AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Pearl
Alternate Title: La perla
Director: Emilio Fernández (Dir)
Release Date:   1948
Premiere Information:   Spanish language premiere: 12 Sep 1947; English language premiere in New York: 17 Feb 1948
Production Date:   at Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City; English version completed late Nov 1947
Duration (in mins):   72 or 77-78
Duration (in feet):   6,954
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Cast:   Pedro Armendáriz (Kino)  
    Maria Elena Marqués (Juana)  
    Charles Rooner (Village doctor)  
    Alfonso Bedoya (Godfather of Juanito)  
    Gilberto González (Gachupin)  
    Juan García (Sapo)  
    Maria Cuadros (Juanito)  
    Enedina Díaz de Léon (Medicine woman)  

Summary: Because turbulent weather has prevented them from fishing in the sea for seven consecutive days, the inhabitants of a west Mexican coastal village have become anxious and hungry. After one pearl diver, Kino, and his wife Juana eat the last of their beans, their baby Juanito is stung by a scorpion. The couple rushes Juanito to the nearest doctor, but he refuses to see them because they have no money. Despite the lack of medical attention, Juanito survives the scorpion's poison, and Kino and Juana are finally able to take their boat out to sea. When Kino accidentally drops his knife while under water, he discovers a deep bed of untouched oysters. Determined to obtain one particularly large, old oyster, Kino risks his life diving in the deep water. His efforts are rewarded when the oyster yields an enormous, perfectly rounded pearl. News of Kino's good fortune spreads quickly through the village, and the couple is treated with awe and respect by their neighbors. When asked about his plans for the pearl, Kino replies that he will buy a rifle for himself, clothes for his devoted wife and a good education for Juanito. "The pearl will make us free," he says. That night, a festival is held in honor of Kino's pearl, and the couple is accosted by the village doctor, who now insists on treating Juanito. After Kino rejects the greedy doctor's ministrations, he is warned that Gachupin and Sapo, two men who have ingratiated themselves with the couple, are going to steal the pearl. Later, in the cantina, Kino drinks and fights with his new "friends," who then pay a barmaid to distract the fisherman while they steal his pouch. When Gachupin and Sapo discover that the pouch is empty, they try to harass Kino into revealing the pearl's whereabouts. Kino misguides them long enough to return home and is relieved to learn that the wise Juana took the pearl herself. The next day, Kino and Juana leave to sell the pearl to the village patron. Although unaware that it was the patron who ordered Gachupin and Sapo to steal the pearl, Kino and Juana are reluctant to trust him when he offers 900 pesos for their gem. When all of the pearl buyers then pretend that the pearl is nearly worthless, Kino and Juana depart for home. That night, Kino fends off an attacker, and his trusted neighbor, Juanito's godfather, advises him to leave the village for good. Distraught, Juana begs Kino to destroy the pearl, which she believes will bring them death and loneliness, but Kino insists that the gem will buy a better future for Juanito. After Kino falls asleep that night, Juana tries to throw the pearl into the ocean, but Kino wakes in time to stop her. Gachupin and Sapo then attack Kino on the beach, and he is forced to kill both of them. Now desperate, Kino and Juana decide to leave the village with Juanito, but their small boat quickly capsizes in the still-rough water. The couple runs to the swamp and are pursued by both the patron and the doctor. The patron shoots and kills the doctor just as he is about to shoot Kino, but is unable to capture the fisherman. After the couple escapes the swamp, they see the patron and his men heading in one direction and flee in the opposite direction. That night, however, an exhausted Juana discovers that her cut bare feet are leaving a trail of blood and begs Kino to go on without her. Kino refuses to abandon his wife and makes a crude pair of shoes for her. Eventually the family reaches the hut of a sheepherder, who gives them water and is later killed by the patron for his kindness. The family's desperate flight ends when they become trapped on an ocean bluff. Seizing his opportunity, the patron opens fire on the couple and hits Juanito. Enraged, Kino then kills the patron, but loses Juanito. Like "sleepwalkers," the now childless couple returns to the village and heads for the ocean. After Kino tosses the pearl back to the sea, he and Juana clutch each other hands. 

