AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Beneath the 12-Mile Reef
Alternate Title: 12 Mile Reef
Director: Robert D. Webb (Dir)
Release Date:   Dec 1953
Premiere Information:   World premiere in New York: 16 Dec 1953; Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1953
Production Date:   6 Apr--late May 1953
Duration (in mins):   101-102
Duration (in feet):   9,145
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Robert Wagner (Tony Petrakis)  
    Terry Moore (Gwyneth Rhys)  
    Gilbert Roland (Mike Petrakis)  
    J. Carrol Naish (Socrates "Soak" Houlis)  
    Richard Boone (Thomas Rhys)  
    Angela Clarke (Mama Petrakis)  
    Peter Graves (Arnold Dix)  
    Jay Novello (Sinan)  
    Jacques Aubuchon (Demetrios Sofotes)  
    Gloria Gordon (Penny Petrakis)  
    Harry Carey, Jr. (Griff Rhys)  
    James Harakas (Card)  
    Charles Wagenheim (Paul)  
    Marc Krah (Fat George)  
    Rush Williams (Davis Rhys)  
    John Gonatos (Jemmy)  
    C.P.O. Eugene Halpin (Long Arm)  
    Jonathan Jackson (Lt. Bryant)  
    James McLaughlin (Ambulance attendant)  
    Jack English (Doctor)  
    Guy Carleton (Jamison)  
    George Tsourakis (Young priest)  
    Wm. Llewellyn Johnstone (Crewman of Snapper)  
    Frank Joyner (Capt. of Snapper)  
    Milton B. Wright (Buyer at sponge market)  
    John George Gladakis (Auctioneer)  
    Jack Pappas (Deckhand on the Helios)  
    Demetrios I. Mitsoras (Deckhand on the Helios)  
    Michael Pappas (Sailor on the Helios)  
    Jack Burke (Conch)  
    Ski Skewis (Conch)  
    John Lehman (Conch)  

Summary: Following another disappointing fishing expedition off the Florida coast, Greek-American sponge fisherman Mike Petrakis, his son Tony and the rest of the crew on board the Aegli return home to Tarpon Springs, where they are greeted by Mama Petrakis and Tony's sister Penny. Also waiting for them at the dock is money-lender Demetrios Sofotes, who is eager to get a payment toward the money that he invested in the Aegli . Mike and his crew are further disappointed when they learn that another boat, the Helios , is bringing in a profitable catch after sponge-fishing the dangerous Twelve Mile Reef. At a Greek Orthodox Church Epiphany festival held on boats anchored at Tarpon Springs, Tony receives a special blessing for himself and his family after winning an underwater diving contest. Tony uses the victory to extract a promise from his father to let him dive on the next expedition. Believing that the waters around Tarpon Springs are no longer good for sponge fishing, Mike decides to break with tradition and take his boat out to Key West, a region unofficially designated off-limits to Greeks. In the Keys, as the Aegli crew brings in a great catch of sponges, two American sponge fishermen, Arnold Dix and Griff Rhys, approach in their small boat, grab Mike's air line and threaten to cut off his air unless the Greeks give them their sponge catch. Tony and the others comply with the demand, but later seek out the thieves at Key West. There, Mike and the rest of the Aegli crew go to a cafĂ© and make believe that they are joining in the celebration of the day's great catch. Meanwhile, Tony falls in love with Gwyneth Rhys, Arnold's sweetheart, and shares a dance with her. Arnold becomes jealous, and during an ensuing brawl, Tony and Gwyneth sneak off to a nearby park, where they kiss. The Aegli crew eventually gets its revenge when Mike subdues Arnold and forces him to eat a cigar. For the next expedition, Mike takes the Aegli to the Twelve Mile Reef, but tragedy strikes during a dive when Mike slips on the reef, loses compression and is propelled to the water's surface too fast. Mike gets the bends from coming up too fast, and later dies. While Tony wanders off to mourn, Arnold and Griff loot the Aegli , and another group of American fishermen scuffles with Tony's uncle Socrates "Soak" Houlis, and set the boat ablaze, nearly destroying it. Gwyneth then takes Tony to see her father, Thomas, a fair man who orders Arnold and his gang to pay Tony for the stolen sponges. Furious at Thomas' order, Arnold goes after Tony and gives him a beating. The injured Tony makes his way back to the dock, where he and Gwyneth steal a boat, the Conch , and head out to sea. Gwyneth, more in love with Tony than ever, gets an idea to turn the Conch into a deep sea diving boat, and they begin sponge fishing at the Twelve Mile Reef. Arnold and his compatriots eventually find Tony and Gwyneth and engage them in a bruising fistfight. The struggle forces Tony and Arnold into the water, and when Arnold becomes entangled in kelp, Tony rescues him. Arnold is grateful to Tony for saving his life and the two adversaries make amends. Gwyneth decides to marry Tony, and her family and Tony's join together to arrange a festive wedding. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Robert D. Webb (Dir)
  Joseph E. Rickards (Asst dir)
  Jack Sonntag (2d asst dir)
  Paul Wurtzel (2d asst dir)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (Exec prod)
  Robert Bassler (Prod)
Writer: A. I. Bezzerides (Wrt)
Photography: Edward Cronjager (Dir of photog)
  Til Gabbani (Cam op)
  Henry Gerzen (Key grip)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George Patrick (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Reynolds (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Fred J. Rode (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Dorothy Jeakins (Cost des)
Music: Bernard Herrmann (Mus)
  Urban Thielman (Mus arr)
Sound: W. D. Flick (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
  Ben Hendricks (Sd ed)
  Ray Craddock (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
  Jack Shafton (Miniatures)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Gene Bryant (Unit mgr)
  Howard Lightbourn (Tech adv)
  Owen McLean (Casting dir)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Yiati Yiati," music and lyrics by James Harakas and Andrew Ladas.
Composer: James Harakas
  Andrew Ladas

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 17/12/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP3394

PCA NO: 16484
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Sea
Subjects (Major): Divers and diving
  Greek Americans
Subjects (Minor): Cigars
  Death and dying
  Decompression sickness
  Fathers and sons
  Fishing boats
  Fishing villages
  Key West (FL)
  Orthodox Eastern Church
  Tarpon Springs (FL)

Note: The working title of this film was 12 Mile Reef . Within the film, the Greek American fishermen refer to their rivals as "English," even though they are American. A 7 May 1953 HR news item includes Betty Madigan in the cast, but her appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Puppeteer Jack Shafton created miniature diving figures that were used in underwater sequences in the film. According to studio production records in the AMPAS Library file on the film, while filming at Tarpon Springs, FL, Robert Wagner "nearly drowned" when he was accidentally kicked in the stomach by another swimmer. According to the HR review, the film was shot entirely on location at Tarpon Springs and Key West, FL, but a 26 May 1953 HR news item noted that the "final underwater scenes" were shot at Nassau in the Bahamas. Underwater scenes were shot with the use of a specially designed French underwater camera called the Aquaflex. Cameraman Edward Cronjager was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color) for the film. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   19 Dec 1953.   
Daily Variety   16 Dec 53   p. 3.
Film Daily   16 Dec 53   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 1953   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Mar 1953   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 1953   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Apr 1953   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 May 1953   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 May 1953   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 1953   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Dec 1953   p. 1, 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 53   pp. 2-3.
Los Angeles Daily News   9 Feb 1954.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   19 Dec 53   p. 2109.
New York Times   20 Dec 53   p. 52.
Variety   16 Dec 53   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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