The White Dawn (1974) Script

( wind blowing )

( majestic soaring theme playing )

CAPTAIN: Tuesday, May 12th, in the year of our Lord 1896.

Three hundred and ninety days out of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

We're bearing north-northwest into Arctic seas to hunt whales along the edge of the main ice, with the hope that these risks we take will hasten our return to port.

So ends this day.

Wednesday, May 13th, 1896.

Gusting wind from the south coast again.

We did sight no whales, but plenty of ice in these parts.

So ends this day.

Thursday, May 14th, 1896.

We may be too far north at this time of year.

But two more whales will fill our hold and allow us a merciful return to home.

We have high hopes and a firm conviction that the Lord will reward our efforts.

So ends this day.

Friday, May 15th, 1896.

Very cold today.

But we do sight whales.

Much scatter ice.

But we put our crews this morning near the ice.

( uplifting adventurous theme plays )

There it blows!

Big and beautiful!


She blows!

( laughs )


Break your backs, you no-good lazy bastards. Pull!

BILLY: Pull! Pull!

Pull! Pull!

BILLY: Raise your oars.

Harpooners, take your iron.

Boat to black skin!

( yelling )

And we're off! Let her run!

Pull. Steady there. Let her go!

Pull fast, now.

Run, you black beauty!

How's that then, butterfly boy.

Go, you big, black bastard!

( Billy shouts indistinctly )

We're coming into ice!

Hey, Bill, what about this ice?

What? What about the ice?

Cut the rope, Billy! They wanna cut the line.

No! Cut that damn rope!

We're coming into big ice!

Damn the ice.

DAGGETT: I'm gonna cut the line. No!

Belay that goddamned axe.

You're crazy, Bill! You're gonna kill us all!

Hold on!

( yelling )

( painful groans )

( bell dings )

CAPTAIN: Saturday, May 17th, 1896.

We've searched one whole night and day for those poor men.

God rest their souls in their cold graves.

We have no whale, no oil for our troubles.

We head away from this bad luck place tonight on the tide.

So ends this day.

( wind blowing )

Help us.


Oh, help, please!

Come back. Come back!

Damn you!

Come... back.

( whip cracks and dogs bark )

( suspenseful theme plays )

( indistinct shouting )

( dogs barking )

( shouts indistinct commands )

( crowd chatter indistinctly )

( speaks Inuit )

( speaks Inuit )

( old woman singing in Inuit )

( woman speaks Inuit )

( man speaks Inuit )

( singing continues )

( gasps )

It's good. It's good soup.

It's not soup.

What do you mean, it's not soup?

It's blood.

( Eskimos chuckle )

( speaks Inuit )

Where's Billy?

What do you think they did with him?

( yelping and growling )

( Billy mumbles )

( wind blowing )

( girl speaks Inuit )

Hey, Daggett?

I heard a story once.

That these little short-ass people caught a seaman and hitched him to a team like a dog.

Made him run on all fours.

Oh, that's just a story.

These people saved us.

I think they're trying to be nice to us.

Here's your meat.

In the South Seas, the cannibals are very, very nice to you before they eat you.

I guess they're afraid of your spirit, your soul.

But they cook you and eat you.

This meat is still alive.

It's raw.

Ah, there ain't no cannibals here.


Well, this ain't the South Seas, Portagee.

I heard that they're good, friendly people.

That's what I heard.

( speaking Inuit )

He don't look too friendly to me.

Be careful, Daggett boy.

You keep your knife with you at all time.

A man like that could kill you easy.

( Billy mutters indistinctly )

( girls chatter in Inuit )

( chattering )

Where you taking me, hellhound?

PORTAGEE: Hey, he's alive.

DAGGETT: Hey, Billy! Oh, my God, you're alive.

I thought you were dead. Billy!

Billy, Billy, Billy.

You two left me out in the snow to perish.

No, we couldn't carry you.

We knew you came in with us. BOY: Billy, Billy.

Get out of here, you little imp of Satan.

Boys, you gotta watch them.

They try to steal your knives, anything they can get their hands on.

Billy, I'm glad you're back.

We three have to stick close together.

Oh, we stick close together, all right.

I tell you.

There ain't none of them here a match for the three of us.

