Cast & Crew
After Polly Peabody tells a skeptical Dr. Harvey that her husband Arthur has fallen in love with a mermaid that he caught in the Caribbean, Arthur joins the doctor for a private consultation and describes what happens: Arthur and Polly leave their home in Boston for a winter vacation at an island resort, and Polly stuns her husband, who has been recuperating from a lengthy bout of the flu, by reminding him that he is turning fifty the following week. Arthur wanders the grounds, depressed over his age, and hears singing coming from a distant key. He takes a boat to the deserted key and while climbing the rocks, finds a woman's comb. Later, at a beach party, Arthur meets Mike Fitzgerald, press agent for the resort, who introduces him to singer Cathy Livingston. Eager to know if hers was the haunting voice he heard earlier, he asks Cathy to sing for him, and her seductive behavior arouses Polly's jealousy. The next day, while fishing from his boat, Arthur feels something powerful tugging at his line, and after a mighty struggle, reels in a beautiful mermaid. He carries the creature up to his hotel room and puts her in a bathtub full of water. When Polly returns from shopping, she smells her perfume wafting out from the bathroom and confronts her husband, scoffing at his story about a mermaid. She enters the bathroom but sees only the mermaid's tail poking through the bubbles in the tub and orders Arthur to get rid of the "fish." However, Arthur cannot bring himself to return the silent mermaid, whom he names Lenore, to the ocean, and after he teaches her how to kiss, Arthur accidentally releases Lenore into the resort's large fishpond. The following morning, Arthur goes to a boutique and buys the top half of several bathing suits, which he brings to the love-struck mermaid. Arthur is greatly pleased to be the object of the simple creature's adoration, and happy that his age means nothing to her. Later that night, Polly implores Arthur to break off all contact with Cathy, promising to end her friendship with suave Englishman Major Ronald Hadley in exchange. Lenore's siren song soon lures Arthur back to the pond, however, and when Polly sees her husband embracing a woman, she angrily packs her bags and leaves. A week later, Polly's car is found near the beach, and Hadley tells Colonel Mandrake and Mike that he suspects Arthur has murdered her. Mike tells Arthur that rumors about the mermaid have been printed in the gossip column of a Miami paper, and Arthur admits that he is in love with Lenore. Mike reports everything to Hadley and Mandrake, and the police are dispatched at once. Arthur takes Lenore back to the key and tells her that he plans to run away with her. Just then, the police reach the key and take Arthur aboard their boat, and Mike tells him that Polly is back in Boston with their child. Lenore's singing is heard by all of the men, and when Arthur jumps overboard, Lenore pulls him into a passionate underwater embrace and nearly drowns him. Back in Boston, Dr. Harvey advises Arthur not to tell his story to anyone who has not yet turned fifty, and shares a story about his own hallucinatory reaction to reaching that age. Later, Arthur gives Polly the comb he found on the key, and the couple makes plans for a romantic evening together.
Ivan H. Browning
Leslie I. Carey
Robert Emmett Dolan
Robert Emmett Dolan
Gene Fowler Jr.
Russell A. Gausman
David S. Horsley
Ruby R. Levitt
Cult Movies in September
Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid
Meanwhile Hollywood offered the more family-friendly option of Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, featuring urbane comedy veteran William Powell (of the Thin Man series) as the titular Arthur Peabody, whose trepidation over turning fifty is handled by his wife, Polly (Irene Hervey), with a Caribbean vacation. One day out fishing he catches a mermaid (Ann Blyth) whom he nicknames "Lenore," as she's incapable of speaking, and finds his crumbling romantic self-worth revitalized by this supernatural creature - whom no one else can actually recognize as anything other than a fish. Multiple complications ensue, with Peabody entreating the help of a psychiatrist to sort it all out and salvage his endangered marriage.
