AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Plymouth Adventure
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Nov 1952
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 13 Nov 1952; Los Angeles opening: 27 Nov 1952
Production Date:   24 Mar--late May 1952
Duration (in mins):   104-105
Duration (in feet):   9,390
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Lowell Gilmore (Edward Winslow)  
    Tommy Ivo (William Button)  
    John Dehner (Gilbert Winslow)  
    Noel Drayton (Miles Standish)  
    Barry Jones (William Brewster)  
    Dawn Addams (Priscilla Mullins)  
    Lloyd Bridges (Coppin)  
    Leo Genn (William Bradford)  
    Van Johnson (John Alden)  
    Gene Tierney (Dorothy Bradford)  
    Spencer Tracy (Capt. Christopher Jones)  
    Rhys Williams (Mr. Weston)  
    Kathleen Lockhart (Mary Brewster)  
    Murray Matheson (Christopher Martin)  
    John Dierkes (Greene)  
    Paul Cavanagh (John Carver)  
    Maggie McGrath (Meggie)  
    Noreen Corcoran (Ellen Moore)  
    Dennis Hoey (Head constable)  
    John Sherman (John Billington)  
    Damian O'Flynn (Clarke)  
    Owen McGiveney (Duff)  
    James Logan (Trevore)  
    Patric Whyte (Ellis)  
    Hugh Pryse (Samuel Fuller)  
    Matt Moore (William Mullins)  
    Keith McConnell (William White)  
    John Alderson (Salterne)  
    Gil Perkins (Sailor)  
    William Self (Sailor)  
    Charles Keane (Sailor)  
    Gene Coogan (Sailor)  
    Michael Dugan (Sailor)  
    Loren Brown (Sailor)  
    Elizabeth Harrower (Elizabeth Hopkins)  
    Kay English (Catherine Carver)  
    Elizabeth Flournoy (Rose Standish)  
    Ivis Goudling (Alice Mullins)  
    Donald Dilloway (Stephen Hopkins)  

