Cannery Row (1982)

Cannery Row (1982), directed by David S. Ward.

I see that Steinbeck's fans are unhappy with this adaptation of Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. It's true: the movie is much lighter and more romantic than the books and introduces some baseball and guilt subplots that are not in the original. Maybe a different title would have helped, acknowledging it as a fantasy inspired by Steinbeck: "Doc & Suzy" or "Tales from the Bear Flag Restaurant" (the name of the bordello).

It's two hours long and I could have trimmed 10 or 15 minutes, but apart from that I love everything about this film. I love the little self-contained end-of-the-Depression fantasy setting on the California coast. I love the chamber music and Dr John's blues piano. And I love the cast and characters.

Nick Nolte is Doc, a marine biologist with a secret sorrow. He makes a small living collecting marine specimens, is easy going but becoming restless.

Debra Winger is new arrival Suzy, down on her luck. The only job she can find is at the brothel, and that makes us sad. (Madam: "You have to pretend to like it.") She and Doc have great clumsy chemistry.

M. Emmet Walsh is Mack, leader of the bums who reside in the junkyard and serve as a comic chorus. When Doc poses him a problem Mack's immediate response is "Why don't you just give up?" Later Doc tells him: "Mack, don't say you'll pay me back. You know you won't. You'll feel bad and it might be a couple of years before you feel good again."

Sven Nykvist cinematography. John Huston narrates. I don't see any credit for Dr John (Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr) on the IMDB page.

Raquel Welch was the original Suzy, but was fired after five days. She sued and got a big settlement. I think her undoubted glamour might have overpowered the role. Winger has more girl-next-door appeal.

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The party didn't slow down 'till dawn. The crew of a San Pedro tuna boat showed up about 1, and was routed. The police came by at 2, and stayed to join the party. Mack took their squad car to go get more wine. A woman called the police to complain about the noise, and couldn't get anybody. The crew of the tuna boat came back about 3, and was welcomed with open arms. The police reported their own car stolen, and found it later, on the beach. Things were finally back to normal, on Cannery Row. Once more, the world was spinning in greased grooves.