Shot mainly on the back lots of Universal Studios where the Caribbean getaway was simulated with plenty of exotic palm trees and architecture, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid features some striking underwater mermaid imagery which set the pace for future similar films like Splash (1984). These sequences were actually filmed in Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, whose popular nautical attraction featuring a mermaid swimming routine had opened a year earlier in 1947 (and went on to largely inspire a recurring plotline on the TV show Pushing Daisies). Lenore's water dance seen in the film was actually a performance originated by the Weeki Wachee mermaid performers, who double for Blyth's swimming scenes. As noted in Susan Doll and David Morrow's Florida on Film, Southern theaters even used popular mermaid attraction Nancy Tribble to promote the film in a water tank at several engagements!
The Southern aspects of Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid don't stop with the mermaid swimmers, however. One of its most prominent promotional aspects was its screenwriter, Nunnally Johnson, who was even given possessive credit of the film's title on many of the theatrical posters. Born in Columbus, Georgia in 1897, Johnson became a screenwriter in the early sound era after a stint as a newspaper reporter in New York and, after his acclaimed work adapting The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, had most recently penned a pair of successful thrillers, The Woman in the Window in 1944 for director Fritz Lang and The Dark Mirror in 1946, still the definitive good and evil twin movie. His work on Mr. Peabody, adapted from a novel by Guy and Constance Jones, was a lighthearted change of pace before he returned to headier dramatic material like The Mudlark (1950) and Phone Call from a Stranger (1952); however, his most famous work was yet to come with a string of very different Cinemascope films at Fox: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Black Widow (1954), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), and the Oscar®-winning The Three Faces of Eve (1957), the latter two of which he also directed. However, for his final feature film he made the leap to action/war territory with one of the genre's most enduring classics, 1967's The Dirty Dozen. Another reason for Johnson's prominence on Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid is its status as one of a pair of films produced by his Nunnally Johnson Productions, by this time undergoing a name change to Inter-John Productions after the release of the only other released title, Casanova Brown, in 1944.
Though not as much of a household name as his screenwriter, director Irving Pichel also had a diverse career beginning in Hollywood as a frequent character actor (usually villainous) including notable supporting parts in Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1934), the sinister sidekick in Universal's Dracula's Daughter (1936), and Huger in the antebellum drama Jezebel (1938). However, in 1932 he began a parallel career as a director beginning with the breakneck horror/action classic The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and the outrageous pulp fantasy She (1935). His penchant for florid visuals and tight, psychologically trenchant narratives are his most obvious attributes in Mr. Peabody, which he continued to expand in different genres with a notably peculiar film noir, Quicksand, and ground zero for the '50s sci-fi film, Destination Moon (both 1950).
Producer: Nunnally Johnson
Director: Irving Pichel
Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson (screenplay); Guy Jones, Constance Jones (novel)
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun, Boris Leven
Music: Robert Emmett Dolan
Film Editing: Marjorie Fowler
Cast: William Powell (Mr. Peabody), Ann Blyth (Mermaid), Irene Hervey (Mrs. Polly Peabody), Andrea King (Cathy Livingston), Clinton Sundberg (Mike Fitzgerald), Art Smith (Dr. Harvey), Hugh French (Major Hadley), Lumsden Hare (Col. Mandrake), Fred Clark (Basil), James Logan (Lieutenant).
by Nathaniel Thompson
Doll, Susan and Morrow, David. Florida on Film: The Essential Guide to Sunshine State Cinema & Locations. University Press of Florida, 2007.
The Internet Movie Database.
Cult Movies in September Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Mary Astor originally was to co-star with William Powell. Hollywood Reporter news items add Nancy Tribble and Millard Mitchell to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The film was shot on location at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida. Ann Blyth wore an enormous foam rubber and latex tail for her role, and seaweed was artfully draped across her upper body, drawing comments from some critics. The Los Angeles Times review called the seaweed placement "a triumph of the Johnson office over the ichthyologists, and a rather humorous commentary on American mores in itself." Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid was performed on the Lux Radio Theatre on September 6, 1948, with William Powell and Irene Hervey recreating their original roles. The 1949 British film Miranda also featured a plot about a mermaid who comes between a man and his wife, and in 1984, the romantic comedy Splash portrayed a man who falls in love with a mermaid and chooses to live with her underwater.