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Following the success of Wake of the Red Witch, an adaptation of Garland Roark's novel of the same name (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), Republic president Herbert J. Yates bought Roark's 1948 novel Fair Wind to Java, another seafaring adventure set in Indonesia. Although a March 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item states that John K. Butler was originally assigned to adapt the novel, war correspondent Richard Tregaskis was given the task of writing the screenplay following his return from Indonesia, according to a March 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item. The contribution of Butler has not been determined.
A voice-over narration at the beginning of the film describes the impact of the volcano Krakatoa, and sets the story's action three weeks before the eruption. The actual volcanic island of Krakatoa, also known as Krakatau or Rakata, exists in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, as described in the film. The eruption, which began on the evening of August 26, 1883, destroyed over half of the island and caused fifty-foot-high tidal waves, which drowned the inhabitants of nearby islands. The explosion was heard 3,000 miles away, and for three years, people all over the world saw volcanic ash dusting the sunsets.
John Wayne, who starred in Wake of the Red Witch, was originally considered for the lead of Fair Wind to Java, according to March 1949 and March 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items. Background shots were filmed in Hilo, Hawaii by photographer Bud Thackery's camera crew, which included his assistant Al Edens, according to June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news items. According to a modern source, Howard Lydecker, who was pursuing side interests away from Republic's special effects department, which he jointly headed with his brother Theodore, also was a member of Thackery's crew. Portions of the film were also shot on location at Point Dume in Malibu, CA. A lagoon and volcano were built on the Republic backlot, according to a modern source.
Although an April 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item stated there were plans to shoot on location in Indonesia, it has not been determined that shooting actually took place there. According to a July 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, twenty-five stunt men were used in the pirate fight sequence. Contemporary Republic publicity materials stated that Fair Wind to Java cost over $2,000,000 to produce. Another film on the subject of Krakatoa is the 1968 Cinerama production of Krakatoa, East of Java, directed by Bernard Kowalski and starring Maximilian Schell, Diane Baker and Brian Keith (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).