AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Hurricane
Director: John Ford (Dir)
Release Date:   24 Dec 1937
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Los Angeles: 5 Nov 1937; New York opening: 9 Nov 1937
Production Date:   3 May--mid-Sep 1937; retakes and addl scenes late Sep--early Oct 1937
Duration (in mins):   102-103 or 110
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Dorothy Lamour (Marama)  
    Jon Hall (Terangi)  
    Mary Astor (Mme. [Germaine] DeLaage)  
    C. Aubrey Smith (Father Paul)  
    Thomas Mitchell (Dr. Kersaint)  
    Raymond Massey ([Eugene] DeLaage)  
    John Carradine (Warden)  
    Jerome Cowan (Captain Nagle)  
    Al Kikume (Chief Mehevi)  
    Kuulei De Clercq (Tita)  
    Layne Tom Jr. (Mako)  
    Mamo Clark (Hitia)  
    Movita CastaƱeda (Arai)  
    Reri (Reri)  
    Francis Kaai (Tavi)  
    Pauline Steele (Mata)  
    Flora Hayes (Mama Rua)  
    Mary Shaw (Marunga)  
    Spencer Charters (Judge)  
    Roger Drake (Captain of guards)  
    Inez Courtney (Girl on ship)  

Summary: On a beautiful day in the South Pacific, the inhabitants of the island of Manukura welcome Captain Nagle's arriving schooner. One of the passengers is Germaine, the wife of the island's governor, Eugene DeLaage, who is a strict believer in law and order. Also aboard is the first mate, Terangi, who is to marry Chief Mehevi's lovely daughter Marama that day. The DeLaages, Nagle and Dr. Kersaint attend the wedding, which is presided over by Father Paul. After a brief honeymoon with Marama on the nearby uninhabited island of Motu Tonga, Terangi returns to his ship as it sails for Tahiti. In Tahiti, Terangi and his friends go to a local bar, where an antagonistic white man provokes Terangi into fighting with him. After Terangi breaks the man's jaw, he is sentenced to six months in jail, despite Nagle's assertions that Terangi acted in self-defense. Nagle explains to the Tahitian governor that six months in jail to a Manukuran native is a death sentence, but the governor states that the injured man has powerful friends and Terangi therefore must serve his time. While he is working with a hard labor crew, Terangi sees the ship departing and tries to swim out to it. He is captured, however, and the escape attempt adds a year to his sentence. Despite the urgings of Nagle, Kersaint, Father Paul and Germaine, DeLaage refuses to help Terangi, saying that he must not undermine the law's authority. Marama, who is pregnant, takes the news badly and refuses to be comforted. As eight years pass, Terangi suffers many hardships and repeatedly tries to escape, until finally sixteen years have been added to his sentence. DeLaage coldly refuses to help Terangi and is severely reproached again by Germaine and the others. One day, Terangi attempts to hang himself, and when a guard interferes, Terangi succeeds in escaping, although he unintentionally kills the guard. In a grueling journey, Terangi travels the six hundred miles to Manukura in a canoe. He is picked up by Father Paul, who arranges for Terangi to meet Marama at Motu Tonga. There Terangi also meets his daughter Tita for the first time. Meanwhile, DeLaage has received news of Terangi's escape and angrily begins to search for him. Despite the growing winds, DeLaage commanders Nagle's schooner to carry out the search. Realizing that the winds are the beginnings of a hurricane, Terangi brings his family back to Manukura for safety. The island's inhabitants frantically seek protection, and while Kersaint delivers a baby in a boat, Father Paul and the faithful pray in the church. Soon the savage hurricane rips through the island and huge waves destroy the church. Terangi has tied Marama, Tita, Germaine and himself to a giant tree, but the violence of the storm uproots the tree and deposits it on a distant spit of land. The next morning, Kersaint and the inhabitants of his boat are among the few survivors, and a frantic DeLaage returns in the schooner, which weathered the storm out at sea. He sets off again in search of Germaine, and Terangi lights a signal fire to alert the schooner. As it approaches, Germaine urges him to escape before DeLaage sees him. The little family sets off in a canoe, and after DeLaage joyfully embraces his wife, he notices their footprints in the sand. He then sees the canoe, but Germaine insists that it is merely a floating log. Realizing that Terangi saved his wife, DeLaage agrees with her and lets Terangi and his family sail to a new life. 

