To the Ends of the Earth


1h 49m 1948
To the Ends of the Earth

Brief Synopsis

A treasury agent becomes obsessed with exposing an international drug ring.

Film Details

Also Known As
Assigned to Treasury, The Twenty Seventh Day
Genre
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
Feb 27, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Kennedy-Buchman Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cairo,Egypt; Havana,Cuba; Los Angeles Harbor, California, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Santa Catalina Island, California, United States; Shanghai,China

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

In the year 1935, following a United Nations-sponsored meeting of the World Narcotics Commission, the U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Narcotics undertakes a crackdown on the worldwide opium trade. Assigned to the investigation is Treasury Department agent Mike Barrows, who is head of the department's San Francisco bureau. Mike is familiar with the ruthless ways of the drug traffickers, having witnessed an unmarked Japanese freighter jettison one hundred Chinese slaves off the San Francisco coast to gain enough speed to outrun a U.S. Coast Guard patrol. A life preserver bearing the name Kira Maru , and a view of the offending captain, as seen through binoculars, are the only clues Mike has to go on as he begins his investigation in Shanghai. There the captain of the ship is tried in absentia and is sentenced to only thirty days in prison if found, angering Mike. Following Mike out of the courtroom is Lum Chi Chow, the Chinese Commissioner of Narcotics, who later plays a recording for Mike of a man talking about the Kira Maru and the 200 slaves it transported to Egypt to plant poppies. Although the exact location of the Egyptian poppy field is unknown to investigators, Lum believes that it will be learned when the flowers are harvested, which must occur five days after the petals fall. Later, while searching notorious drug dealer Nicolas Sokim's rickshaw garage, Mike meets Ann Grant, the widow of an American engineer, who is about to send her young Chinese ward, Shu Pan Wu, to San Francisco. After Sokim fails in his attempt to throw Mike off his trail, he kills himself by ingesting poison. As it is unlikely that the drugs will reach Shanghai now that Sokim, the Chinese contact man, is dead, Lum sends Mike to Egypt, where the poppies are now ready for harvest. There Mike discovers a trail of evidence pointing to Ann's complicity in the elaborate drug smuggling operation. The already harvested opium, it is learned, is being transported across the desert in a camel caravan to Beirut, with $1,000,000 in narcotics hidden in the stomachs of the camels. Mike follows the packages containing the drugs to Havana, where the opium is to be refined before it is sent to the United States. Ann's connection with the smuggling operation appears certain when Mike discovers her and Shu Pan in Havana, but he decides to follow the drugs to their final destination before making any arrests. After watching the opium, which is now packed into butter cartons, being loaded onto a ship, Mike boards the ship for the journey to New York. En route, a fire is set in the ship's galley as a diversion, and the packages containing the drugs are thrown overboard with weights attached to them. When Mike discovers evidence that the drugs were ejected from the ship, he notifies the U.S. Coast Guard, which sends a patrol boat out to meet the ship. Mike forces Ann and Shu Pan to accompany him to the dumping site, where they discover a fishing boat already there to pick up the drugs. A gun battle ensues, during which Shu Pan makes a grab for Mike's gun, thereby revealing herself to be the head of the drug smuggling ring. The revelation does not surprise Mike, however, who has known the truth about Shu Pan ever since he witnessed her strange behavior during the shipboard fire. As Mike anticipated that Shu Pan would grab his gun, he loaded it with blanks, thus foiling her attempts to shoot him. With Shu Pan's arrest, Mike brings to an end a worldwide drug smuggling operation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Assigned to Treasury, The Twenty Seventh Day
Genre
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
Feb 27, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Kennedy-Buchman Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cairo,Egypt; Havana,Cuba; Los Angeles Harbor, California, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Santa Catalina Island, California, United States; Shanghai,China

