Gregory Peck portrays Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, a surprising choice to many, including Peck himself. John Huston's father, Walter, was the first choice to play Ahab, but died before the movie was made. Peck was 40 years old at the time, younger than Melville's Ahab, but the marvelous makeup and costuming transformed the handsome, debonair Peck into the unforgiving, scarred Ahab. Peck's acting reveals Ahab's scarred soul and rage against God and nature perfectly. The cast includes a very young Richard Basehart as Ishmael, a wanderer who signs onto the Pequod with his south sea island friend, Queequeg (Friedrich von Ledebur). The wonderful Leo Genn is the stalwart Starbuck, first mate, with Harry Andrews and Seamus Kelly as 2nd and 3rd mates Stubb and Flask. Most famous of the supporting cast is Orson Welles, who appears a the unrelenting New Bedford minister, Father Mapple. His cameo role preaching a thunderous sermon to the outgoing whalers is a powerful performance.
From the beginning, we see that even to his crewmen, Ahab is a god-like figure. In answer to Ishmael's question about what Ahab is like, mate Stubb says simply "Ahab's Ahab", mirroring the Bible in which God describes himself to Moses -- "I am that I am." Biblical references abound in Moby Dick. The ragged man on the wharf who speaks to Ishmael as he goes to the ship calls himself Elijah, prophecying --
So go down to the sea, stand on the ship with Ahab and experience something very special.