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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tugboat Annie

posted by on June 7 at 18:00 PM


I had never before seen a movie or play with the name “Annie” in the title. I imagine this was originally an accident, but then it became a way for me to pretend I didn’t know what people were on about when they sang “Tomorrow” at me. And then it became an irrational obsession.

Anyway, I broke my decades-long Annie boycott yesterday for Tugboat Annie (1933), which was filmed on Lake Union and on the Seattle waterfront but set in the hybrid town of Secoma. (Yeah, it’s too close to “glaucoma” for comfort, but I actually think this is a more attractive portmanteau than SeaTac.) The audience was seeded with lots of local film critics, but mostly I saw the characteristic turtlenecks and chignons and woolly beards of the native Seattleite.

I like to read early film criticism to make myself feel better about my writing, so it’s with no small quantity of glee that I give you an excerpt from Mordaunt Hall’s original New York Times review of the film.

That grand actress, Marie Dressler, delivers an even more effective characterization than usual in her latest picture, “Tugboat Annie,” which is based on a series of magazine stories written by Norman Reilly Raine. In this film, now on exhibition at the Capitol, she appears as the often troubled, determined, but always sympathetic Annie Brennan, who is the guiding spirit of the Pacific Coast tugboat Narcissus. And Wallace Beery, who was teamed with Miss Dressler in the enormously successful “Min and Bill,” gives an excellent account of himself as Terry, Annie’s bibulous spouse.

Not only is Miss Dressler’s part more satisfactory than those she had in her previous pictorial ventures, but the story, with all its rambunctious mirth and its spells of sentiment, is superior to the other vehicles. The episodes in which Terry indulges his taste for alcohol are set forth in such a humorous fashion that they aroused loud waves of laughter from the audience at the first show yesterday.

Bibulous is a good word, though. It means either “absorbant of moisture” or “addicted to drinking or tippling.”

A more entertaining take on Tugboat Annie can be found in the virtual pages of Time Magazine. My favorite line: “The next three reels of Tugboat Annie show a few more of the things Annie has to put up with.” It’s worth reading the whole thing—seriously. You’ll find out how many massages and colored servants Marie Dressler had at the height of her fame.

The film was based on the Tugboat Annie stories (and illustrations) in the Saturday Evening Post.


Historylink denies the claim that the titular Annie Brennan was based on Thea Foss, the original Puget Sound lady tugboat titan. But her descendants’ tugboat Wallowa (afterward called Arthur Foss) was used extensively in the film.

The movie suffers from the awkward transition (noted by the Time review) between Annie’s husband’s slapstick drunkenness, played for laughs, and his stupid, destructive alcoholism, which nearly derails her career. (Not that the ’30s perspective admits she might deserve one.) And there’s an awful lot of direct-to-camera mugging, occasioned by taxi windows and tugboat fire boxes and so forth. But Annie’s inventive cussing can make you forgive many sins. And how about that tug, huh?


I wonder if Matt McCormick has seen it.

RSS icon Comments


On the left, Wallace Beery, one of my faves.

And look how young Robert "Father Knows Best" Young looks.

Posted by truthseeker | June 7, 2007 6:46 PM

I was wondering why this sounded familiar, and I realized that the title is reminiscent of Heart's Dreamboat Annie.

Posted by Matt from Denver | June 7, 2007 6:48 PM

Saw the film last night and wish they had showed more of Seattle in it. Lots of shots of Seattle in the far background, but nothing of the Market or Pioneer Square.

Posted by mrobvious | June 7, 2007 8:45 PM

Filmed on location in Hell.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | June 7, 2007 8:49 PM

Speaking of dreamboat Annie...
.....from the Heart camp:

Heart on Television ~

HD Net - Legendary Albums Live ~ Dreamboat Annie. (check your local cable listings)
For the very first time ever, Heart performed the Dreamboat Annie album track by track in front of a live audience (taped in Los Angeles) at the Orpheum Theater. This amazing performance will be released on DVD later in the year.

VH1 Rock Honors ~ Vh1 honored Heart, along with Ozzy Osborne, ZZ Top and Genesis at a start studded event at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tune in to VH1 or to to check out special tribute performances by Alice In Chains (with Gretchen Wilson) and appearances by Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bam Magera (with Ape & Phil), Criss Angel and many others.

Awards ~
EMP's Board of Directors (in Seattle) awarded Heart with the Founders Award, for outstanding contribution to music.

Solo album-- Ann Wilson - "Hope & Glory" will be released on Rounder (Zoe) Records on September 11th, 2007. This is an album of songs that have a message of social conscience. The album features additional performances by many amazing artists.

1. Goodbye Blue Sky ~ featuring Nancy Wilson
2. Where to now St. Peter ~ written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin, featuring Elton John
3. Jackson ~ featuring k d Lang
4. We Gotta Get Out of This Place ~ featuring Wynona
5. Immigrant Song
6. Darkness, Darkness ~ featuring Nancy Wilson
7. Bad Moon Rising ~ featuring Gretchen Wilson
8. War of Man ~ featuring Allison Krauss
9. Get Together ~ featuring Nancy Wilson, Deana Carter & Wynona
10. Isolation
11. Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall ~ featuring Rufus Wainwright & Shawn Colvin
12. Little Problems, Little Lies

Posted by sealoco | June 7, 2007 8:54 PM

"I had never before seen a movie or play with the name 'Annie' in the title."

You managed to avoid seeing "Annie Hall?"

Posted by Bauhaus | June 7, 2007 11:25 PM

random facts:

1) Marie Dressler died a year after Tugboat Annie was released.

2) according to imdb, the film was titled Alkohol (in Austria), Cuori in burasca (in Italy), and Hinaajan kannella (in Finland). Alkohol!

Posted by stinkbug | June 8, 2007 3:25 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 2:42 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 2:42 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 2:43 PM

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