Sunday Matinee: Noah’s Ark

Noah's ArkWhile Darren Aronofsky’s Noah makes a killing at the box office this weekend I couldn’t help but think of this 1928 film. Whenever the story of Noah’s Ark is mentioned I think, wait wasn’t there a movie where a bunch of people actually got killed while making the film. And there is.

Nowadays when movies are made most of the special effects are CGI. It would be absurd for anyone to consider recreating a flood by actually creating a flood but that’s what Warner Brothers did in 1928 when they made Noah’s Ark.

Legendary filmmaker Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) directed this film which was actually made in 1926. After the film was shot, the studio decided to make the film partially in sound so they had to do a bunch of reshoots which held up the film’s release.

The film is actually a WWI story about a couple of Americans who fall in love with a German dancer and the evil Soviet spy who wants her. One of the American’s marries her and then enlists in the war after his buddy enlists. Naturally everyone ends up on the front lines. In the middle of the war when the couple is trapped in a demolished building a minister suddenly decides to compare the war to Noah’s Ark and proceeds to tell the tale.

The film then shifts to the Noah’s Ark fable where all the cast have been recast as characters in that story. Naturally the story ends with a massive flood. A flood so deadly three extras drowned, one had a leg amputated (it was amputated after from injury not during the flood) and over a dozen other extras had several broken bones and other injuries. One of the hundreds extras was John Wayne who survived to start a long acting career where he seldom had to swim, just ride horses. The original 134 minute cut has been lost but surviving footage has been made into a 100 minute version that is currently available from Warner Archive Collection.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Matinee: Noah’s Ark”

  1. It is an interesting movie. You’ll recall that extras also died during the filming of the original “Ben-Hur” (if memory serves, the sea battle claimed several lives), and a number of pilots were killed during the filming of “Hell’s Angels”. In more recent times, the injury and death toll tended to be confined to stunt men and women, but at least they could get medical and death benefits.

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