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Articles

To the Ends of the Earth


Big studio films about narcotics trafficking and drug use were rare in 1948, prior to Otto Preminger's legitimization of the tawdry subject matter with The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). One sizeable stumbling block to the on-screen depiction of narcotics use came via the Hollywood Production Code, which had since its formation in 1934 forbid the dramatization of drug abuse or drug smuggling in motion pictures. The rules were bent for To the Ends of the Earth (1948) after Columbia was able to assure the censors that any depiction of narcotics use, abuse or trafficking would not be exploitative in nature but educational and ultimately condemning. Production was spread out over two years, at an ultimate price tag of $2,000,000. Shot in a semi-documentary style codified by the success of Fox's The House on 92nd Street (1945) and Universal's The Naked City (1948), To the Ends of the Earth follows G-man Dick Powell around the globe on the trail of opium smugglers. The various international settings were the excuse Columbia needed to trot out the gowns of Jean Louis on the backs of actresses Signe Hasso (a Swedish import whose career as "the new Garbo" never materialized) and Maylia (born Gloria Chin and wife of Asian actor Benson Fong).

To the Ends of the Earth had the full support of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, whose first appointed commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, appears in a cameo as himself. It was Anslinger's globe-trotting investigations, conducted between 1917 and 1928 as an agent for a variety of international police and military organizations, that supplied the spine for the original story by Jay Richard Kennedy. Kennedy's shooting script was given an uncredited punch up by the film's producer, Sidney Buchman. The Minnesota-born, Oxford-educated Buchman had gone from being a script reader at Warners to President of the Screen Writer's Guild in little over a decade and his seventeen-year association with Columbia got him branded "Harry Cohn's fair-haired boy." Buchman contributed to the screenplays for Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross (1932), Zoltan Korda's Sahara (1943) and Frank Capra's Lost Horizon (1937) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) before his politics brought him under the scrutiny of the House on Un-American Activities Committee. The former card-carrying Communist refused to name names for HUAAC but avoided jail time on a technicality. Anslinger supplied the filmmakers with a wealth of classified material and granted permission for director Robert Stevenson to film a session of the Narcotics Control Commission at the original Lake Success, New York headquarters of the United Nations, prior to the completion of the UN Building in Manhattan in 1952.

At the time of the film's February 1948 release, critical response was mixed, with some critics feeling melodramatics and "derring-do" overwhelmed the bid for steely verisimilitude while others feared the consequence of the film's attention to the devilish details of drug use. Writing in British newspaper The Observer, C. A. Lejuene carped that To the Ends of the Earth "should prove invaluable to anyone proposing to elude the customs officials in a somewhat exotic way." (A dozen years later, Lejuene would resign from her post in double disgust at Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, both 1960.)

A relatively early credit for Jean Louis, To the Ends of the Earth is seldom discussed in the context of the designer's long and celebrated career. Born Louis Andre Berthault in Paris in 1907, Jean Louis studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and was a sketch artist for the design house of Drecol before he came to New York with settlement money related to a traffic accident. Employed by fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie at her East 49th Street boutique, Jean Louis impressed regular clients Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford and the wife of Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn. A personal recommendation from Joan Cohn resulted in a studio contract, which lasted from 1944 to 1960. One of the designer's most famous creations was Rita Hayworth's strapless black satin evening gown in Gilda (1946). Marlene Dietrich was a private client and Jean Louis designed the flesh-toned beaded gown in which Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in May 1962.

A multiple Academy Award® nominee, he finally took home an Oscar® in 1957 for his designs for Columbia's The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956). Retired after 1973 and partially disabled by a stroke, Jean Louis married family friend Loretta Young following the death of his second wife, Margaret Fisher. He died in Palm Springs in April 1997, at the age of 89.

