Cast & Crew
Maria Elena Marqués
A Mexican fisherman thinks he's struck it rich when he discovers a valuable pearl.
Maria Elena Marqués
Enedina Díaz De Léon
Antonio Díaz Conde
Alberto A. Ferrer
James L. Fields
Nicholas De La Rosa
Galdino R. Samperio
Javier Torres Torija
Steinbeck was so supportive of this project that he not only contributed to the screenplay adaptation but also allowed it to be filmed prior to his novel's publication. The movie, a U.S.-Mexican co-production, was released in America by RKO. Though it has a Mexican director, Emilio Fernandez, and Mexican cast and crew, it was shot simultaneously in English and Spanish versions.
Emilio Fernandez is a famous name in Mexican cinema. In many ways he was the father of that industry, and was the first Mexican director to win international awards and acclaim. He was deeply interested in issues of morality and social consciousness, and his films tended to concern themselves with the simple truths of the human condition. "A work is as important as its thesis," Fernandez once said. "If a film does not have social and moral content, a message or an expression that reveals suffering or another condition of the people, it means nothing to me." He also said, "The cinema is rhythm. Life is rhythm. Stasis is death."
Fernandez, who considered himself "more of a photographer than a director," had a beautiful sense of pictorial style and often acknowledged the influence of John Ford which shows in The Pearl. The film's striking black-and-white cinematography won several awards including the Golden Globe. Fernandez also did some acting in Hollywood, giving a particularly memorable performance as General Mapache in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969).
As a director, Fernandez worked with Pedro Armendariz often. A big star in Mexico in the 1930s, Armendariz's sensitive portrayal in The Pearl made Hollywood take notice. Soon he was working for John Ford in The Fugitive (1947), Fort Apache (1948) and Three Godfathers (1948). His last film was the James Bond classic From Russia with Love (1963), in which he played Kerim Bey. Soon thereafter he committed suicide in his L.A. hospital room rather than die a slow death from lymph cancer.
The Pearl was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002.
Producer: Oscar Dancigers
Director: Emilio Fernandez
Screenplay: Emilio Fernandez, Jack Wagner, John Steinbeck (also novel)
Cinematography: Gabriel Figueroa
Film Editing: Gloria Schoemann
Art Direction: Javier Torres Torija
Music: Antonio Diaz Conde
Cast: Pedro Armendariz (Quino), Maria Elena Marques (Juana), Fernando Wagner (Dealer 1), Gilberto Gonzalez (Aid 1), Charles Rooner (Doctor), Juan Garcia (Aid 2).
by Jeremy Arnold
The working titles of this film were Pearl of the World and The Pearl of La Paz (La perla de la paz). The Spanish-language release title was La perla. In the opening credits, John Steinbeck's name appears above the film's title. Steinbeck's novel was serialized in Woman's Home Companion on December 1945 under the title Pearl of the World. It was not published in book form in the United States until after the film's completion. Some of the credits on the viewed print differ from credits recorded in the copyright cutting continuity, which was submitted on May 4, 1948. Ignacio Villarreal, Victor Lewis, Galdino R. Samperio, Armando Meyer and Alberto A. Ferrer are listed in the cutting continuity, but not on the viewed print. On the viewed print, Clem Portman is credited as a sound recorder, but receives no credit in the cutting continuity. Writer Jackson Wagner's first name is listed as "Jack" on the viewed print. RKO re-issued the film in 1954, and it is possible that the credits were redone at that time.
Two versions of the film, one in English and one in Spanish, were made. As noted in Hollywood Reporter, The Pearl was the first Mexican-made English language picture to be distributed in the U.S. According to a modern source, RKO put up 50 percent of the film's financing. Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that in early 1946, three months of location shooting was done outside Mexico City, some in the coastal region of Guerrero, and that, in addition to RKO's Churubusco Studios, other scenes were filmed at the RKO ranch in Encino, CA, and at Universal Studios. The underwater pearl diving scenes were filmed in a tank at RKO in late May 1946, according to Hollywood Reporter. According to a Los Angeles Examiner news item, Steinbeck went to Mexico in August 1946 to put "the final personal supervision on his picture." A January 1947 New York Times item claimed that Steinbeck delayed the picture's completion because he requested that Manuel Esperón, who is not credited on the film, rewrite the score to include more "Indian elements in the music." The extent of Esperón's participation in the final film has not been determined. An August 1946 Hollywood Reporter item reported that José Noriega, "producer of features at...Churubusco studios," had "recently completed" The Pearl. Noriega is not listed in any other source, however, and his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed.
Some modern sources list the starting date of the production as mid-October 1945. Hollywood Reporter commented that because most of the picture was made in Mexico, the final budget for both versions was a meager $400,000. The film's West coast premiere on August 12, 1948 was sponsored by the Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana, according to Hollywood Reporter. The Spanish language version of the picture did not include the song "Huapango." The Pearl won five "Ariels," awards given by the Mexican Motion Picture Academy, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Photography, Best Male Star (Pedro Armendáriz) and Best Character Role (Juan García).