They ain't got no good knives, no guns.

They ain't got nothing.

They're just savages.

Who's he? His name's Sarkak.

He's the headman. Is that so?

Aye, aye, captain, sir. Anything you say.

( snoring )

( high-pitched squeal )

( growling )

( dogs barking )

( bear growls )

( growls )

( dogs barking frenziedly )

( speaks Inuit )

I've never seen anything like that in all my life.

( excited chattering )

BILLY: Look over there, would you?

Somebody smells fresh blood.

( imitates bear growls )

( snarls and speaks Inuit )

( gasps and shrieks )

( moaning )

( chuckles )

( dogs barking )

There's no money to be made in the whaling business anymore.

Years ago we used to work for shares.

That's all gone, I guess.

No profit in whale oil, I guess.

Damn captains get it all.

But can you imagine how much money we're sleeping under every night?

How much money we're wearing around on our bodies?

Do you realize what some fine Boston lady would pay for one of those white-fox skins?

Well, I had me a notion.

I thought I'd get me a good gun and come on back up here, maybe a box of them little glass trinkets and box of nails, swap these heathens out of their hides.

Walrus ivory.

There's big money in walrus ivory.

Won't you go halves with me, Portagee?

We'll come back up here, you and me, huh?

PORTAGEE: I want to leave this cold, cold place forever.

To go someplace where it's warm.

Want to go back to Cape Verde or Rio maybe.

Did you ever see the dancing girls down in Rio?

No, that's one place I've never been, never been down there. What's it like?

Ah, it's like no place else in the world.

I want to go back there.


( pensive guitar theme plays )

( sighs )

( speaks Inuit )

Daggett! Daggett!

( grunts )

BILLY: Ahoy! There's a sail!

( laughs ): There's a sail!

Ahoy, there! There's a sail!

There's a sail!

There. There.

There's a sail. Where?

There. There.

Where? There, boy. There.

No, that's no sail. That's a rock.

And that's a cloud. There's no sail.

You don't know what you're talking about.

Who in the hell's a third mate around here, anyhow?

If I say I saw a sail, by the devil's forked tail, I saw one.

That's a sail. You dumb-ass!

You're nothing but a damn cabin boy!

Just stop shouting, Billy, because you'll scare all the seals away.

Where are you going? Come on.

Come on. There's a sail.

That's a sail.

That's a sail. That's a sail.

( speaking Inuit )

DAGGETT: There she blows. It's the whale.

See the whale? Akbat.

Akbat. Akbat. Akbat.

This is our boat.

Oomer. Oomer.


This is Portagee.

This is me, it's Daggett.


Now, Portagee flips the hip of this whale.

She pulls us.

The whale pulls us into the sea.

In the water, the sea.

Imuk. Imuk.


That's what happened.


I got something you'll like here.

Yeah. Well...

There you go.

It's a train.

Train, they wouldn't know a train if they ran over it with a dogsled.

They don't even know what a wheel is, or a sail.

( scoffs ): Train. Ha-ha.

It's a train.

Railroad, huh?

Ah. I show you how it goes.

( makes train engine sound )

( continues making sound )

( makes train whistle sound )

( moans )

( crowd laughs )

( old woman singing softly )

( speaks Inuit )

( speaks Inuit )

Next to her? Yeah?


( shivering ): Boy.

( speaks Inuit )


Hello, missis.

( giggles )

Let go.

Let go.

( speaks Inuit )

( man snoring )

( dogs bark in distance )

BILLY: What's that?


PORTAGEE: What's going on?

BILLY: Damn! Hey!

Damn ceiling's caving in. Let's get out of here.

Let's get out.

You see?

They're moving.

They're going somewheres. They're getting out of here.

We're not going.

No, we're not going, no.

How are they gonna find us off the ship if somebody doesn't stay here, huh?

Oh, no. You can't stay here. What would you eat?


Look, Daggett's going with them.

You and me will stay here.


Look now, mate, we all go together.

That witch man, he put a curse on this place.

Come on. Let's go.


( shouts commands in Inuit )

( soft flute theme plays )

( birds cawing )

( speaks Inuit )

( subdued tribal drum theme plays )

( birds squawk in distance )

( birds yelp )

( shouts indistinctly )



Who catch those? Me.

