AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Director: Albert Lewin (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Jan 1952
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 6 Dec 1951; Los Angeles opening: 11 Jan 1952
Production Date:   early May--late Aug 1950 at London Film Studios, Shepperton, England
Duration (in mins):   120 or 123
Duration (in reels):   14
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Cast:   James Mason (Hendrick van der Zee)  
    Ava Gardner (Pandora Reynolds)  
    Nigel Patrick (Stephen Cameron)  
    Sheila Sim (Janet)  
    Harold Warrender (Geoffrey Fielding)  
    Mario Cabre (Juan Montalvo)  
    Marius Goring (Reggie Demarest)  
    John Laurie (Angus)  
    Pamela Kellino (Jenny)  
    Patricia Raine (Peggy)  
    Margarita D'Alvarez (Senora Montalvo)  
    La Pillina (Spanish dancer)  
    Abraham Sofaer (Judge)  
    Francisco Igual (Vincente)  
    Guillermo Beltran (Barman)  
    Lila Molnar (Geoffrey's housekeeper)  
    Phoebe Hodgson (Dressmaker)  
    Gabriel Carmona (Member of Montalvo's Cuadrilla)  
    Antonio Martin (Member of Montalvo's Cuadrilla)  

Summary: In 1930, in the Spanish coastal town of Esperanza, fishermen discover the bodies of a drowned man and woman. As townspeople gather on the beach, Englishman Geoffrey Fielding recalls events from the past six months: In early March, Geoff finds an old Dutch manuscript on the legend of the Flying Dutchman. That same night, Geoff joins an international group of friends in a local tavern where Reggie Demarest is celebrating the first anniversary of his meeting singer Pandora Reynolds. American ex-patriot Pandora is fond of the brooding Reggie, but he is obsessed with her and poisons himself in the restaurant. English race car driver Stephen Cameron, with whom Pandora has been having an affair, expresses guilt when Reggie collapses, but Pandora coolly walks away, assuring Stephen that only she is to blame. Some of Reggie’s friends think that Pandora is heartless, but Geoff knows she is not. Several days later, he encourages Stephen to take Pandora for a drive in his racing car, to the irritation of Geoff’s niece, Janet, who is in love with Stephen. When the couple stop to admire the view, they see a schooner offshore and Stephen jokingly says it reminds him of the Flying Dutchman. Pandora tells Stephen to marry Janet, but when he insists that he loves her, she promises to marry him if he will push his car, his most precious possession, off the cliff. Stephen does so, and Pandora says that she will marry him in six months. Later, upon hearing what happened, Geoff philosophically says that love is only worth what one is willing to give up for it and answers Pandora’s questions about the Flying Dutchman. He explains that, in the legend, the Dutchman was condemned to sail the earth eternally. While Geoff and Stephen are talking, Pandora wanders away, removes her clothes and swims nude to the schooner. Once onboard, Pandora wraps herself in a canvas sail and approaches the salon, where a man is painting. The man, who is Dutch, introduces himself as Hendrick van der Zee and is amused when Pandora reveals her name, as he is painting a portrait of the mythical Pandora. Pandora is startled that the woman in the painting looks like her, and feeling inadequate, tries to ruin it. Just then, Stephen and Geoff call out from a motorboat and Pandora leaves with them, after making Hendrick promise to dine with them the following night. Soon, Hendrick moves into a villa on shore and becomes part of Pandora's circle. One evening, in late August, Hendrick stops by to see Geoff’s manuscript, which he has promised to help translate. Geoff is stunned when Hendrick seems to stop reading the manuscript and recites it, as if from memory: In the 17th century, a wealthy captain returns home from a voyage, eager to see his beautiful, young wife. Gazing upon his sleeping wife, the captain is certain that she has been unfaithful and kills her with his knife. When he is convicted of murder, the captain lashes out and tells the judge that he could sail for eternity and never find a faithful woman. The night before his execution, the captain awakens and finds the door of his cell open. He easily escapes and goes to his ship, which the crew is preparing to sail. Falling asleep in his quarters, the captain has a dream in which a voice tells him that his wife was never unfaithful. When he awakens, the crew is gone and the captain realizes that in the courtroom he pronounced his own sentence, to sail for eternity, landing every seven years for six months to see if he can find a woman who will sacrifice her own life for his. By the end of the story, Geoff knows that Hendrick is the Dutchman of the legend and that his friend Pandora is the woman. Just then, Pandora stops by and says that she will be married on the 3rd of September. Hendrick replies that he must set sail on that day and cannot attend. A short time later, Juan Montalvo, Spain’s greatest matador, returns to Esperanza, where he was born. Juan had once been Pandora’s lover and tries to impress her and Hendrick with his prowess at a private, midnight bullfight. Juan then takes Pandora to the house of his mother, a gypsy who warns Juan to stop seeing Pandora and his foreign friends. The next day, Stephen breaks the land speed record in a daring race, and the town celebrates. At dinner, Janet drunkenly accuses Stephen of being a fool and slaps Pandora. When Janet runs off, crying, Pandora tells Stephen to go after her. The partygoers then go to the beach and Pandora and Hendrick wander off alone and kiss. They are observed by Juan, who becomes enraged when he hears Pandora speak of the deep love she now feels for Hendrick. The tender moment is shattered when Hendrick claims he is disgusted by her flirtation and leaves. As her wedding day approaches, Pandora confides in Geoff, who knows the sacrifice Hendrick is making, but says nothing. A week before the wedding, Juan goes to Pandora to propose, but is so aggressive that Pandora warns him not to solve his problems with violence. Stung, Juan tells her that she will never marry Stephen because she loves “the other one,” who does not love her. That night, when Hendrick returns to his villa, Juan is hiding and throws a knife into his back, apparently killing him, then kills the little dog that Pandora had given Hendrick. As soon as Juan leaves, Hendrick awakens and bitterly prays to die so that Pandora can live. Just then, she arrives, worried for his safety after dreaming that he would be killed. The next day, at a bullfight, when Juan goes in for the kill, he sees Hendrick sitting next to Pandora and is so stunned that he is repeatedly gored. Pandora goes to the dying Juan, who confesses that he killed Hendrick and believes that God has punished him. On the night of Stephen’s bachelor dinner, Pandora visits Geoff, who she suspects knows the truth about Hendrick. Geoff, who has been looking through his telescope at the schooner, has seen the ship making itself ready to sail. Pandora tells Geoff about Juan’s confession and she says that she will die if she does not see Hendrick again. Thinking that it is now too late for her to stop Hendrick from sailing, Geoff gives her a translation of the manuscript and leaves her alone. After reading the tale, Pandora immediately swims out to the schooner, where she and Hendrick reveal their love. As a violent storm erupts, Pandora assures Hendrick that she is not frightened. Back on shore, Geoff still ponders all that has happened as Janet comforts Stephen. 

