Captain John Smith and Pocahontas


1h 15m 1953
Captain John Smith and Pocahontas

Brief Synopsis

The legendary Indian princess saves a British soldier from execution and follows him to England.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Nov 20, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Eclipse Films, Inc.; Reliance Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles, CA., United States; Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Path├ęcolor)
Film Length
6,820ft

Synopsis

English explorer Captain John Smith, founder of the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, is summoned to the chambers of King James I to explain the disturbing reports coming out of the colony. Smith explains the situation by telling the king all about the colony, beginning with his arrival there in 1607: While living among the early settlers of Jamestown, Smith is falsely accused of mutiny, arrested and ordered to return to England by Edward Wingfield. Wingfield believes that Smith's presence in Virginia will spoil his plans to turn the colony into a base for privateers. Davis, one of the many disillusioned colonists at Jamestown, expresses the belief shared by many others that they came from England not to be "grubbers of the soil and make friends with the Indians," but to seek gold and fortunes. Smith is put on a ship bound for England, but he manages to escape and swim back to shore. As soon as he arrives on land, however, Smith encounters an Indian war party about to attack Jamestown. After killing one of the warriors, Smith races to the colony to warn the others. Although his warning gives the colonists enough time to prepare for the attack, they lose many men and much of their provisions in the battle. Soon after Smith is elected leader of the colonists, a position he must share with Wingfield, he leaves on an expedition into the wilderness with two of his allies, John Rolfe and Fleming, hoping to make peace with Indian chief Powhatan. En route, the men meet three Indian maids swimming in a pond, including Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. Smith falls instantly in love with Pocahontas, but she runs away when he tries to give her a gift. Smith and his companions later meet Nantaquas, the son of Powhatan, who takes them to his father. Powhatan, however, believes that all white men are untrustworthy and orders their immediate beheading. Pocahontas, unable to bear the sight of Smith's execution, saves his life by throwing herself on him just as Opechanco is about to kill him. Pocahontas then insists that Smith marry her as a way to ensure that the peace will be kept. While Smith, Pocahontas and the others make their way back to Jamestown, Wingfield and his allies, Davis and Turnbull, decide to take over the colony so that they can keep their newly discovered gold. The peace between the colonists and the Indians is jeopardized when Opechanco is caught trying to steal a gun from the colonists' stockade. Opechanco is imprisoned, but Wingfield and Davis release him and, in an attempt to spoil the peace, deliver hundreds of the colonists' guns to the Indians. Davis later kills Macklin, a settler who threatened to tell Smith about the gold, and plants Nantaquas' knife in the man's back. In exchange for the weapons, the newly armed braves then engage the colonists in a battle planned by Wingfield. Soon after the war party is called off, Smith sets a trap for Wingfield by announcing that the gold found nearby is Fool's Gold. Wingfield falls for the trap, and Smith defeats him. Badly hurt in a fight with Wingfield, Smith is put aboard a ship sailing for England. Realizing that Jamestown needs Pocahontas' leadership to survive, Smith tells her that he is about to die and leaves her behind to marry Rolfe. Arriving safely in England, Smith makes a full recovery and finishes telling the story of Jamestown. The king then bestows his gratitude upon Smith, and the adventurer prepares for his next mission.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Nov 20, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Eclipse Films, Inc.; Reliance Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles, CA., United States; Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Path├ęcolor)
Film Length
6,820ft

Articles

Captain John Smith and Pocahantas


When one thinks about the 1950s B picture, one typically imagines sci-fi films with foam-rubber aliens, Westerns with third-tier stars, or hard-boiled crime pictures that are gritty more by economic circumstance than by design. In reality, midcentury poverty row filmmakers tackled virtually every genre, even those that seemed to challenge their budgetary means.

Written and produced by the team of Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen, and directed by Lew Landers--all of whom enjoyed long careers on the low-rent side of Hollywood--Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953) is a departure from these clearly-defined genres, and shows that the "Kings of the Bs" were more ambitious than they are often given credit for being.

The historic record of Smith's relationship with the Native American princess is sketchy at best, since the details of Smith's own account changed over the course of many retellings. Even if many of the facts remain unverified, the story has been the bedrock of elementary school textbooks, serving a milestone in the settling of the New World, as well as a romantic tale of love conquering all.

Acknowledging that the Smith and Pocahontas story had already been exaggerated and romanticized through the years, the filmmakers preface the film as "A Legend," and thus absolve themselves of the obligation of historical accuracy. The story unfolds as Smith faces a tribunal to testify about his experiences as leader of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown from 1608-1609, to clarify whether he is "the worst rogue in our kingdom" or "the boldest adventurer."

