Whales of August (1987): Lindsay Anderson’s Melodrma. Starring Bette Davis and Lillian Gish

Lindsay Anderson directed The Whales of August, based on David Berry’s play of the same name, in 1987. The film generated a lot of interest due to the casting of two legendary actresses, Bette Davis and Lillian Gish (in her final role) playing elderly sisters.

Also in the cast were Ann Sothern as one of their friends, and Vincent Price as a member of the former Russian aristocracy. The story is  same name by David Berry.

Two Philadelphia elderly widowed sisters spend their annual summer in a seaside house in Maine. They recall their relationship as young women, and the summers they had enjoyed there in the past.

In the process, they reflect on the passage of time, and the bitterness, jealousies and misunderstandings that kept them from establishing more intimate relationship.

Davis plays Liby, the more infirm and bitter of the two sisters. Sarah, played by Gish, is softer and more tolerant, intent on nursing her sister through her discomfort and trying to breach the gulf between them.  However, Libby’s resentment stifles Sarah’s friendly attempts.

Meanwhile, Maranov (Price), an expatriate from Russia who has recently lost the friend, is visiting them.

Then there is Tisha (Sothern, also in her last role), a vivacious lifelong friend who provide fun and laughter, and serves as catalyst for the sisters’ revelations.

In the prologue, Margaret Ladd, Mary Steenburgen and Tisha Sterling (Sothern’s real-life daughter) play respectively Libby, Sarah, and Tisha as young women.

Bette Davis as Elizabeth Mae “Libby” Logan-Strong
Lillian Gish as Sarah Louise Logan-Webber
Vincent Price as Nicholas Maranov
Ann Sothern as Letitia “Tisha” Benson-Doughty
Harry Carey, Jr. as Joshua Brackett
Frank Grimes as Mr. Beckwith
Margaret Ladd as Young Libby
Tisha Sterling as Young Tisha
Mary Steenburgen as Young Sarah
Frank Pitkin as Old Randall
Mike Bush as Young Randall