King of the Coral Sea
|King of the Coral Sea|
|Directed by||Lee Robinson|
|Produced by||Lee Robinson
|Written by||Lee Robinson
|Music by||Wilbur Sampson|
Noel Monkman (underwater photography)
|Edited by||Alex Ezard|
|Distributed by||British Empire Films|
|17 July 1954 (Australia)|
|Box office||₤34,000 (England)
King of the Coral Sea is a 1954 film starring Chips Rafferty and Charles Tingwell, directed by Lee Robinson and shot on location in Thursday Island. It was one of the most commercially successful Australian films of the 1950s and marked the feature film debut of Rod Taylor.
A body is found floating in the Torres Strait and pearler Ted King is asked to investigate. He discovers the murder is connected to a people smuggling ring and involves one of his men, Yusep. He is helped by Peter Merriman, the playboy owner of King's company who romances King's daughter Rusty. Yusep kidnaps Rusty but Merriman and King rescue her.
- Chips Rafferty as Ted King
- Charles Tingwell as Peter Merriman
- Ilma Adey as Rusty King
- Rod Taylor as Jake Janiero
- Lloyd Berrell as Yusep
- Reg Lye as Grundy
- Charles Peverill as Sergeant Charlie Wright
- Frances Chin Soon as Serena
Lee Robinson had previously made a documentary on the pearling industry, The Pearlers (1949). All Australian slang was removed from the script to ensure it would not be confusing for international audiences. The shoot took place from June to October 1953.
The supporting cast included Rod Taylor in his feature film debut. Taylor plays an American who elected to stay on in Australia after World War II, a character Lee Robinson created with the aim of making the film more appealing to the international market. Taylor, Robinson, Rafferty, Charles Tingwell and Lloyd Berrell all knew each other from working in Sydney radio.
The filming was unique as the cameraman and the actors dived with a rare scuba known as the Lawson Lung. It was a patent violation of the Cousteau-Gagnan patented Aqua Lung. It had a unique appearance, which came from the tank being worn on the diver's back, with the regulator worn on the divers chest. The Lawson Lung was made in Sydney in small numbers, because getting scuba gear in Australia was very difficult at the time. "Chips" dived in an open British made Heinke helmet as well as using the Lawson Lung towards the end of the film.
The world premiere was held on Thursday Island on 17 July 1954, with a simultaneous screening in Melbourne. The film enjoyed a successful release and Lee Robinson estimated it tripled its costs within three months.
- Lee Robinson papers at the National Film and Sound Archive
- Lee Robinson interview with Albert Moran, Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture vol. 1 no 1 (1987)
- "Slang Taboo In Aussie Films.". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 18 July 1953. p. 2. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "RAFFERTY FILM COMPLETED.". The Cairns Post. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 26 October 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p36
- "FOR FILM ON THURSDAY 1s.". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 15 July 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "FEATURES Monsters Looked On When Australians Took Their Camera Underwater... Film Cast's Peril On Sea Bed." The Sun-Herald (Sydney) 11 Apr 1954: 26 accessed 16 December 2011
- "FAR NORTHERN SCENES." Cairns Post 21 Aug 1954: 5 accessed 16 December 2011
- "FEATURES Monsters Looked On When Australians Took Their Camera Underwater... Film Cast's Peril On Sea Bed.". The Sun-Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 11 April 1954. p. 26. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- Stephen Vagg, King of the Coral Sea: A Royal Achievement, Metro Magazine 158 Sept 2008 p88
- "FILM UNIT MOVING NORTH.". The Cairns Post. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 11 July 1953. p. 5. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "THE LOCAL SCREEN SCENE: Feature on Atomic Bomb Spies Planned -- Of Guided Missiles -- Other Matters" by A. H. WEILER. New York Times 24 Jan 1954: X5.
- "ISLAND FILM." Cairns Post 16 Jul 1954: 7 accessed 16 December 2011
- "Natives enjoy local character, places." The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld) 20 Jul 1954: 12 accessed 16 December 2011
- "QUEEN OF THE CORAL SEA" Cairns Post 30 Oct 1954: 7 accessed 16 December 2011
- "CHIPS RAFFERTY MAY MAKE FILM HERE.". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 3 August 1954. p. 2. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "ON HER WAY TO FINAL.". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 31 August 1954. p. 7. Retrieved 8 March 2012.