1965 Film: Ship of Fools

Ron KaplanContributor IOctober 14, 2010

I Recently saw the 1965 film Ship of Fools (highly recommended), which tells the tales of a bunch of misfits on a German cruise ship pre-WWII. Great cast that consists of Vivian Leigh, Simone Signoret, Jose Ferrer, Oskar Werner, George Segal, Elizabeth Ashley and more.

Naturally my ears pricked up when the following conversation between Tenny, a washed-up American baseball player, engages in a late-night, alcohol-enhanced conversation in the empty ship’s bar with Glocken, a German dwarf who serves as the viewers’ “tour guide.”

Tenny was played by Lee Marvin and Glocken by the excellent Michael Dunn, perhaps more familiar to TV viewers of a certain age as Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West.

There’s a lot of the tension and humor is in the pauses in conversation, which I can only relay here by inserting them where they turn up in the screenplay.

Tenny: I never could hit a curveball on the outside corner.

Glocken: I beg your pardon?

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Tenny: I never could hit a curveball on the outside corner.

Glocken: That’s very interesting. (Pause.) What does it mean?

Tenny: You wouldn’t know about those. (Pause.)  All right, I’ll tell you. (Rises and takes Glocken’s walking stick as a bat). Okay, now you’re at bat. And the pitcher, he’s out there. And he’s winding up and he turns her loose and just as it gets to you, it dips down and away. (Returns to his seat. Pause.) That’s a curveball on the outside corner. I could never hit that pitch with a paddle.

Glocken: (Pause.) I see.

Tenny: No, you don’t see at all. You don’t know what it’s like out there with the crowd yelling for you to deliver. And they start talking—the pitchers, they talk—“He can’t hit a curveball on the outside corner.” And from then on out, that’s all you see, is curveballs on the outside corner. So you’ve had your big chance (pause) and you muffed it. (Breaks down with a very brief but anguished cry.)

Now I can still hear my old man yelling at me from the stands even though he wasn’t there. “Big Will! You. Are. A. Bum! (softly) You are a bum just like me.”

Glocken: I think you’re being a bit harsh on yourself, Here Tenny.

Tenny: A bum!

Glocken: You know, I travel a lot. My folks give me some money. Not much, but some. They are more comfortable when I’m not around. You know what I find? I find the most amazing things about people are their guilts that they dream up for themselves.

For instance, I estimate that there must be at least 873 million people in the world who don’t even know what a curveball on the outside corner is. So I think it just a bit obsessive for you to think you have muffed your whole life because you couldn’t hit it, paddle or no paddle. Do you understand what I mean, Tenny?

Tenny: (Looking at Glocken long and hard). No. (Pause.) You know what I think? (another long, hard look).

Glocken: (Mildly intimidated) No.

Tenny: I think that you are a sawed-off intellectual. (Pause; they both laugh.) Well, bottoms up, shorty.

They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

Write a quick comment

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!