The Whales of August

From Academic Kids

Missing image
DVD cover showing (from top) Gish, Davis, Price and Sothern

The Whales of August is a 1987 film starring Bette Davis and Lillian Gish as elderly sisters. Also in the cast were Ann Sothern as one of their friends, and Vincent Price as a Russian fisherman.

The film was directed by Lindsay Anderson. The screenplay was adapted by David Berry from his own play.

Although the film starred two of the screen's most important actresses in what would be near to their final films roles, it was not a substantial commercial success. Upon its release it was widely tipped that either Davis or Gish would be rewarded, if not for their performances in this film, but for their longevity, with Academy Award nominations, but neither actress was nominated. Sothern received the only Academy Award nomination of her career in the category of Best Supporting Actress.

The Whales of August tells the story of two elderly widowed sisters near the end of their lives, spending a summer in a seaside house in Maine. The surroundings cause them to recall their relationship as young women, and the summers they had enjoyed there in the past. They reflect on the passage of time, and the bitterness, jealousies and misunderstandings that slowly festered over the years, and kept them from establishing a true closeness in their relationship. Libby, played by Davis, is the more deteriorated of the two sisters, and her nature has become bitter and cold as a result. Sarah, played by Gish, is a softer and more tolerant character, intent on nursing her sister through her discomfort and trying to breach the gulf that has grown between them. The resentment that Libby displays to her so clearly, stifles Sarah's every attempt at making a friendly overture towards her, and Sarah cautiously retreats from her. Price as a fisherman provides a romantic interest for Gish, and helps her to recall the happiness of her youth, while also reminding her of the marriage and husband that she has lost. Sothern as a vivacious life long friend provides common sense, fun and laughter, and is the catalyst for some of the sisters' conversations and revelations. In flashbacks actresses Margaret Ladd, Mary Steenburgen and Tisha Sterling (Sothern's real-life daughter) play respectively, the Gish, Davis and Sothern characters as young women.


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