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: John Ford (Dir)
  Stuart Heisler (Assoc dir)
  Wingate Smith (Asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn (Pres)
  Samuel Goldwyn (Prod)
Writer: Dudley Nichols (Scr)
  Oliver H. P. Garrett (Adpt)
Photography: Bert Glennon (Photog)
  James Basevi (Hurricane and spec eff staged by)
  R. T. Layton (Asst by)
  R. O. Binger (Spec eff photog)
  Archie Stout (South Seas photog)
  Paul Eagler (South Seas photog)
  Robert Coburn (Chief still photog)
  Alexander Kahle (Unit still photog)
  Buddy Wales (Cam crew)
  Ellis Carte (Cam crew)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Alex Golitzen (Asst by)
Film Editor: Lloyd Nosler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Julia Heron (Set dec)
Costumes: Omar Kiam (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
Sound: Jack Noyes (Sd rec)
Production Misc: Chief Tufele (Tech adv)
  Alfred Levy (Tech adv)
  Percy Ikerd (Location unit mgr)
  Paul Widlicska (Village model des)
  Nick Stadler (Garden and tree des)
  Edwin Gest (Barnacle des)
  Monroe Greenthal (Press rep)
Country: United States

Songs: "Moon of Manakoora," words by Frank Loesser, music by Alfred Newman.
Composer: Frank Loesser
  Alfred Newman
Source Text: Based on the novel The Hurricane by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (Boston, 1936).
Authors: James Norman Hall
  Charles Nordhoff

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc. 4/1/1938 dd/mm/yyyy LP7699 Yes

PCA NO: 3738
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Island
  Disaster
 
Subjects (Major): Hurricanes
  Imprisonment
  Injustice
  South Sea islands
  Territorial governors
 
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Childbirth
  Churches
  Fights
  French
  Physicians
  Priests
  Prison escapes
  Prison wardens
  Racism
  Sailors
  Schooners
  Sea captains
  Tahiti
  Weddings
  Wives

