A boy learns life-changing lessons about the importance of friendship and the dignity of labor in this adventure saga based on a story by Rudyard Kipling. Young Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew) is the working definition of a spoiled brat; the only child of a wealthy widowed businessman, Harvey has everything he needs, but never stops asking for more, convinced he can get anything if he yells, pouts, or throws the right tantrum. Even other boys his age are disgusted with his antics. Suspended from school, Harvey joins his father on a voyage across the Atlantic to Europe; but early in the trip, he falls overboard off the New England coast. He is rescued by Manuel (Spencer Tracy), a deck hand and doryman on a Gloucester fishing boat, where the young pest is initially less than welcome. Harvey shows no gratitude to Manuel for saving his life and demands to be taken home immediately; Manuel and the crew, not the least bit sympathetic, inform him that once they've filled the ship's hold with fresh catch, they'll return to shore, and not a moment sooner. Over the next few weeks, Harvey grows from a self-centered pantywaist into a young man who appreciates the value of a hard day's work, and in Manuel he finds the strength, guidance and good sense that he never got from his father. Spencer Tracy earned an Academy Award for his performance in Captains Courageous and even sings a bit; the story was parodied years later (with a few rather drastic changes) in the Chris Elliott vehicle Cabin Boy.