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Strange Cargo is a 1940 American romantic drama film directed by Frank Borzage and starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in a story about a group of fugitive prisoners from a French penal colony. The adapted screenplay by Lawrence Hazard was based upon the 1936 novel, Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep, by Richard Sale. The film was produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was the eighth and last film pairing of Crawford and Gable. The supporting cast includes Peter Lorre.

Strange Cargo
Strange Cargo (1940 film).jpg
Original theatrical poster
Directed byFrank Borzage
Produced byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Written byLawrence Hazard
Lesser Samuels[1]
Based onNot Too Narrow, Not Too Deep
1936 movel
by Richard Sale
StarringClark Gable

Joan Crawford

Peter Lorre
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyRobert Planck
Edited byRobert J. Kern
Distributed byLoew's Inc.[2]
Release date
  • March 1, 1940 (1940-03-01)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,924,000[3]



Julie (Crawford), a cafe entertainer in a town near the Devil’s Island (French Guiana) penal colony, meets Verne (Gable), a prisoner on wharf duty. Verne escapes and goes to Julie's room, but is apprehended after Msr. Pig (Peter Lorre) reports him, and he is returned to prison. Julie is fired for consorting with a prisoner. At the prison, Moll (Albert Dekker) has masterminded a jailbreak and takes Cambreau (Ian Hunter), Telez (Eduardo Ciannelli), Hessler (Paul Lukas), Flaubert (J. Edward Bromberg), and Dufond (John Arledge) with him.

Verne joins the escapees, taking Julie with him. The gentle Cambreau (a Christ figure) exerts a spiritual influence over the others, often reading from and quoting the Bible. As they trek through the jungle and then on the ocean in a boat, the others die with only Verne, Julie, Hessler, and Cambreau surviving the ordeal. Hessler disdains Cambreau's salvation and is last seen slinking off into the night, knowing as a gale arises that there is no turning back. Verne initially scoffs at Cambreau's spirituality, but saves him from drowning (as Cambreau clings to driftwood---again, as a Christ figure on Calvary's cross) and penitently decides to return to the prison to finish his sentence. Julie has grown to love Verne and promises to wait for him.



Film Daily said: "Here is a good, raw, stark melodrama which holds suspense from the start. Frank Borzage has given it expert directorial attention...Clark Gable fits his role admirably...The acting is high-grade with Joan Crawford giving her best performance to date."

Variety commented: "Although the picture has its many deficiencies, the Crawford characterization will give studio execs idea of proper casting of her talents for the future. Direction by Frank Borzage fails to hit the dramatic punches...He has not clearly defined the spiritual redemption angle, which also adds to the audience confusion. The screenplay does not help Borzage out of his predicament."[4]


According to MGM records the film earned $1,311,000 in the US and Canada and $603,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $21,000.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ Strange Cargo at the American Film Institute Catalog
  3. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.

External linksEdit