging ship operator, to pull the support piles out from under the pier. When the dredging ship begins to pull at the Arabella , Ambrose, fearing seasickness, orders his men to handle the emergency, but the ghosts of his forefathers appear and encourage Ambrose to accept the challenge. Following Barrington's cure for seasickness: ear plugs and tight corsets, Ambrose has her cinch his waist with a tight belt and plug his ears with cotton wadding, then joins his men in paddle boats to save Arabella . After he assigns one man to cut the dredging ship rope, Ambrose joins Thomas on board the ship, where they trap the council members in the ship's cabin and use the dredging claws to drop them in the sea, but the damage to the pilings soon causes part of the pier to give way. Ambrose orders his crew and passengers stay on the half of Arabella that is still attached to land, while he remains on the other half adrift at sea. The next morning, the captain lands at a bathing beach where the crowds welcome him in muffled tones. Pulling out his earplugs, Ambrose discovers he has landed in France. As he finishes his story in the bank, all of the personnel have joined the reporter and Ambrose in guzzling the rum and cheer the adventurous captain on with an old sailor's ditty.
Charles Lloyd Pack
T. E. B. Clarke
Dennis Van Thal
All at Sea
All at Sea was the last and least profitable comedy Guinness made at Ealing. The other, more successful Ealing works were Kind Hearts and Coronets, A Run for Your Money (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951), and The Ladykillers (1955). It was in Kind Hearts and Coronets that Guinness showed an early knack for multi-character acting, as he does in All at Sea. In the latter, he is seen over the passage of time as various members of a seafaring family before ending up as William Horatio Ambrose, a sailor who gets sea sick and would rather stay on land, fixing up an old pier and turning it into an amusement park.
Alas, not only was All at Sea the last Ealing comedy, it was the only one not filmed at Ealing Studios. Shortly before All at Sea was made, Ealing Studios closed and were sold to the BBC for television production. The last film made there was a 1956 detective mystery called The Long Arm (It was released in the U.S. as The Third Key). Sir Michael Balcon restructured the production process at Borehamwood Studios under the auspices of MGM for the next three years. The Shiralee (1957), Dunkirk (1958), Man in the Sky (1957) were produced along with All at Sea before Ealing shut down production for good.
Producer: Michael Balcon
Director: Charles Frend
Screenplay: T.E.B. Clarke
Production Design: Alfred W. Marcus
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Costume Design: Sophie Devine
Film Editing: Jack Harris
Original Music: John Addison, Derek New
Principal Cast: Alec Guinness (William Horatio Ambrose), Irene Browne (Mrs. Barrington), Percy Herbert (Tommy), Harold Goodwin (Duckworth), Maurice Denham (The Mayor).
BW-82m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Scott McGee
All at Sea
The working title for this film was Barnacle Bill. The opening cast credits differ in order from the closing credits. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M producer Robert Vogel submitted the script for All at Sea to the Breen Office in January 1957. All At Sea was probably one of six films that were part of a financing package between M-G-M and producer Michael Balcon. For more information on the Ealing Films/M-G-M contract see the entry below for the 1957 film, Decision Against Time. All at Sea marked the feature film acting debut of Jackie Collins. Although M-G-M produced a 1929 film by the same title, directed by Alf Goulding and starring Karl Dane and George K. Arthur, the two films are otherwise unrelated.
Released in England December 1957