Summary: In August 1620, a group of religious Englishmen known as the pilgrims wait on a Southampton dock to sail to America. Their trip has been financed by Virginia investors, who plan to make a compact with the voyagers to work five days a week for the Virginia company and two days for themselves. Although not a pilgrim himself, young carpenter John Alden is eager for adventure and signs on for the voyage, as do several others. The captain of the ship, called The Mayflower , is Christopher Jones, a cynic, who takes payment from Mr. Weston of the Virginia company to change the ship’s course to New England but not tell the passengers. Once onboard, John finds himself quartered with William Brewster, the fugitive leader of the pilgrims, but does not tell the authorities. Just before the Mayflower sets sail, Weston reveals that terms of the compact have been changed and the settlers will need to work seven days a week for the company. When the passengers refuse to sign, Jones realizes that Weston had planned this and had secretly been buying the bankrupt New England company in the hope that the hardworking pilgrims would make it profitable. Because the voyage has already been paid for, Jones agrees to keep his passengers. The night before sailing, Jones gets drunk in a local tavern and when he comes back onboard, encounters Dorothy Bradford, the pretty, younger wife of William Bradford. Attracted to Dorothy, Jones tries to force himself on her, but her screams summon Bradford. The next morning, August 6th, the Mayflower and its companion ship, the Speedwell set sail. Young William Button happily says that he will be the first to see the new world, a vow written down by Gilbert Winslow, who chronicles the voyage. By August 15th, the Speedwell is on the verge of sinking and Jones determines that both ships must return to England. Although the passengers concur, Jones is irritated that Bradford has insisted that the passengers vote on the issue. In Plymouth, eighteen of the Mayflower passengers decide to remain in England, and the rest vote to allow those on the Speedwell to sail with them, despite Jones’s warnings of danger and short rations. After setting sail again, the Mayflower encounters dry weather, and water is limited. When John helps fellow passenger Priscilla Mullins obtain some fresh water for washing, she then passes it around, and eventually Dorothy tosses it overboard. First mate Coppin sees this and drags her to Jones, who reveals how low the water supply is, but says that there is always water for a friend of the captain. Insulted, Dorothy rushes back to her cabin, where Bradford brusquely tells her not to interact with the sailors. Soon the weather turns cold and William, among others, comes down with lung fever. A large storm hits, and the passengers are terrified. When a woman mistakenly reports that her son is on deck, Bradford goes to find him and falls into the water, but is saved by Jones and Gilbert. As the storm rages, the mast falls and one of the timbers beneath the deck breaks. The ship is only saved from foundering when John suggests that they use a large printing press in the cargo hold to hoist the ceiling. The press works and for the first time, Jones smiles. After the storm passes, Dorothy goes to Jones to thank him for saving her husband. He sends her away, but notices that before leaving, she gently touches his jacket. By October, the voyage has taken its toll on the passengers, many of whom have come down with fever or scurvy. Rations and firewood are dangerously low as the cold increases. One night, Dorothy approaches Jones on deck. He admits his longing for her, but she merely says that she has discovered his secret, that he has a heart. On Wednesday, November 8th, the sixty-fourth day of their voyage, one of the dogs on the ship finds a dead land bird. Some of the passengers bring William on deck, but as he looks out, he collapses and dies. After he is buried at sea, land is finally sighted. Although the passengers think that they have reached Virginia, crewman Greene tells them that it is New England, but assumes that they will stay only a few days before sailing on. When Bradford and the other leaders go to see Jones, he tells them that they will be staying in New England. Bradford, who guessed that their arrival in New England was not accidental, tells Jones that they have decided to stay because it is less tied to England than the Virginia colony, and says that the colonists have far greater inner strength than Jones. Bradford then suggests a new compact to the other passengers, one that will unite them in the new world. Some of the men, led by Bradford, go ashore in the area they call New Plymouth. Before leaving the ship, Bradford tells Dorothy that everything that has happened on the ship will be forgotten, then reveals how much she means to him. Later, Dorothy goes to Jones’s cabin to ask him to stay instead of taking the ship back to England as planned. He asks her to return with him, and they kiss, but she says that it is wrong to leave her husband. Jones counters that it is equally wrong to stay and think of another man, after which a troubled Dorothy goes on deck. Three days later, the men return, and Bradford is told by Brewster that Dorothy went over the side and drowned. After showing his contempt for Bradford, Jones goes to his cabin and sobs. When Coppin comes to the cabin to demand they sail back to England, Jones fights him and orders his crew to return to their posts. In early April, the fifty-six colonists who lived through the winter are thriving, with houses built and crops planted. Jones, who has become a trusted friend, is bid farewell by the grateful colonists, and he thanks them for teaching him about the human spirit. Prior to sailing, Jones admits to Bradford, with whom he has become close, that he loved Dorothy, but says that she never betrayed her husband. As the Mayflower sets sail, it fires a salute. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
  James Havens (2d unit dir)
  Ridgeway Callow (Asst dir)
  Arvid Griffen (Asst dir)
  Hal Kern (Asst dir)
Producer: Dore Schary (Prod)
Writer: Helen Deutsch (Scr)
Photography: William Daniels (Dir of photog)
  Max Fabian (Miniature photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Urie McCleary (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert J. Kern (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Hugh Hunt (Set dec)
  Harry Edwards (Props)
  Irving Fineberg (Props)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost des)
  Larry Keith (Ward)
  Roy Dumont (Ward)
  Irving Guzick (Ward)
  Lavonn Larson (Ward)
Music: Miklos Rosza (Mus)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec supv)
  Charles Wallace (Sd)
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
  Irving G. Ries (Spec eff)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles by)
  William Tuttle (Makeup created by)
  Benny Lane (Makeup)
  Lee Stanfield (Makeup)
  Martha Ackers (Hair)
  Hazel Thompson (Makeup)
Production Misc: Ruby Rosenberg (Prod mgr)
  Jay Marchant (Unit mgr)
  Eylla Jacobus (Scr supv)
  Capt. A. C. Hivers (Tech adv)
  Col. Paul A. Davison (Tech adv)
Color Personnel: Henri Jaffa (Technicolor col consultant)
  Alvord Eiseman (Col consultant)
  John Hamilton (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the novel The Plymouth Adventure by Ernest Gebler (New York, 1950).
Authors: Ernest Gebler

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 15/10/1952 dd/mm/yyyy LP2013 Yes

PCA NO: 15965
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  col: Technicolor

 
Genre: Adventure
  Romance
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
 
Subjects (Major): Cynics
  Mayflower (Ship)
  Sea captains
  Transformation
  United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
  Voyages and travel
 
