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Tiger Shark

Screening on Film
Recently Restored
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Edward G. Robinson, Richard Arlen, Zita Johann.
US, 1932, 35mm, black & white, 77 min.
Print source: Library of Congress

Balancing the demands of a melodramatic love triangle with a documentary-like portrait of the Pacific Coast tuna fishing community, Tiger Shark is a great early example of Hawks’ gift for narrative looseness. Edward G. Robinson stars as a bawdy, self-aggrandizing Portuguese fisherman who falls in love with the heartbroken daughter (Zita Johann) of a fallen shipmate, only to find himself competing for her affections alongside his longtime comrade (Richard Arlen). As concerned with the trials of male friendship and loyalty as it is with the adventure of romance, the film generates a great deal of dramatic complexity through its leads’ differing acting styles, from Robinson’s boisterous theatricality to Johann’s emotional vulnerability and Arlen’s understated machismo. Meanwhile, Hawks, with the help of second-unit director Richard Rosson, paints a vivid impression of the seafaring life, a vocation whose simultaneous sense of danger and fraternity is beautifully crystallized in an extraordinary final shot.

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