Note: Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (28 Dec 1935--1 Feb 1936). A 5 Dec 1935 HR news item reported that producer Samuel Goldwyn purchased the film rights to their novel for $60,000, and various news items in the spring of 1936 noted that he originally intended to produce the film in Technicolor, but was prevented from doing so because of the cost involved. The film's pressbook stated that Goldwyn had hoped to shoot the entire picture on location in the South Seas, but the expense and difficulty of transporting the equipment, combined with the possible adverse weather conditions, necessitated that the picture be shot in Hollywood. A great deal of background footage was shot in the village of Pago Pago, on the Tutuila Island in American Samoa, however, where the camera crew received the cooperation of the U.S. Navy. A 22 Nov 1937 Life article reported that the location crew shot "140,000 feet of scenic shots in Samoa, enough to make 14 movies." Among those who went to the South Seas for location scouting in the winter of 1936 and filming during the following spring were: director John Ford, associate director Stuart Heisler, unit location manager Percy Ikerd, art director Richard Day, photographers Archie Stout and Paul Eagler and an eighteen-member technical crew. Although a 1 Nov 1936 NYT news item stated that Gregg Toland would be leaving in a week to film exteriors in Samoa, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed.
       Among the actresses listed by contemporary sources as being considered for the role of "Marama" were Merle Oberon and Movita Castenada, the latter of whom appeared in the picture as "Arai." According to HR news items, Goldwyn first signed Margo for the part of Marama, then borrowed Dorothy Lamour from Paramount after Margo asked to be relieved of the role. "Moon of Manakoora" became Lamour's signature song, and the role of Marama helped establish her career identification with a sarong, which was begun with the 1936 film Jungle Princess . A HR news item reported that Charita Alden was being tested for an uspecified role, and a HR production chart includes Barbara O'Neil in the cast, but their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Basil Rathbone was originally considered for the part of "Eugene DeLaage," which, according to a 25 Sep 1938 NYT article, he turned down. Photographer Bert Glennon and actor C. Aubrey Smith were borrowed from Selznick International for this production.
       A 19 Nov 1936 HR news item reported that Goldwyn would star Mala as "Terangi" if Errol Flynn were unavailable for the part, while a 21 Nov 1936 FD news item stated that Goldwyn contract players John Payne and Frank Shields were being tested for the role. In early Feb 1937, Goldwyn announced that Joel McCrea would be playing "Terangi," although by late Mar, he was removed from the cast and placed into another Goldwyn film, Dead End (see above). After much publicity announcing that he was looking for and casting an "unknown" as "Terangi," Goldwyn finally revealed that he had placed Jon Hall in the role. Although Goldwyn's publicity, contemporary news items and reviews variously asserted that Hall was an "unknown," a "newcomer," or that he had "never appeared in a picture" before, Hall had made numerous films in the mid-1930s under the names Charles Locher and Lloyd Crane. Contemporary and modern sources variously state that Hall was the cousin, second cousin or nephew of author James Norman Hall, and that he was a next-door neighbor of Ford, all of which contributed to his being cast as "Terangi." Hall, who was born in Fresno, CA, was reared in Tahiti, although some sources incorrectly state that he was born in Tahiti as well.
       According to HR news items, William Wyler directed tests of the actors while Ford was finishing direction on Wee Willie Winkie at Fox, and location shooting was also done on Santa Catalina Island, CA. A 24 Mar 1937 HR news item announced that Goldwyn was going to produce a 1,000 foot short about the filming of The Hurricane in Samoa. The news item stated: "The short titled 'Samoa for the Samoans' will be released to theatres in advance of the feature's distribution and will show the manner in which a picture company works on location." No other information about the short has been found. Although Frank Loesser and Alfred Newman's song is entitled "Moon of Manakoora," contemporary sources refer to the island on which the film's action takes place as "Manukura."
       The widely praised hurricane sequence was created by special effects expert James Basevi and his assistant, Robert Layton. Basevi and Layton, who had been with M-G-M for fourteen years, left the studio in Sep 1936 after creating the earthquake special effects for San Francisco (see below). According to Life , Goldwyn gave Basevi a budget of $400,000 to achieve his effects, and "of this amount, $150,000 was spent to build a native village, fronted by a lagoon 200 yards long. The other $250,000 was spent in destroying it." A pressbook for the film notes that the native village set occupied two-and-a-half acres of the United Artists studio backlot. With the aid of numerous twelve-cylinder Liberty motor wind machines, large wave machines, firehoses and an elaborate system of pipes, chutes and holding tanks, thousands of gallons of water were sent crashing down onto the sets to create the winds of the hurricane and the subsequent tidal waves. Contemporary sources note that doubles were not used for the actors during the storm sequences, and as an article in NYT related: "Dorothy Lamour and Mary Astor were really lashed to that tree and buffeted about like chips." According to another NYT article, the rigors of shooting resulted in Hall losing thirty pounds by the time the picture was completed. In her autobiography, Astor describes the shooting: "Huge propellers kept us fighting for every step, with sand and water whipping our faces, sometimes leaving little pinpricks of blood on our cheeks from the stinging sand."
       According to a remark by Goldwyn printed in a NYT article, the film cost $2,000,00 to produce. The article relates that Goldwyn spent another $35,000 on the picture's premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. The film was named one of ten best pictures of 1938 by the FD annual critics poll, and a modern source notes that it was "one of United Artists' most successful releases in years." Thomas Mitchell was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Alfred Newman was nominated for Best Score. The Hurricane won an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording. Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals that the picture was the object of much criticism by the French government. French officials in Washington, D.C. demanded cuts of the scenes in which prisoners were flogged and tortured by French guards. The eliminations were made, but the film still encountered difficulty in Paris, where censors refused to pass a dubbed version. According to a letter from Harold L. Smith, who apparently was a PCA foreign staff member, "there was a unanimous decision of the censors not to pass the film for two reasons: first, the original version was considered anti-French in accord with reports received from the French Embassy in Washington and second, the local office of United Artists presented to the censors a revised version of the film whereas the regulations require that the original version be presented." Correspondence in the file indicates that the French representative of United Artists was fearful that the original verison would not pass and so instead submitted a revised version. The correspondence does not specifically state which version was exhibited in Paris, but apparently the censors did agree to review both the original and dubbed versions.
       According to modern sources, Goldwyn originally wanted Howard Hawks to direct the picture, for which Ben Hecht was hired to do an uncredited rewrite just before going into production. A 1974 NYT news item noted that Paul Stader was Hall's stuntman for a jump off a cliff. The picture was remade in 1979 as Hurricane , which was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, directed by Jan Troell and starred Jason Robards, Mia Farrow and Dayton Ka'ne. According to a 1978 NYT article, De Laurentiis "reportedly paid $500,000 for the rights to the original film." The remake, which was filmed on location in Bora Bora, cost eleven times more to produce than the original. The Var review of the later film incorrectly states that Glen Robinson created the hurricane special effects for the 1937 picture. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   20-Nov-37   
Daily Variety   5 Nov 37   p. 3
Film Daily   5 Dec 35   p. 3.
Film Daily   21 Nov 36   p. 8.
Film Daily   5 Feb 37   p. 10.
Film Daily   10 Nov 37   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Dec 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Dec 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Sep 36   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Oct 36   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Oct 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Nov 36   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Nov 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Nov 36   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jan 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Feb 37   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 37   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Mar 37   p. 3, 14
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Mar 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Mar 37   p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 37   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Apr 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Apr 37   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Apr 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 May 37   p. 1, 2, 19
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 37   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Sep 37   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Sep 37   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 37   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Nov 37   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Nov 37   pp. 5-11.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 37   p. 1.
International Photographer   1 Aug 37   p. 1.
Los Angeles Examiner   26-Sep-36   
Life   25 Oct 37   pp. 106-107.
Life   22 Nov 37   pp. 44-47, 115.
Motion Picture Daily   6 Nov 37   p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily   10 Nov 37   p. 1, 8.
Motion Picture Herald   8 Feb 36   p. 37.
Motion Picture Herald   7 Aug 37   pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald   13 Nov 37   p. 39.
New York Times   15-Mar-36   
New York Times   5-Apr-36   
New York Times   25-Oct-36   
New York Times   1-Nov-36   
New York Times   11-Apr-37   
New York Times   22-Aug-37   
New York Times   24-Oct-37   
New York Times   7-Nov-37   
New York Times   10 Nov 37   p. 31.
New York Times   5-Dec-37   
New York Times   12-Dec-37   
New York Times   16-Jan-38   
New York Times   25-Sep-38   
New York Times   18-Mar-45   
New York Times   9-Jun-74   
New York Times   8-Apr-79   
Variety   10 Nov 37   p. 18.
Variety   4 Apr 79   p. 20.

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