The year is 1841. The place, New Bedford, Massachusetts, heart of the New England whaling industry. Ishamel (Richard Basehart) arrives in the seaport to board a whaling ship. He enters an inn and meets some of the crew, including Stubb, second mate of the "Pequod", commanded by Captain Ahab. He has to share a room for the night with Queequeg. The two men form a bond of friendship. Both men decide to ship aboard the "Pequod". Next morning, Captain Ahab appears on deck. He calls to Starbuck, first mate, to gather the crew abut him. He tells the group that he is after a white whale called "Moby Dick", and offers gold to the first man who spots the whale. Later, the whale is sighted and the long boats pursue. Moby Dick begins smashing the boats and crushing the crew. As Moby Dick crushes Ahab's boat, Ahab reaches up and grasps an old rusted harpoon still imbedded in the whale's back. He crawls up the side of the whale, cutting at the whale again and again. He becomes intangled within the ropes. The whale plunges beneath the ocean's surface and as he surfaces, the harpooners see Ahab waving to them as the sailor who had warned Ishmael to stay away, had predicted. In the end only Ishmael survives by holding onto Queequeg's coffin.

Here are a few bits of trivia about the making of the film.

  • Youghal, Ireland was selected as the town that most closely resembled New Bedford in 1841. Even then construction crews placed special wooden shells over the homes and the stores to make it look more like Bedford. The transformation was so dramatic that locals had a hard time finding their way around. The only thing remaining was Paddy Linihan's pub, The Moby Dick Saloon.
  • One of the off screen highlights was a challenge whale boat race between the stars of the movie, and local sea cadet crews. The local boys, whose average age was 16, threw out the challenge to race over the 1-1/4 mile course after watching the "Moby Dick" crews rehearse. Needless to say the boys won.
  • Richard Basehart was two years older than Gregory Peck.
  • Frederich Ledebur was 6' 7" and was a count. He wore a unique skin-tight mask designed with the necessary tattoo.
  • The violent storms in the movie were real. They actually sailed in the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea during the storms after which time a group of seasick actors kissed the dock after six storm-tossed weeks at sea.
  • Huston's script, the only copy containing an important scene revision, was swept overboard from "Pequod". Fortunately, a tug sailing nearby, recovered the script, and after careful drying, shooting was resumed.
  • At four o'clock every day filming was halted and the floating set was turned into a strange assortment of sipping and dunking film makers, enjoying their afternoon tea.
  • Richard Basehart broke his foot in 3 places jumping 17 feet from the Pequod to a long boat. Filming was halted for 6 weeks until it healed.
  • Pranks were common.

  • Gregory Peck woke up one morning to find several not so fresh herring in his bed. Gregory Peck removed the entire bed of director John Huston, who he felt sure had been behind the fish.
  • Richard Basehart had spend most of his off hours sitting diligently at the edge of a pier, fishing pole in hand, trying his luck with the local fish. Weeks passed and he never got a bite. Finally, one day he felt a tug on his line and he excitedly informed the entire cast to hurry over and witness the occasion. He pulled and pulled and finally withdrew from the smiling ocean a string of sausages. This also was blamed on Huston.
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    Copyright --October 20, 2000 Stephanie Kellerman and the Basehart Family