A marine biologist – and former baseball player – befriends a group of down-and-outs, changing his life irrevocably in this drama based on the John Steinbeck novel and starring Nick Nolte, Debra Winger, Audra Lindley, Frank McRae and M Emmet Walsh.
Raquel Welch was originally cast but was fired midway through filming. It’s a pity, as her buxom sexuality might have roused this story of waterfront bums in the 1940s from its languor.
Welch, then 40, filed a $24 million breach of contract suit when she was abruptly booted from the lead role. 25-year-old Debra Winger took on the Welch role of a hooker who yearns for (the excellent Nolte) a baseball star-turned-marine biologist.
MGM’s lawyers said the studio fired Welch because she was a “temperamental actress”, but the jury sided with Welch and an appeals court upheld the decision, awarding the actress $10 million ($8 million of which was for punitive damages).
Welch actually ended up making more money from Cannery Row than MGM did. The $11 million production earned them just $5 million domestically.
Director David S Ward wrote The Sting (1973), but his screenplay here lacks that movie’s zip and suffers from an episodic narrative.
M. Emmet Walsh
Joseph and Mary
Mary Margaret Amato
David S. Ward