( speaks Inuit )

( cheering )

DAGGETT: You think it's funny, huh?

Yeah, it's funny.

( speaks Inuit )

( whispers indistinctly )

Neevee? Neevee?

( speaks Inuit )

What? Malingon.


( Neevee giggling )

( speaking Inuit )

( speaks Inuit )

( singing softly )

( bugs buzzing )

By all the towels to hell, I'm gonna go crazy in this damn place.

If it ain't the snow, it's the rain.

If it ain't the rain, it's these damn mosquiters.

You never know what the hell time it is.

You can't sleep.

If I told you once, I told you twice to cut out that cat howling, you old brimstone burner!

Good knife.

You like that knife?

( speaks Inuit )

Good knife.

Good knife.

Oh, good, hey.


See that?

That's a woolly booger.



( woman speaks Inuit )


Over here.

Go ahead.

( man speaks Inuit )

Ahh. Hey

Come here. Keegee.

Look here.

See that button?

( speaks Inuit )

Let's you and me make a bet.

You know, a bet?




Ehh. See?

( speaks Inuit )


( speaks Inuit )

He's setting the old man up.

I've seen him play that game on ship.

He's very good at it.

( cheers )


( chuckles )


One more button.

Damnation and the devil!

( cheers )

BILLY: One more.

( cheers )

I've lost all my buttons.

Now what am I gonna do?

I'll freeze to death this winter.


( speaks Inuit )

Oh, good knife, all right. Good knife.

No, no, you--

I got no more buttons to bet with.

If you want to bet for my knife, you gotta get me something.

Something special.

It's dead.

Dead. Get me something live!

Something live!


Sayvek. Sayvek?

( speaks Inuit )

Ah, Sayvek.



Sayvek, woman.

Eh? Mm.

Sayvek, woman.



He's betting his second daughter to win back the first.

Good. Yes.

( speaks Inuit )

Well... that's the way it goes sometimes.

You lost.


( dogs barking )

( chattering )

( chattering )

Just a minute, friends.

My mate here is gonna take on all comers.

One fall wins it.

How's that? Huh?

BILLY: That's not wrestling.

That's not the end of the fight, huh?

( speaks Inuit )

BILLY: Put him down.

Put him down!

One, two, three.

Ha! Hey, hey, hey.


BILLY: Hey. Hey!

Where you going?

Don't be a sorehead!

He's whupped everybody from the Madeira Islands to Bristol!

( bird caws )

( old woman sings softly )

Oh, Lord.

Sometimes I think that old woman's singing makes this rain.

Days on end.

Between the rain and her singing, it's driving me crazy.

I'd give anything in the world to see the sun just once.

Just once.

( harmonizes with old woman )

( singing continues )

( cheering and chattering )

Look at that big thing.

A couple of sailors could sail that thing across the ocean.

I thought Eskimos only had those skinny little kayaks.

Hey, we might be able to sail that one up there.

Shoot. Where in the hell we gonna go?

We must be a thousand miles from the nearest whalers.

Right out there in Baffin Bay, boy, there's lots of them.

It's a good one.

We can sail this one.

I tell you, boys, this is gonna be our way out of here.

I ain't gonna let them hitch me to no damn dogsled.

For the love of God, Billy.

These people give you their food, their clothes, their tents, their women.

You think they're gonna strap you to a dog team?

What more do you want? I'll tell you what I want.

I wanna get the hell out of here, that's what I want.

We're going, me and Portagee. Ain't we, mate?

Been too long in this place and it's time to go.

Boat like this could get us there.

But I hate to steal their boat.

Well, we're going to have to steal a hell of a lot more than that, boy.

We'll put the mast right there.



( speaking Inuit )

Three fish?

Three fish is all we're gonna need.

We can catch more as we go.

You take every last damn one of them.

I ain't gonna starve.

Okay, let's go.

Let's go!

Let's go.

It's cold.

Pull her around.


( solemn flute theme plays )

( suspenseful theme plays )

I can take a shot of the sun with my thumb.

Learned it from an old Newffy whaler, I did.

Irish as Paddy's pig and a hell of a sailor.

( laughs ): South we go.