Though encouraged by his fellow settlers to oppress the Native Americans and scour the land for gold, Smith has more long-term goals in mind, attempting to befriend the "naturals" and teaching his men how to conservatively farm the land. Smith's philosophy raises the ire of his rival, Wingfield (James Seay), who considers himself "a gentleman, not an adventurer," but quickly proves himself to be neither. When the settlers are attacked by the locals (in the style of the Hollywood Injun of the wild West), Smith assumes leadership of the settlement and orders the construction of a stockade, and leads a peace-seeking delegation to meet Chief Powhatan (Douglass Dumbrille). En route, Smith encounters Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas (Jody Lawrance). She befriends the white settler and later--as every elementary school student remembers--saves Smith from execution by offering to marry him. "Let the white skin's life be spared!" decrees the chief.

Pocahontas's independent streak causes her to butt heads with Smith but she eventually earns his respect and affection. Wingfield's mistreatment of the naturals stirs up tensions between the Native Americans and the settlers, threatening the tentative peace that Smith had so recently forged. After defending the stockade from a devastating attack, Smith contemplates a return to England, raising the dramatic question of whether he and Pocahontas will live together in the New World in happiness, or separate from one another for the sake of the peace between the two nations.

As a director, Lew Landers (1901-1962) is best-known for films such as the Karloff/Lugosi vehicle The Raven (1935) and The Mask of Dijon (1946, starring Erich von Stroheim). He began his career as an actor in the silent era, and ended it as a prolific director of TV Western, crime, and adventure series.

Pollexfen (1908-2003) and Wisberg (1909-1990) had a long partnership, collaborating on such iconic B pictures as Edgar G. Ulmer's The Man from Planet X (1951) and E.A. Dupont's The Neanderthal Man (1953). But, as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas proves, they were not bound to the horror and sci-fi genres. During the 1950s, they wrote and produced a number of low-budget swashbuckler films -- such as Lady in the Iron Mask (1952), Sword of Venus (1953), and Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl (1954) -- a genre that has not aged as gracefully as the others, and has failed to win over new generations of viewers.

Pollexfen and Wisberg's partnership ended with 1955's Son of Sinbad, but both continued their careers in the middle depths, neither of them rising to A-picture prominence. Wisberg's final film as writer was the comedy spoof Hercules in New York (1969), which is notable for introducing film audiences to Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Strong (who later dropped the stage name in favor of his birth name: Schwarzenegger). Pollexfen worked less frequently than Wisberg, writing and producing only a handful of films in the decade that followed Captain John Smith, including another Ulmer picture, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957).

Character actor Alan Hale, Jr. occupies a minor supporting role in the film, as one of Smith's more loyal followers. Though he no doubt established his modest career on the name recognition of his father, Alan Hale, the fame of the younger Hale would eventually eclipse that of the elder, as he became a weekly household presence as Jonas Grumby (aka "The Skipper") on TV's Gilligan's Island (1964-1967).

As old-fashioned as it may seem, the romance of Smith and Pocahontas is a dramatic chestnut that endures to the present. It has been regularly revisited through the years, recently in the Disney animated Pocahontas (1995) and Terrence Malick's The New World (2005), which attempted to retell the story in a context of absolute authenticity.

Producers: Jack Pollexfen, Aubrey Wisberg
Director: Lew Landers
Screenplay: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen (original screenplay)
Cinematography: Ellis Carter
Art Direction: Ted Holsopple
Music: Albert Glasser
Film Editing: Fred Feitshans
Cast: Anthony Dexter (Capt. John Smith), Jody Lawrence (Pocahontas), Alan Hale, Jr. (Fleming), Robert Clarke (Rolfe), Stuart Randall (Opechanco), James Seay (Wingfield), Philip Van Zandt (Davis), Shepard Menken (Nantaquas), Douglas Dumbrille (Powhatan), Anthony Eustrel (King James).
C-77m.

