Christopher Columbus (1949 film)

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Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byDavid MacDonald
Produced bySydney Box
A. Frank Bundy
Written byMuriel Box
Sydney Box
Cyril Roberts
Based onnovel Columbus by Rafael Sabatini
StarringFredric March
Florence Eldridge
Francis L. Sullivan
Kathleen Ryan
Narrated byValentine Dyall
Music byArthur Bliss
CinematographyStephen Dade
Edited byVladimir Sagovsky
Production
company
Distributed byGFD (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Gaumont (France)
Release date
12 October 1949
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget₤200,000[2] or £500,000[3][4]
Box office£121,000 (by 1953)[3]

Christopher Columbus is a 1949 British biographical film starring Fredric March as Christopher Columbus and Florence Eldridge as Queen Isabella. It is loosely based on the novel Columbus by Rafael Sabatini with much of the screenplay rewritten by Sydney and Muriel Box.[5]

Plot[edit]

Christopher Columbus overcomes intrigue at the Castillan court and convinces Queen Isabella that his plan to reach the East by sailing west is practical.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The film was part of a deliberate attempt by the Rank Organisation to break into the American market, following the path blazed with films like Henry V (1944) and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). John Woolf, head of international distribution for Rank, said in 1946 that:

Before we smacked Henry V and Caesar and Cleopatra into the American Markets, we were getting a poor showing in the United States. Although the most optimistic figures have been put out in London about the achievements of Henry and Caesar, in fact they have had to fight hard to make their way. The important thing to remember is this— that these big films enabled us to break through the highly controlled theatre circuits in America. We are using them as a spearhead to get a showing of British films.[6]

In September 1946 Sydney Box announced he would make the film from Sabatini's novel.[7] They were looking for a young, virile actor to play the lead.[8] Stewart Granger was originally announced as the star.

For a time it seemed there would be a rival movie on the same subject produced by Edward Small from a biography by David Lawrence.[9]

When Box became head of Gainsborough Pictures he immediately put the project in development. Sabatini wrote an early script.[10] Arturo de Cordova was at one stage announced as star.[11] James Mason was also mentioned.[12] Then in September 1947 Box announced he had signed Fredric March and Florence Eldridge to play the leads.[13]

"It's a great part," said March.[14]

Shooting[edit]

March arrived in England in April 1948 for what was meant to be a five-month shoot.[15] Studio filming took place at Pinewood and there was location filming in Barbados.[16] March had recently had an operation and suffered a relapse while in London.[17]

Two ships, replicas of the Nina and Santa Maria were built especially for the film.[18]

Shooting was often difficult. The replica of the Santa Maria broke its moorings during a squall in the West Indies and drifted for two nights and a day with people on board before it was rescued. Then a fire broke out and the ship was burnt. It had to be rebuilt at a cost of £100,000 because scenes set on it had yet to be shot.[19] March collapsed one day due to heatstroke.[20] A new subplot was added towards the end of shooting involving the romance between Columbus (Kathleen Ryan) and the sister of his lieutenant (Derek Bond).[21]

March was reportedly very disappointed with the final film.[22]

The Francoist Spanish government considered the portrait of Columbus to be unflattering. In response the leading Spanish studio CIFESA produced Dawn of America (1951), which portrayed Columbus as a more daring figure.

Reception[edit]

J. Arthur Rank told Hedda Hopper he thought the film would be his most successful of 1949.[23]

The film failed to recoup its enormous cost at the box office.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Some versions of the film were cut to 95 minutes. Spicer p.128
  2. ^ Geoffrey Macnab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, Routledge (1993) p183
  3. ^ a b c Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box Manchester Uni Press 2006 p 211
  4. ^ "Margaret [?]ylwards BRITISH FILMS". The Sun (2411). Sydney. 26 June 1949. p. 31. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ Spicer p.127-128
  6. ^ "COLUMBUS IN A NEW BATTLE OF BRITAIN". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 7 October 1946. p. 6. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  7. ^ "FILM WORLD". The West Australian. 62, (18, 785). Western Australia. 27 September 1946. p. 17. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "COLUMBUS IN A NEW BATTLE OF BRITAIN". Townsville Daily Bulletin. LXVII. Queensland, Australia. 7 October 1946. p. 6. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ RANDOM NOTES ABOUT FILMS: Hollywood and England Discover Columbus--New Theatre--Code Revised New Show House Ban Eased Professional Opinion But He Doesn't Sing By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 Sep 1946: X3.
  10. ^ "Top Ranking Film Star Sought For Role Of Columbus". The Kyogle Examiner. 45, (3389). New South Wales, Australia. 17 January 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "TALKING of TALKIES". Truth (2445). Brisbane. 2 February 1947. p. 42. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ Hopper, H. (1947, Aug 13). Looking at hollywood. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/177401461?accountid=13902
  13. ^ "Latest Film News From Hollywood, London". The Sun (11, 740) (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 11 September 1947. p. 16. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ The BEST YEARS of YOUR LIFE: FREDRIC MARCH Gendall, Bruce. Answers; London114.2958 (Jul 17, 1948): 7.
  15. ^ "Robt. Morley returns to film-making". The Sun (11, 936) (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 29 April 1948. p. 17. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "SHADES OF COLUMBUS". Kalgoorlie Miner. 54 (14, 335). Western Australia. 17 July 1948. p. 7. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ FREDRIC MARCH ILL IN LONDON; SUFFERS OPERATION RELAPSE. (1948, Apr 26). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/177562250?accountid=13902
  18. ^ By, C. A. L. (1948, Apr 04). RANDOM NOTES ABOUT LONDON MOVIE STUDIOS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/108378542?accountid=13902
  19. ^ Of local origin. (1948, Jul 24). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/108086212?accountid=13902
  20. ^ "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail (3663). Brisbane. 21 August 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ "LATEST FILM NEWS FROM ABROAD". The Sun (12, 062) (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 23 September 1948. p. 17. Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ "March Disappointed". The Argus (31, 979). Melbourne. 1 March 1949. p. 3 (The Argus Super Comic). Retrieved 14 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ Hopper, H. (1949, Apr 15). 'Running of tide' now named to star lana. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/165945096?accountid=13902

Bibliography[edit]

  • Spicer, Andrew. British Film Makers: Sydney Box. Manchester University Press, 2006.

External links[edit]