South we go until we hits the strait, then east and we'll bump into a Massachusetts whaler, and then home.




MEN: Home.

Home, boys, home *

That's where I want to be *

Home, boys, home *

In God's country *

Where the apple in the orchard *

And that weeping willow tree *

Green grow the grasses of North Ameriky *

( uplifting theme plays )

BILLY: Boys, we're almost home.

Holy mother of Jesus, look at that ice.

My God, it must be the end of July.

Just look at that ice.

PORTAGEE: The mouth of the bay is choked up with ice.

We can't get through that.

It's grinding. See it moving?

We're gonna go off through there.

We're not going through there. Row!

You bust us up in the ice last time.

I'm not gonna get busted again. Goddamn it, row!

I'm gonna pull that sail down. BILLY: Now! Sit down!

You're gonna tip this boat.

( yelling )

( gasping and moaning )

DAGGETT: Look at that. All ice packs shifting.

We'll freeze to death out here.

PORTAGEE: Goddamn you, Billy.

You're going to kill me yet.

Now we got no boat, no food, no Eskimos, no nothing.

BILLY: I gotta admit...

I'm one unlucky son of a bitch when it comes to banging up boats.

Look. DAGGETT: Hey!

Kangiak! Kangiak!

( Daggett speaks Inuit )

BILLY: Come here, boy. Hey, this way, boy.

( slow majestic theme plays )

( wind blows )

( dog whimpers )

( speaks Inuit )

( excitedly speaks Inuit )

He says he smells something.

Some kind of animal.

( sniffs ): Phew, what is that smell? Smell it?

I smell it too.

It smells something like--

Like pigs.

( walruses bark )

( walrus barks )

( walruses bark and yelp )

( indistinct cheering )

Hey, Billy, Portagee, help us with this meat. Come on.

( shouting in unison )

( all singing in Inuit )

( singing continues )

Well, back where we started from.

PORTAGEE: Yeah. Another winter.

DAGGETT: Berries?

Sunari. Sunari.

These are good. Berries! Mmm. Good.

( soft flute theme plays )

( giggling )


( laughing )

( singing )

( crowd laughs )

( speaks Inuit )

( crowd responds )

( chuckles )

What's happening?

I think you're supposed to try to keep from laughing.

( crowd sings )

( speaks Inuit )

( woman shrieks )

( drum plays )

( shouting )

( screams )

( panting )

Look at that. Wind witches.

( girls blowing )

They're trading off wives left and right.

Damn heathens.

( giggles )

( child laughs )

( speaks Inuit )

It's a monkey.


It's a tree.

Ah, lion.

( growls and snorts )

That is a New Bedford igloo.

House. That could be you. Neevee.

( speaks Inuit )

Oh, those. Those are children.

A little boy, little girl.

Uh, a-a- Ahnuk?

Ahnuk. Ahnuk.


Oh, here.


That's for you.

Now any ship that sails in that bay... will see that there are civilized men here.

It's cold without my long johns.

Your long johns are gonna save our lives, you Portagee bastard.

You ought to be proud of that.

We're gonna have to save our own lives.

They ain't gonna do it for us.

If they hadn't taken us off that ice, we'd be long dead by now.

( dog bark in distance )

Is that so?

What is it?

It's that fat magic man.

( speaks Inuit )

( chanting )

( shaman chanting )

( speaks Inuit )

That hoary old faker.

Think I'll take his teeth away from him.

That's the old shell game.

I've seen that in every port I've been in, ain't you?

Get away.

( drum plays, people chant )

I don't like this.

( laughs )

This foul old faker's at it again.

My God, he's got a line to hell.

Come here. Lay on this line.

Pull! Heave!

Heave! Oh!

( bird caws )

Hey, it's them berries the children gathered for us.


This tastes like that cheap grappa we get back in New Bedford.

You said it.


Hey, Billy.

How'd you get back your knife?

I won it back off of her old man.

I can't help it if he likes to gamble, the old shark.

( speaks Inuit )

Well, I know one thing.

If it's fit to eat, they'll eat it.

But you know something?

I think we can make a little helper out of this.

I think it's worth a try.

Well, they're not fit to eat, but they're good for something, huh?

