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Siren of Atlantis

Siren of Atlantis(1949)

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Pierre Benoit's novel L'Atlantida was first filmed in 1921 in France by director Jacques Feyder, starring Stacia Napierkowska. In 1932, German producer Seymour Nebenzal made French and German versions of the novel under his corporate identity of Nero-Film. Both of the 1932 versions entitled L'Atlantide and Die Herrin von Atlantis were directed by G. W. Pabst and starred Brigitte Helm. In October 1946, Nebenzal announced that husband-and-wife Jean-Pierre Aumont and Maria Montez would appear in a new, American adaptation of L'Atlantide. However, in February 1947, according to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Nebenzal was advised by PCA chief Joseph I. Breen that his screenplay was unacceptable under the provisions of the Production Code "by reason of the improper treatment of illicit sex, the use of hasheesh, and other details."
       Despite Breen's objection, shooting began in the spring of 1947 under Arthur Ripley's direction. In early May 1947, responding to a request from Breen for a copy of the revised script, Nebenzal wrote, "We re-wrote the script as we proceeded with the shooting of the picture, and the beginning has still to be done. When we have a complete script we will be most happy to send it to you. At any rate, we have carefully followed the suggestions made by your office."
       The PCA awarded Siren of Atlantis a certificate in December 1948 "with the understanding that the fade out on Aumont and Montez on the couch has been omitted, that the two dagger thrusts have been omitted in the killing of Aumont's friend, and that the last shot of Montez in the white dress has been trimmed one third."
       A January 1949 New York Times news item gave the following account of the production: "Seymour Nebenzal's picture Siren of Atlantis, completed some eighteen months ago at a cost of $1,300,000 is about to see the light of day after extensive revisions which have added another $250,000 to the production bill. A trial engagement in Las Vegas, Nev., convinced Nebenzal that audiences could not understand the Pierre Benoit story because it was 'too philosophical.' So last summer the producer raised additional capital to recoup the original investment and sent the picture back to the cameras for two weeks with John Brahm directing."
       According to the New York Times article, Morris Carnovsky's role was eliminated as he was not available for the new scenes, and Henry Daniell replaced him with a new characterization. Neither Brahm nor Ripley, who directed the original picture, was willing to take credit for the final version, and so film editor Gregg Tallas, who synthesized their efforts, was billed as the director of the picture. A modern source adds that United Artists rejected Nebenzal's rough cut and insisted on additional shooting and retakes. The situation was further complicated, according to a June 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, by the fact that Maria Montez initially refused to appear in the necessary retakes until she was paid deferred salary due to her. This issue was eventually resolved, however, and by late June 1948, the film was in production once again at Goldwyn Studios under director John Brahm.
       During the 1947 production period, Nebenzal announced that a unit had photographed approximately 12,000 feet of exteriors at El Golea in Algiers for use in the film. However, a Hollywood Reporter review of the film's press preview in Los Angeles on December 10, 1948, mentions "the clever inclusion of some excellent camel and desert shots from the producer's earlier French version." A photographic layout in Life magazine in January 1949 highlighted the spectacular interior sets. This was Montez's last American film; she died of a heart attack in Paris on September 7, 1951 at the age of 31.