A High Wind in Jamaica


2h 15m 1965
A High Wind in Jamaica

Brief Synopsis

When a pirate attacks a ship, he finds seven children, survivors from that attack, stowed away on his own ship and he must figure out what to do with them.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 26 May 1965
Production Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Jamaica; England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (London, 1929).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 15m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

After a hurricane strikes Jamaica in 1870, the Thorntons are convinced that their five children--Emily, John, Rachel, Edward, and Laura--must leave for England in order to receive a proper education. Along with two Creole children, they set sail, but their ship is captured by pirates, and the children are accidentally locked in the hold where they are playing. Juan Chavez, commander of the pirate ship, becomes fond of the children (particularly Emily), but the crew believes them to be an ill omen, so Chavez sails for Tampico, hoping to leave the children with Rosa, madam of a local whorehouse. Upon arriving, however, Rosa warns Chavez that the authorities are searching for him, and after John slips and falls to his death, the pirates leave with the remaining children. When Chavez refuses to attack a Dutch vessel because the children are on board, the pirates mutiny and capture the Dutch captain. The Dutchman approaches Emily with a knife, asking her to cut his bonds, and in panic she kills him. Later, the pirates are captured by a British ship and brought to trial. Under strenuous questioning, Emily blames Chavez and his men for the accidental death of her brother and for the murder of the Dutch captain, which she herself committed. The pirates are subsequently hanged, and the children enter school.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 26 May 1965
Production Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Jamaica; England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (London, 1929).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 15m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

A High Wind in Jamaica


A forgotten gem combining high-seas adventure with a psychologically probing look at children in traumatic circumstances, this 1965 film failed at the box office when it debuted to mixed reviews. Over time, however, critics have rediscovered it, with high praise for director Alexander Mackendrick's realistic depiction of childhood and Anthony Quinn's rousing performance as the pirate captain.

The film follows a group of five children whose parents decide to send them from their home in 19th-century Jamaica to the more civilized world of Great Britain. When pirates attack the ship, they take the children captive. The pirate captain (Quinn) and his first mate (James Coburn) take a liking to the children, particularly Emily (Deborah Baxter), and they decide to drop them off in Tampico where the local madam (Lila Kedrova) will keep them safe. Once there, however, the pirates learn they are being pursued for the children's murders. That should be an easy situation to rectify until one of the children falls from a window and dies.

Welsh writer Richard Hughes published The Innocent Voyage in the U.S. in 1929 but changed the title to A High Wind in Jamaica for its British publication a few months later. The American publishers changed their title to match the British version. The tale of children taken captive by pirates received mixed reviews at first. Many critics were horrified at its depictions of the children's sexual abuse and madness, while others praised it for challenging Victorian myths of childhood innocence. Over time, it has become a highly respected work, ranked 71st in the Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Some have even called it an influence on William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

In 1943, playwright Paul Osborn dramatized the work, using the original title. The Broadway production was not a success, lasting only 40 performances. Oscar Homolka starred as the pirate captain, and Dean and Guy Stockwell played two of the children. James Mason was particularly keen on filming the piece and convinced 20th Century-Fox to buy the rights in the 1950s. Despite the book's adult content, the studio saw it as a light-hearted pirate romp, so Mason left the production. Nunnally Johnson wrote a screenplay along those lines, but it remained unfilmed for years. At one point, producer Jerry Wald signed John and Hayley Mills for the film, but Wald's death put the production on indefinite hold.

In 1964, the studio finally got the production moving with Quinn, by then an international star after the success of Zorba the Greek (1964). American-born British director Mackendrick was picked to direct on the strength of his 1963 adventure A Boy Ten Feet Tall (British title Sammy Going South) about a young orphan who grows up during a 5,000 mile trip to find his only surviving family member in South Africa. Mackendrick was excited to work on an adaptation of Hughes' novel but was horrified when he read the script. He approached Quinn about his concerns, and the star used his box-office clout to convince the studio to take a more serious approach to the material.

For the screenplay, Mackendrick turned to Denis Cannan, with whom he had worked on A Boy Ten Feet Tall, along with Canadian screenwriter Stanley Mann and British playwright Ronald Harwood. They created a much deeper work in line with Hughes' original. Mackendrick shot location footage around Jamaica and interiors at Pinewood Studios in England. To play the first mate who, with Quinn, bonds with the children, he cast Coburn, who had made a name for himself in The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). Russian actress Kedrova re-teamed with Quinn, her leading man from Zorba the Greek, for which she had won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; German actor Gert Frobe, who would score a hit the same year playing the title role in Goldfinger, took a supporting role as a lecherous Dutch sea captain captured by the pirates. Notable among the children was future novelist Martin Amis, making his only film appearance at the age of 16.

Despite beautiful cinematography by Douglas Slocombe and a score by harmonica legend Larry Adler, Fox was not happy with the finished product. They cut the film by 25 minutes, much to Mackendrick's dismay. As a result, some contemporary reviewers found the picture muddled. Variety complained that it was "a curious mixture of high melodrama and light overtones." More recent critics, however, have hailed the picture as a lost treasure. Time Out called it "pure cinema and pure entertainment, with comedy and tragedy ironically balanced in the combination of childhood dreams and adult dread."