by Bret Wood
Captain John Smith And Pocahantas

Captain John Smith and Pocahantas

When one thinks about the 1950s B picture, one typically imagines sci-fi films with foam-rubber aliens, Westerns with third-tier stars, or hard-boiled crime pictures that are gritty more by economic circumstance than by design. In reality, midcentury poverty row filmmakers tackled virtually every genre, even those that seemed to challenge their budgetary means. Written and produced by the team of Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen, and directed by Lew Landers--all of whom enjoyed long careers on the low-rent side of Hollywood--Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953) is a departure from these clearly-defined genres, and shows that the "Kings of the Bs" were more ambitious than they are often given credit for being. The historic record of Smith's relationship with the Native American princess is sketchy at best, since the details of Smith's own account changed over the course of many retellings. Even if many of the facts remain unverified, the story has been the bedrock of elementary school textbooks, serving a milestone in the settling of the New World, as well as a romantic tale of love conquering all. Acknowledging that the Smith and Pocahontas story had already been exaggerated and romanticized through the years, the filmmakers preface the film as "A Legend," and thus absolve themselves of the obligation of historical accuracy. The story unfolds as Smith faces a tribunal to testify about his experiences as leader of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown from 1608-1609, to clarify whether he is "the worst rogue in our kingdom" or "the boldest adventurer." Though encouraged by his fellow settlers to oppress the Native Americans and scour the land for gold, Smith has more long-term goals in mind, attempting to befriend the "naturals" and teaching his men how to conservatively farm the land. Smith's philosophy raises the ire of his rival, Wingfield (James Seay), who considers himself "a gentleman, not an adventurer," but quickly proves himself to be neither. When the settlers are attacked by the locals (in the style of the Hollywood Injun of the wild West), Smith assumes leadership of the settlement and orders the construction of a stockade, and leads a peace-seeking delegation to meet Chief Powhatan (Douglass Dumbrille). En route, Smith encounters Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas (Jody Lawrance). She befriends the white settler and later--as every elementary school student remembers--saves Smith from execution by offering to marry him. "Let the white skin's life be spared!" decrees the chief. Pocahontas's independent streak causes her to butt heads with Smith but she eventually earns his respect and affection. Wingfield's mistreatment of the naturals stirs up tensions between the Native Americans and the settlers, threatening the tentative peace that Smith had so recently forged. After defending the stockade from a devastating attack, Smith contemplates a return to England, raising the dramatic question of whether he and Pocahontas will live together in the New World in happiness, or separate from one another for the sake of the peace between the two nations. As a director, Lew Landers (1901-1962) is best-known for films such as the Karloff/Lugosi vehicle The Raven (1935) and The Mask of Dijon (1946, starring Erich von Stroheim). He began his career as an actor in the silent era, and ended it as a prolific director of TV Western, crime, and adventure series. Pollexfen (1908-2003) and Wisberg (1909-1990) had a long partnership, collaborating on such iconic B pictures as Edgar G. Ulmer's The Man from Planet X (1951) and E.A. Dupont's The Neanderthal Man (1953). But, as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas proves, they were not bound to the horror and sci-fi genres. During the 1950s, they wrote and produced a number of low-budget swashbuckler films -- such as Lady in the Iron Mask (1952), Sword of Venus (1953), and Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl (1954) -- a genre that has not aged as gracefully as the others, and has failed to win over new generations of viewers. Pollexfen and Wisberg's partnership ended with 1955's Son of Sinbad, but both continued their careers in the middle depths, neither of them rising to A-picture prominence. Wisberg's final film as writer was the comedy spoof Hercules in New York (1969), which is notable for introducing film audiences to Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Strong (who later dropped the stage name in favor of his birth name: Schwarzenegger). Pollexfen worked less frequently than Wisberg, writing and producing only a handful of films in the decade that followed Captain John Smith, including another Ulmer picture, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957). Character actor Alan Hale, Jr. occupies a minor supporting role in the film, as one of Smith's more loyal followers. Though he no doubt established his modest career on the name recognition of his father, Alan Hale, the fame of the younger Hale would eventually eclipse that of the elder, as he became a weekly household presence as Jonas Grumby (aka "The Skipper") on TV's Gilligan's Island (1964-1967). As old-fashioned as it may seem, the romance of Smith and Pocahontas is a dramatic chestnut that endures to the present. It has been regularly revisited through the years, recently in the Disney animated Pocahontas (1995) and Terrence Malick's The New World (2005), which attempted to retell the story in a context of absolute authenticity. Producers: Jack Pollexfen, Aubrey Wisberg Director: Lew Landers Screenplay: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen (original screenplay) Cinematography: Ellis Carter Art Direction: Ted Holsopple Music: Albert Glasser Film Editing: Fred Feitshans Cast: Anthony Dexter (Capt. John Smith), Jody Lawrence (Pocahontas), Alan Hale, Jr. (Fleming), Robert Clarke (Rolfe), Stuart Randall (Opechanco), James Seay (Wingfield), Philip Van Zandt (Davis), Shepard Menken (Nantaquas), Douglas Dumbrille (Powhatan), Anthony Eustrel (King James). C-77m. by Bret Wood

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the first production chart for the film listed it as "3-D," the viewed print was not in 3-D and that process was not mentioned in reviews or other contemporary sources. Some reviews list actress Jody Lawrence as Jody Lawrance. Exteriors were filmed in Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles. Hollywood Reporter production charts include the following actors in the cast: Robert Shayne, Norma de Lanza, Taylor Flanniken, John Harmon and Saul Gorss. Their appearances in the released film has not been confirmed.
       Although the characters of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and others were based on real-life figures in history, many liberties were taken in the retelling of the incidents portrayed in the film. The historical record of the events at colonial Jamestown first appeared in Smith's book Generall Historie of Virginia, which was published in 1624. Pocahantas, born ca. 1595, married John Rolfe in 1614 and some time later moved with him to England, where she died on May 21, 1617. Other filmed versions of the story include a 1948 short entitled Captain John Smith, Explorer, a 1955 short entitled Captain John Smith-Founder of Virginia and the 1995 Walt Disney Pictures animated feature Pocahantas.