BILLY AND PORTAGEE: What do we do with a drunken sailor? *

What do we do with a drunken sailor? *

What do we do with a drunken sailor *

Early in the morning? *

Way, hey, up she rises *

Way, hey, up she rises *

Way, hey, up she rises *

Early in the morning *

Put him in the bed with the captain's daughter *

Put him in the bed with the captain's daughter *

Put him in the bed with the captain's daughter *

Early in the morning *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Early in the morning *

Put him in the brig until he's sober *

Put him in the brig until he's sober *

Put him in the brig until he's sober *

Early in the morning *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Way, hey, and up she rises *

Early in the morning *

Temperance league Will never help him *

Temperance league will never help him *

Temperance league will never help him *

Early in the morning *

BILLY: It's been a long time cooking.

No, no, I would never be the first to taste anything as strong as that.

What do you think, huh?

Go ahead.


Taste, taste, taste...

Fast, fast.

( coughs )

He's still alive.

DAGGETT: Hey, look.

What? What?

( gasps )

That's real. Oh, that's real.

It's firewater.

Here it comes.

DAGGETT: That's good.

Drink, drink.

( laughing )

BILLY: Don't drop it.

( singing in distance )

What the hell was he doing down there? *

What the hell Was he doing down there?

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la *

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la *

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la *

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la *

What the hell was he doing down there? *

What the hell was he doing down there? *

That's it.

Nothing to it.

It's just the skill of a thousand years.

That's not the way you do it.

You're ruining our party. Get on out of here.

Get out!


Dance. Dance for your soul, you fallen angel.

Dance, dance.

PORTAGEE: What the hell was he doing down there? *

What the hell was he doing down there? *

BILLY: Dance, dance.

Da-da-da-da Do-doodle-dee *

( mumbles )

BILLY: Dance. Dance.

( laughs )

BILLY: Dance, dance.


I was thinking I could live here.

( speaks Inuit )

Because I have no need to go.

( speaks Inuit )


( speaks Inuit )

I think that I could learn to hunt here.

( bird caws in distance )

Get enough for us.

( speaking Inuit )

I used to think I was gonna build my house on a hill... out overlooking San Francisco Bay.

( speaks Inuit )

But I don't have to do that now.

This is my home.

This house.

( speaks Inuit )

( sentimental flute theme plays )

The president of this whole Eskimo state!

I will be the president... of this whole damned Eskimo state.

( snoring )

This is my igloo, and those are my women.

So, what the hell are you doing in bed with my women, huh?

What's the matter?

Get out of my bed!

Billy, hey!

Hey, come join us.

Ahh. No!


I'm gonna cut you.

And I'm gonna mark you.

And I'm gonna cut your ear so everybody will know you're mine.

( grunts )

Hey! What's happening here?


What's the matter with you, huh?!

You Portagee bastard.

Let's go outside and settle this.

You want to fight with me, yeah?

Yeah, I wanna fight.

All right!

I'll be right back, ladies.

( Portagee laughs )

( sarcastically ): Oooh.

PORTAGEE: You dog!

( laughing )

( wind blowing )


It's all right.

It's all right.

Hey, hold on there, mate!

( yells in Inuit )

Hey! Hey!

( cries )

( speaks Inuit )

( ominous theme plays )

( Sarkak speaks Inuit )

( woman continues speaking Inuit )

( bird squawking )

( howling )

( woman speaks Inuit )

( growls )

( hoots )

( indistinct animals sounds )

( snoring )

( women giggling in distance )

What the hell is that?


I had enough women.

Hey, what are you doing?

PORTAGEE: Why, I don't need no mitts.

Go away.

BILLY: Mitts are stiff. No thumbs.

No thumbs.

No thumbs!

No good, no--!

PORTAGEE: What's going on?

Hey, my hands are tied. I can't get them free.

Look out, Billy! He got a knife!

PORTAGEE: Get away from me!

Look out, Billy! They're going to kill us!

I can't get these goddamn mitts off!

Get out, Billy! Get out! We got to get out of here!


( panting )


( gurgles )

( grunts )

( Neevee shouts in Inuit )

( crying )

( speaks Inuit )

( sobbing )

( speaks Inuit )

( wind blowing )

( old woman singing in Inuit )