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Producer: John Croydon, Clifford Parkes, Tom Pevsner
Screenplay: Stanley Mann, Ronald Harwood, Denis Cannan
Based on the novel by Richard Hughes
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Score: Larry Adler
Cast: Anthony Quinn (Chavez), James Coburn (Zac), Dennis Price (Mathias), Lila Kedrova (Rosa), Nigel Davenport (Frederick Thornton), Isabel Dean (Alice Thornton), Gert Frobe (Dutch Captain)

By Frank Miller
A High Wind In Jamaica

A High Wind in Jamaica

A forgotten gem combining high-seas adventure with a psychologically probing look at children in traumatic circumstances, this 1965 film failed at the box office when it debuted to mixed reviews. Over time, however, critics have rediscovered it, with high praise for director Alexander Mackendrick's realistic depiction of childhood and Anthony Quinn's rousing performance as the pirate captain. The film follows a group of five children whose parents decide to send them from their home in 19th-century Jamaica to the more civilized world of Great Britain. When pirates attack the ship, they take the children captive. The pirate captain (Quinn) and his first mate (James Coburn) take a liking to the children, particularly Emily (Deborah Baxter), and they decide to drop them off in Tampico where the local madam (Lila Kedrova) will keep them safe. Once there, however, the pirates learn they are being pursued for the children's murders. That should be an easy situation to rectify until one of the children falls from a window and dies. Welsh writer Richard Hughes published The Innocent Voyage in the U.S. in 1929 but changed the title to A High Wind in Jamaica for its British publication a few months later. The American publishers changed their title to match the British version. The tale of children taken captive by pirates received mixed reviews at first. Many critics were horrified at its depictions of the children's sexual abuse and madness, while others praised it for challenging Victorian myths of childhood innocence. Over time, it has become a highly respected work, ranked 71st in the Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Some have even called it an influence on William Golding's Lord of the Flies. In 1943, playwright Paul Osborn dramatized the work, using the original title. The Broadway production was not a success, lasting only 40 performances. Oscar Homolka starred as the pirate captain, and Dean and Guy Stockwell played two of the children. James Mason was particularly keen on filming the piece and convinced 20th Century-Fox to buy the rights in the 1950s. Despite the book's adult content, the studio saw it as a light-hearted pirate romp, so Mason left the production. Nunnally Johnson wrote a screenplay along those lines, but it remained unfilmed for years. At one point, producer Jerry Wald signed John and Hayley Mills for the film, but Wald's death put the production on indefinite hold. In 1964, the studio finally got the production moving with Quinn, by then an international star after the success of Zorba the Greek (1964). American-born British director Mackendrick was picked to direct on the strength of his 1963 adventure A Boy Ten Feet Tall (British title Sammy Going South) about a young orphan who grows up during a 5,000 mile trip to find his only surviving family member in South Africa. Mackendrick was excited to work on an adaptation of Hughes' novel but was horrified when he read the script. He approached Quinn about his concerns, and the star used his box-office clout to convince the studio to take a more serious approach to the material. For the screenplay, Mackendrick turned to Denis Cannan, with whom he had worked on A Boy Ten Feet Tall, along with Canadian screenwriter Stanley Mann and British playwright Ronald Harwood. They created a much deeper work in line with Hughes' original. Mackendrick shot location footage around Jamaica and interiors at Pinewood Studios in England. To play the first mate who, with Quinn, bonds with the children, he cast Coburn, who had made a name for himself in The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). Russian actress Kedrova re-teamed with Quinn, her leading man from Zorba the Greek, for which she had won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; German actor Gert Frobe, who would score a hit the same year playing the title role in Goldfinger, took a supporting role as a lecherous Dutch sea captain captured by the pirates. Notable among the children was future novelist Martin Amis, making his only film appearance at the age of 16. Despite beautiful cinematography by Douglas Slocombe and a score by harmonica legend Larry Adler, Fox was not happy with the finished product. They cut the film by 25 minutes, much to Mackendrick's dismay. As a result, some contemporary reviewers found the picture muddled. Variety complained that it was "a curious mixture of high melodrama and light overtones." More recent critics, however, have hailed the picture as a lost treasure. Time Out called it "pure cinema and pure entertainment, with comedy and tragedy ironically balanced in the combination of childhood dreams and adult dread." Director: Alexander Mackendrick Producer: John Croydon, Clifford Parkes, Tom Pevsner Screenplay: Stanley Mann, Ronald Harwood, Denis Cannan Based on the novel by Richard Hughes Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe Score: Larry Adler Cast: Anthony Quinn (Chavez), James Coburn (Zac), Dennis Price (Mathias), Lila Kedrova (Rosa), Nigel Davenport (Frederick Thornton), Isabel Dean (Alice Thornton), Gert Frobe (Dutch Captain) By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Copyright length: 135 min. Filmed in Jamaica and England. Opened in London in May 1965.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer May 26, 1965

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer May 26, 1965