Producer: Sidney Buchman
Director: Robert Stevenson
Screenplay: Jay Richard Kennedy (story & screenplay); Sidney Buchman (uncredited)
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson, Cary Odell
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: William Lyon
Cast: Dick Powell (Commissioner Michael Barrows), Signe Hasso (Ann Grant), Maylia (Shu Pan Wu), Ludwig Donath (Nicholas Sokim), Vladimir Sokoloff (Commissioner Lum Chi Chow), Edgar Barrier (Grieg), John Hoyt (George C. Shannon), Marcel Journet (Commissioner Lariesier), Luis Van Rooten (Commissioner Alberto Berado), Fritz Leiber (Binda Sha).
BW-109m.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Jean Louis obituary by Tom Vallance, The Independent (UK), April 25, 1997
The Protectors: Harry J. Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1962 by John C. McWilliams (University of Delaware Press, 1990).
Forever Young: The Lives, Loves and Enduring Faith of a Hollywood Legend; the Authorized Biography of Loretta Young by Joan Wester Anderson (Thomas More Publishing, 2000).
American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra by Ray Carney (Wesleyan University Press, 1996).
To The Ends Of The Earth

To the Ends of the Earth

Big studio films about narcotics trafficking and drug use were rare in 1948, prior to Otto Preminger's legitimization of the tawdry subject matter with The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). One sizeable stumbling block to the on-screen depiction of narcotics use came via the Hollywood Production Code, which had since its formation in 1934 forbid the dramatization of drug abuse or drug smuggling in motion pictures. The rules were bent for To the Ends of the Earth (1948) after Columbia was able to assure the censors that any depiction of narcotics use, abuse or trafficking would not be exploitative in nature but educational and ultimately condemning. Production was spread out over two years, at an ultimate price tag of $2,000,000. Shot in a semi-documentary style codified by the success of Fox's The House on 92nd Street (1945) and Universal's The Naked City (1948), To the Ends of the Earth follows G-man Dick Powell around the globe on the trail of opium smugglers. The various international settings were the excuse Columbia needed to trot out the gowns of Jean Louis on the backs of actresses Signe Hasso (a Swedish import whose career as "the new Garbo" never materialized) and Maylia (born Gloria Chin and wife of Asian actor Benson Fong). To the Ends of the Earth had the full support of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, whose first appointed commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, appears in a cameo as himself. It was Anslinger's globe-trotting investigations, conducted between 1917 and 1928 as an agent for a variety of international police and military organizations, that supplied the spine for the original story by Jay Richard Kennedy. Kennedy's shooting script was given an uncredited punch up by the film's producer, Sidney Buchman. The Minnesota-born, Oxford-educated Buchman had gone from being a script reader at Warners to President of the Screen Writer's Guild in little over a decade and his seventeen-year association with Columbia got him branded "Harry Cohn's fair-haired boy." Buchman contributed to the screenplays for Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross (1932), Zoltan Korda's Sahara (1943) and Frank Capra's Lost Horizon (1937) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) before his politics brought him under the scrutiny of the House on Un-American Activities Committee. The former card-carrying Communist refused to name names for HUAAC but avoided jail time on a technicality. Anslinger supplied the filmmakers with a wealth of classified material and granted permission for director Robert Stevenson to film a session of the Narcotics Control Commission at the original Lake Success, New York headquarters of the United Nations, prior to the completion of the UN Building in Manhattan in 1952. At the time of the film's February 1948 release, critical response was mixed, with some critics feeling melodramatics and "derring-do" overwhelmed the bid for steely verisimilitude while others feared the consequence of the film's attention to the devilish details of drug use. Writing in British newspaper The Observer, C. A. Lejuene carped that To the Ends of the Earth "should prove invaluable to anyone proposing to elude the customs officials in a somewhat exotic way." (A dozen years later, Lejuene would resign from her post in double disgust at Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, both 1960.) A relatively early credit for Jean Louis, To the Ends of the Earth is seldom discussed in the context of the designer's long and celebrated career. Born Louis Andre Berthault in Paris in 1907, Jean Louis studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and was a sketch artist for the design house of Drecol before he came to New York with settlement money related to a traffic accident. Employed by fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie at her East 49th Street boutique, Jean Louis impressed regular clients Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford and the wife of Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn. A personal recommendation from Joan Cohn resulted in a studio contract, which lasted from 1944 to 1960. One of the designer's most famous creations was Rita Hayworth's strapless black satin evening gown in Gilda (1946). Marlene Dietrich was a private client and Jean Louis designed the flesh-toned beaded gown in which Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in May 1962. A multiple Academy Award® nominee, he finally took home an Oscar® in 1957 for his designs for Columbia's The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956). Retired after 1973 and partially disabled by a stroke, Jean Louis married family friend Loretta Young following the death of his second wife, Margaret Fisher. He died in Palm Springs in April 1997, at the age of 89. Producer: Sidney Buchman Director: Robert Stevenson Screenplay: Jay Richard Kennedy (story & screenplay); Sidney Buchman (uncredited) Cinematography: Burnett Guffey Art Direction: Stephen Goosson, Cary Odell Music: George Duning Film Editing: William Lyon Cast: Dick Powell (Commissioner Michael Barrows), Signe Hasso (Ann Grant), Maylia (Shu Pan Wu), Ludwig Donath (Nicholas Sokim), Vladimir Sokoloff (Commissioner Lum Chi Chow), Edgar Barrier (Grieg), John Hoyt (George C. Shannon), Marcel Journet (Commissioner Lariesier), Luis Van Rooten (Commissioner Alberto Berado), Fritz Leiber (Binda Sha). BW-109m. by Richard Harland Smith Sources: Jean Louis obituary by Tom Vallance, The Independent (UK), April 25, 1997 The Protectors: Harry J. Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1962 by John C. McWilliams (University of Delaware Press, 1990). Forever Young: The Lives, Loves and Enduring Faith of a Hollywood Legend; the Authorized Biography of Loretta Young by Joan Wester Anderson (Thomas More Publishing, 2000). American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra by Ray Carney (Wesleyan University Press, 1996).