Subjects (Minor): John Alden
  Birds
  Dorothy Bradford
  William Bradford
  William Brewster
  Carpenters
  Dogs
  Drunkenness
  Fever
  Great Britain--History--17th century
  Infidelity
  Christopher Jones
  Marriage
  Priscilla Mullins
  Plymouth (England)
  Religious communities
  Romance
  Scurvy
  Southampton (England)
  Storms
  Suicide
  Swindlers and swindling
  Taverns
  Water

Note: The opening cast credits differ in order from the end credits. Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney, Van Johnson and Leo Genn are all listed below the opening title, followed, in order, by Dawn Addams, Lloyd Bridges, Barry Jones, John Dehner, Tommy Ivo, Lowell Gilmore and Noel Drayton. The end credits begin with Gilmore “as ‘Edward Winslow’,” and end with Tracy “as ‘Capt. Christopher Jones’.” A written prologue begins with the words: “The history of mankind is the record of those who dared to adventure into unknown realms” and ends with a dedication to “the immortal men and women who dared to undertake the Plymouth Adventure and so brought to a continent the seed that grew into the United States of America.”
       According to HR news items, Bronislau Kaper was initially set to score the film, Peter Lawford was at one time cast, and Tierney was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox. According to a 1 May 1950 MGM News press release, Deborah Kerr was to be the female lead of the film and William A. Wellman was to direct. News items also note that portions of the film were shot on the ship the Queen Juliana . A 7 Mar 1952 HR news items indicated that Philip Friend was testing for the role that was to have been played by Peter Lawford, but Friend was not in the released film. According to various HR news items, actors Bob Wilkinson, Owen Pritchard, Jeffrey Pritchard, Paul Salata, Bruce Carruthers and Jack Dwyer were cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to a Var article on 26 Nov 1952, when the film opened, descendants of those who sailed to North America on the original Mayflower complained about the way their ancestors were portrayed. Former congressman Maurice Thatcher, Deputy Governor General of the National Society of Mayflower Descendants, took particular exception to the portrayal of “Dorothy Bradford,” who was, according to Thatcher “eminently respectable” and not involved in any scandal as shown in the film. Thatcher claimed that the film altered the facts of incidents that happened to Priscilla Mullins to make it appear that they happened to Bradford because Bradford drowned, leaving no descendants, whereas Mullins’ descendants “raised the roof” when they learned about incidents that were to be dramatized on the screen. Another Var article described similar complaints by Mayflower descendants after a special screening of the film for the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Society of Mayflower Descendants. Following the screening, the 300-member chapter passed a resolution denouncing “the contamination of the reputation of Dorothy Bradford.”
       As loosely depicted in the film, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England on 21 Sep 1620. The ship carried 102 passengers and a crew of 21 (some sources list the combined total at 135) on the voyage to North America. The ship arrived at what became Provincetown, MA on 21 Nov 1620. On that day, forty-one of the male passengers signed The Mayflower Compact, a document that was intended to formulate just and equal laws by which the new colony would be governed. A replica of the original ship, called Mayflower II , set sail from Plymouth, England on 20 Apr 1957 and docked in Plymouth, MA on 13 Jun 1957 at the site of the colony established by the Pilgrims, Plimoth Plantation. The ship was a gift from the people of Britain to the United States.
       According to a 1952 article in AmCin , about twenty-five percent of the shots of the Mayflower were actually studio-made miniatures. The article also noted that, under the auspices of A. Arnold "Buddy" Gillespie, head of M-G-M's Special Effects department, Miniatures Department head Don Jahraus and processor Carroll Shepphird, miniatures were constructed and shot in Ansco Color by Max Fabian. The film won an Oscar for Special Effects and, according to MPA , it was one of the top twenty highest-grossing films of the year.





 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Sep 52   pp. 386-87, 400-402.
Box Office   25 Oct 1952.   
Daily Variety   20 Oct 1952   p. 3.
Film Daily   20 Oct 1952   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 1951   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 1952   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Feb 1952   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 1952   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Feb 1952   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Mar 1952   p. 2
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 1952   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 1952   p. 12, 16.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Mar 1952   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 1952   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 1952   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 1952   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 1952   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 1952   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 1952   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   28 Nov 1952.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   25 Oct 52   p. 1581.
New York Times   13 Nov 1952   p. 35.
New York Times   14 Nov 1952   p. 20.
New York Times   30 Nov 1952.   
New Yorker   29 Nov 1952.   
Newsweek   1 Dec 1952.   
Time   24 Nov 1952.   
Variety   22 Oct 1952   p. 6.
Variety   24 Nov 1952.   
Variety   26 Nov 1952.   

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