Production Company: F.A.M.A.-Aguila Films  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Emilio Fernández (Dir)
  Ignacio Villarreal (Asst dir)
Producer: Óscar Dancigers (Prod)
Writer: John Steinbeck (Scr)
  Emilio Fernández (Scr)
  Jackson Wagner (Scr)
Photography: Gabriel Figueroa (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Javier Torres Torija (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gloria Schoemann (Film ed)
Music: Antonio Díaz Conde (Mus)
Sound: James L. Fields (Dir of sd)
  Nicholas de la Rosa (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
  Galdino R. Samperio (Re-rec)
  Victor Lewis (Sd eff)
Make Up: Armando Meyer (Makeup)
Production Misc: Federico Amérigo (Unit mgr)
  Alberto A. Ferrer (Prod mgr)
Country: Mexico and United States
Language: English

Songs: "La Bamba" and "Huapango," Mexican folk songs.
Source Text: Based on the novel The Pearl by John Steinbeck (New York, 1947).
Authors: John Steinbeck

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 31/12/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1584

PCA NO: 11737
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Attempted murder
  Divers and diving
  Greed
  Mexico
  Pearls
  Robbery
 
Subjects (Minor): Barmaids
  Cantinas
  Chases
  Drunkenness
  Godparents
  Marriage
  Murder
  Neighbors
  Peddlers and peddling
  Physicians
  Scorpions
  Self-defense
  Swamps
  Village life

Note: The working titles of this film were Pearl of the World and The Pearl of La Paz ( La perla de la paz ). The Spanish-language release title was La perla . In the opening credits, John Steinbeck's name appears above the film's title. Steinbeck's novel was serialized in Woman's Home Companion on Dec 1945 under the title Pearl of the World . It was not published in book form in the United States until after the film's completion. Some of the credits on the viewed print differ from credits recorded in the copyright cutting continuity, which was submitted on 4 May 1948. Ignacio Villarreal, Victor Lewis, Galdino R. Samperio, Armando Meyer and Alberto A. Ferrer are listed in the cutting continuity, but not on the viewed print. On the viewed print, Clem Portman is credited as a sound recorder, but receives no credit in the cutting continuity. Writer Jackson Wagner's first name is listed as "Jack" on the viewed print. RKO re-issued the film in 1954, and it is possible that the credits were redone at that time.
       Two versions of the film, one in English and one in Spanish, were made. As noted in HR , The Pearl was the first Mexican-made English language picture to be distributed in the U.S. According to a modern source, RKO put up 50 percent of the film's financing. HR news items indicate that in early 1946, three months of location shooting was done outside Mexico City, some in the coastal region of Guerrero, and that, in addition to RKO's Churubusco Studios, other scenes were filmed at the RKO ranch in Encino, CA, and at Universal Studios. The underwater pearl diving scenes were filmed in a tank at RKO in late May 1946, according to HR . According to a LAEx news item, Steinbeck went to Mexico in Aug 1946 to put "the final personal supervision on his picture." A Jan 1947 NYT item claimed that Steinbeck delayed the picture's completion because he requested that Manuel Esperón, who is not credited on the film, rewrite the score to include more "Indian elements in the music." The extent of Esperón's participation in the final film has not been determined. An Aug 1946 HR item reported that José Noriega, "producer of features at...Churubusco studios," had "recently completed" The Pearl . Noriega is not listed in any other source, however, and his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed.
       Some modern sources list the starting date of the production as mid-Oct 1945. HR commented that because most of the picture was made in Mexico, the final budget for both versions was a meager $400,000. The film's West coast premiere on 12 Aug 1948 was sponsored by the Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana, according to HR . The Spanish language version of the picture did not include the song "Huapango." The Pearl won five "Ariels," awards given by the Mexican Motion Picture Academy, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Photography, Best Male Star (Pedro Armendáriz) and Best Character Role (Juan García). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Feb 1948.   
Daily Variety   11 Feb 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   16 Feb 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 46   p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 46   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Aug 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   22 Oct 1947.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Nov 47   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 48   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Feb 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 48   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Aug 48   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 48   p. 13.
Los Angeles Examiner   13 Aug 1946.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   14 Feb 48   p. 4057.
New York Times   19 Jan 1947.   
New York Times   18 Feb 48   p. 36.
Variety   11 Feb 48   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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