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Working titles for this film, which was presented in a semi-documentary style with occasional voice-over narration, were Assigned to Treasury and The 27th Day. The film contains the following written onscreen dedication: "A story based on actual incidents from the files of the United States Department of Treasury, to whom this picture is gratefully dedicated." According to May 14, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Sidney Buchman took over direction of the picture when Robert Stevenson fell ill, and when Stevenson left for London to fulfill a prior commitment to Alexander Korda. A January 1947 Box Office article indicates that the film was made with the approval of Treasury Department Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, who portrayed himself in the film.
       According to an August 1946 Los Angeles Times news item, business tycoon Jay Richard Kennedy sold his original story to Columbia for $100,000. A October 13, 1946 Los Angeles Times article notes that Kennedy was inspired to write his story after learning about the international drug trade from Harry J. Anslinger. Contemporary news items noted that, in an unprecedented action, the PCA amended clauses prohibiting the detailed portrayal of drugs in film to accomodate this picture. The Los Angeles Times article credits Kennedy and other "highly placed persons in the government" with having persuaded the PCA to amend its restrictions on such a picture.
       According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Production Code's provision concerning drugs, which stipulated that "illegal drug traffic must never be presented," was later amended to allow "the illegal drug traffic to be presented provided it does not stimulate curiousity concerning the use of or traffic in such drugs and provided that there shall be no scenes approved which show the use of illegal drugs or their effects in detail."
       To the Ends of the Earth marked the film debut of Maylia, formerly known as Gloria Chinn, who was the wife of Chinese actor Benson Fong. Although a studio publicity item dated August 4, 1947 reported that Dick Powell's personal houseboy, Dick Watanabe, was set for a role in the picture, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Some background footage was filmed in Shanghai, Cairo, Havana and New York. Studio publicity material indicates that the scene in which one hundred Chinese slaves are sent to their deaths in the Pacific Ocean was filmed in the Santa Catalina Island Channel, off the coast of southern California. Publicity material also notes that the marine gun fight sequence, which was directed by Larry Butler, was filmed in the Los Angeles Harbor. The Variety review indicates that the final cost of the film was approximately $2,000,000. Although studio records indicate that filming was completed on February 19, 1947, Hollywood Reporter production charts suggest that production lasted until 23 May. Dick Powell and Signe Hasso recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on May 23, 1949.