Oscar Movies: Old Man and the Sea, The–Starring Oscar Nominated Spencer Tracy, and Featuring Tiomkin’s Fourth (and Last) Best Score Oscar

Ernest Hemingway’s short novel The Old Man and the Sea was considered to be unfilmable before John Sturges tried to translate it onto the big screen.

Hemingway’s character study concerns an Old Man (Spencer Tracy), a Cuban fisherman who tries to haul in a huge fish.

There are many obstacles: His tiny boat is besieged by sharks and nearly defeated by natural elements, but the Old Man stubbornly sticks to his job.

In the end, the fish turns out to be nothing more than a skeleton, and the Old Man returns to his tiny hovel to “dream about the lions.”

Spencer Tracy, though miscast, earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination, but the movie,  a fable about human endurance, is static, dull, and also pretentious.  Hemingway’s

Hemingway’s real-life wife, Mary, appears as a tourist in a brief scene.

Dimitri Tiomkin: Fourth Oscar

This was the last of four Oscars received by the bright and prolific composer, Dimitri Tiomkin (“High Noon”), whose last score was for “Tchaikovsky” in 1970.

James Wong Howe received a nomination for his color cinematography, to which Floyd Crosby and Tom Tutwiler contributed location footage; underwater camera work was done by Lamar Boren.

The Old Man and the Sea was remade as a 1990 Made-for-TV movie, starring Anthony Quinn, which is also mediocre.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Actor: Spencer Tracy

Score: Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography (color): James Hong Howe


Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context:

David Niven won the Best Actor at his first and only nomination for Separate Tables.  Joseph Ruttenberg received the Cinematography Oscar for the musical Gigi, which swept most of the awards that year.

Running time: 86 minutes

Directed By: John Sturges

Written By: Peter Viertel

DVD: March 13, 2001