Vincent Canby of The New York Times
called The Whales of August
"a cinema event." His generosity is understandable, given the film's main draw: two of the greatest actresses in movie history, whose careers extend back to the very beginnings of narrative. They are Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, and they are two of cinema's lovely, essential people... so it is painful to report that Mr. Canby's gallant review is not really justified by this trifle, a once-round-the-Golden Pond
-lightly. Demanding Bette and dutiful Lillian are sisters living on the Maine coast; Vincent Price is a courtly suitor, and Ann Sothern and Harry Carey Jr. (the liveliest performers in the picture) are local folk. Directed by a great student of film, Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man!
), the material is fatally soppy. In truth, this isn't a movie, it's a shrine to two giants in winter--well-intended, and best seen as a tribute. --Robert Horton