Cast & Crew
Theodor Von Eltz
This documentary examines the world's seas and oceans, from Australia's tropical Barrier Reef to Alaska's arctic waters. After a brief discussion of the evolutionary development of the earth's waters and the many ways by which people benefit from them, the film explores microscopic marine life. Footage of diatoms and the tiny crustaceans that eat them is followed by shots of colorful hydras. Next, an octopus and shark are shown fighting each other, a bloody battle won by the shark. The film then describes how sharks are captured by Florida's Marineland using tranquilizer-laced bait and revived by professional "shark walkers." Crab herding and Otis Barton's benthascope, a steel underwater chamber that on 16 Aug 1949 descended to a record-breaking depth of 4,500 feet, are depicted. Footage of enormous seismic waves, caused by undersea earthquakes is seen, along with shots of storm-tossed ships and boats. Various dangerous sea animals, including the twenty-foot long medusa jellyfish and the moray eel, are then shown. The film next examines the fishing industry, from giant crab trapping to sponge diving. After a look at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, with its colorful fish and plant life, salmon of the Pacific Northwest are seen fighting their way from the ocean to their upriver spawning ground. Sea mammals such as porpoises, turtles, arctic seals and whales are discussed, as are marine birds. Footage of a whale hunt then is shown. The film concludes with the question "What is the fate of the world?" noting that if the polar caps continue melting at a steady rate, the earth's waters will rise one hundred feet, enough to submerge every coastal city worldwide.
Dr. John F. Garth
Capt. Allan Hancock
George E. Swink
Best Documentary Feature
The Sea Around Us
RKO bought the film rights to Carson's book and even hired her as a consultant on film footage to be used for The Sea Around Us. While Carson's contract with RKO allowed her to review the script, it did not grant her the power to insist on any changes to the film, a situation that would create considerable tension between Carson and Irwin Allen in the end. According to author Linda Lear in Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, Allen sent Carson the final draft but her response was not favorable. 'Frankly, I could not believe my first reading," she told Shirley Collier, her film agent in Hollywood, 'and had to put it away and then sneak back to it the next day to see if it could possibly be as bad as I thought. But every reading sends my blood pressure higher'.....Carson was shocked that instead of sticking to the atmosphere and basic concepts of her book and presenting the authoritative scientific knowledge of the ocean as she had, Allen's script was full of outmoded, unscientific concepts, presented in a distressingly, amateurish manner. She particularly objected to the anthropomorphism of the language Allen used to describe ocean creatures and their relationships with each other. In her cover letter Carson told Collier, 'the practice of attributing human vices and virtues to the lower animals went out of fashion many years ago. It persists only at the level of certain Sunday Supplements.'
Allen, who went on to produce such trend-setting disaster films as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), was upset by Carson's criticism of his film but an agreement was eventually worked out between them where she agreed not to make any detrimental public statements regarding the film and its producer. While it is true that some critics noticed that the film bore little more than a titular resemblance to Carson's book, The Sea Around Us was quite popular with the movie-going public and it remains a fascinating visual document with unique footage of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, cormorants and sponges, and other seldom viewed denizens of the sea.
Producer: Irwin Allen
Screenplay: Irwin Allen
Photographic Effects: Linwood Dunn Film Editing: Dean Harrison, Frederic Knudtson
Original Music: C. Bakaleinikoff
Commentary: Don Forbes
by Jeff Stafford
The Sea Around Us
The film's title card reads: "Rachel L. Carson's The Sea Around Us." Onscreen credits include a written acknowledgment for the following people, businesses and organizations: Australian News and Information Bureau, Noel Monkman, F.R.M.S.; Crawley Films Limited; Fouke Fur Company; Allan Hancock Foundation; University of Southern California; Imperial Oil Limited; National Federation of American Shipping, Inc.; Marine Studios, Marineland, Florida; Wm. Harold Oliver, Jr.; Standard Oil Company of California; George Tahara; Union Pacific Railroad Company; Wakefield's Deep Sea Trawlers, Inc.; William Francis Whitman; and Dudley A. Whitman.
According to contemporary sources, to make the project financially feasible, producer Irwin Allen wrote letters to the forty people Carson acknowledged in her book, asking for help compiling footage. A January 20, 1953 Los Angeles Daily News article stated that some of the people who were solicited shot footage for free, while others "released footage on a royalty basis." Other footage was purchased outright by RKO. Approximately 1,620,000 feet of 16mm color film was collected from 2,341 sources, according to the Los Angeles Daily News article. The same article notes that Capt. Allan Hancock of the University of Southern California's Hancock Foundation assisted Allen, and significant footage was taken aboard Hancock's "floating marine laboratory Velero." Although the exact date of the first theatrical showing has not been determined, the picture was screened in December 1952 to qualify for Academy Award consideration. The film won the 1952 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.