Production Company: Dorkay Productions, Inc.  
  Romulus Films, Ltd.  
Production Text: Dorkay Productions, Inc.
In association with Romulus Films
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Director: Albert Lewin (Dir)
Producer: John Woolf (Exec prod)
  Albert Lewin (Prod)
  Joseph Kaufman (Prod)
Writer: Albert Lewin (Story and scr)
Photography: Jack Cardiff (Photog)
  Ted Scaife (2d unit photog)
Art Direction: John Bryan (Prod des)
  Tim Hopewell-Ash (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph Kemplen (Ed)
Set Decoration: John Hawkesworth (Set dressing)
Costumes: Beatrice Dawson (Cost des)
Music: Alan Rawsthorne (Mus comp and cond)
  Dr. Hubert Clifford (Mus dir)
Sound: Alan Allen (Sd rec)
  Harry Miller (Sd ed)
Special Effects: W. Percy Day O.B.E. (Spec eff)
Production Misc: Gordon Griffith (Asst to the prod)
Color Personnel: Joan Bridge (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Songs: "How Am I to Know," music and lyrics by Dorothy Parker and Jack King.
Composer: Jack King
  Dorothy Parker
Source Text: Suggested by the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Dorkay Productions, Inc. 5/4/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP1121

PCA NO: 14697
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Femmes fatales
  Unrequited love
Subjects (Minor): Americans in foreign countries
  Bullfighters and bullfighting
  Death by animals
  English in foreign countries
  Flamenco dancers
  Legendary characters
  Mothers and sons
  Race car drivers

Note: Some modern and contemporary sources list the film's running time as 112 or 115 minutes. The film opens with the following written prologue: "According to the legend, the Flying Dutchman was condemned to wander the seas eternally unless he could find a woman who loved him enough to die for him." The film is narrated throughout by Harold Warrender, as his character, "Geoffrey Fielding." The legend of the Dutchman, a nautical tale that recounts the story of a blasphemous captain, was also the inspiration for the 1841 Richard Wagner opera Der Fliegende Holländer . Wagner's opera was based on an early nineteenth century tale included in Heinrich Heine's Memorien des Herrn von Schnabelewopski . The legend of Pandora, which is unrelated to the flying Dutchman legend, emanates from Greek mythology. In that legend, the Greek god Zeus sent Pandora to earth with a box that she was forbidden to open. Pandora disobeyed Zeus and opened the box, unleashing all of the world's ills, but retaining hope, the sole virtue in the box.
       According to a 28 Jul 1941 HR news item, M-G-M had considered making a musical based on the legend of the flying Dutchman, with lyricist "Yip" Harburg set to produce, but that project appears to be unrelated to the 1951 film. Various news items in LAT , DV , Var and HR from 1948 through 1951 indicate that Albert Lewin, who was to write, produce and direct Pandora and the Flying Dutchman for M-G-M, took a leave of absence from the studio to make the picture as an independent production for M-G-M release. A Feb 1950 Var news item indicated that the film had joint financing by Lewin and British producer John Woolf, head of Romulus Films, Ltd. Some HR production charts list the film as a Kaydor-Romulus co-production; it is probable that Kaydor was the same company as Dorkay Productions, Inc., which is listed, along with Romulus, on the film credits.
       News items and reviews noted that the film was shot on location, primarily in Spain, with some interiors shot at London Film Studios, Shepperton, England. According to LAT , the film's premiere was a benefit for St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles. An HR news item noted that columnist Hedda Hopper was to appear in the film's trailer. A DV news item on 12 Nov 1954 noted that M-G-M may have violated Ava Gardner's contract by selling a print of the film to Los Angeles television station KTLA which was to broadcast it. No additional information on the potential contract dispute has been found. Actress Pamela Kellino was married to James Mason from 1941 to 1964. She appeared in numerous films and television roles under both the surname Kellino and Mason.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   13 Oct 1951.   
Daily Variety   20 Dec 1950.   
Daily Variety   20 Oct 1949.   
Daily Variety   12 Nov 1954.   
Film Daily   15 Oct 1951   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jul 1941   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 1950   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 1950   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 1951   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Mar 1951   p. 8.
Los Angeles Times   31 Aug 1948.   
Los Angeles Times   11 Jan 1952.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   13 Oct 1951   p. 1057.
New York Times   7 Dec 1951   p. 43.
Newsweek   17 Dec 1951.   
Variety   8 Feb 1950.   
Variety   10 Oct 1951   p. 6.

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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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