Cast & Crew
Luis Van Rooten
In 1802, Baltimore lawyer Albion Hamlin travels to Cap François, Haiti, to obtain the signature of Lydia Bailey, whose late father left his large estate to the United States government. Despite being cautioned that Haiti is in turmoil due to the current political climate, Albion is excited about his adventure. Upon reaching the American consulate, Albion is informed that because Napolean Bonaparte desires to reclaim Haiti, which has struggled for independence, rival forces on the island make it unsafe for any white person--French or American--to remain. Albion is determined to find Lydia, however, and so the consul, who is moving the consulate to a ship anchored in the harbor, tells him that she will be with Col. Gabriel D'Autremont, the wealthy French aristocrat who is her fiancé. After leaving the consulate, Albion is horrified when his young guide, Nero, is killed by men trying to steal his luggage. Albion then reaches the D'Autremont townhome and learns that the family and Lydia are in residence at their country chateau, far inland. Before he can continue, Albion is knocked unconscious, and upon awakening, learns that his assailant was the man who had helped him earlier when Nero was killed. The educated, sophisticated man, who supports revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, introduces himself as King Dick and explains to Albion that D'Autremont is allied with Napoleon. King Dick also explains that the chateau can only be reached through territory controlled by the vicious Mirabeau, whose mulatto followers kill anyone they see, black or white. Albion decides to go anyway, and King Dick, for reasons he does not explain, offers to guide him. King Dick's eight wives use a dark stain to disguise Albion as a mulatto field hand, but they are soon captured by Mirabeau and his men. Albion escapes, however, and reaches the D'Autremont plantation, where he is stunned by the sight of the beautiful Lydia. After removing his disguise, Albion explains his mission to Lydia, who angrily declares that she cares nothing for her father's estate, as he abandoned her and her mother when she was a child. Although he is frustrated by Lydia's refusal to sign the documents, Albion quickly finds himself falling in love with her. Their discussion is interrupted by the appearance of King Dick, who escaped from Mirabeau and pretends to be Albion's servant. D'Autremont, a widower who is devoted to his young son, is suspicious of King Dick's sudden arrival, but lets him stay. Later that night, while the others watch a voodoo ceremony, D'Autremont meets with La Plume, a black general who agrees to ally himself with the French. Meanwhile, Lydia consents to sign Albion's documents if he takes her maid Marie with him to the United States, where her sweetheart now lives. Albion is touched by Lydia's compassion, but is again interrupted from expressing his feelings when King Dick kills the traitorous La Plume. Albion and King Dick flee together, and D'Autremont leaves his family to go to Cap Francois, where he meets Gen. Charles LeClerc, Napoleon's brother-in-law, and his wife, Pauline Bonaparte. Soon, Napoleon's troops arrive and battles rage throughout Haiti as Toussaint's forces fight the French and Mirabeau's men ravage the countryside. When Albion learns that Mirabeau is headed toward the chateau, he parts company with King Dick and reaches the house in time to rescue Lydia, Marie and D'Autremont's son Paul. Albion again stains his skin, as well as Lydia's and Paul's, so that they can travel undetected with a group of black refugees going to Cap Francois. Mirabeau learns of their disguise, however, and pursues them to a deep gorge. Although Lydia, Paul and Marie make it safely across, Albion is forced to jump into the water far below. Lydia is rescued by D'Autremont and other French soldiers, but is distraught to think that Albion died while protecting her. Fortunately, Albion is found by Toussaint's men, including King Dick, and nursed back to health. In town, D'Autremont introduces Lydia to Pauline and LeClerc, and despite Lydia's contempt for the decadent Pauline, the aristocrat is amused by tales of her adventures with Albion. As time passes, LeClerc offers to meet with Toussaint under a flag of truce to discuss peace terms. Lydia is horrified when LeClerc reveals his plot to capture Toussaint during the meeting, while, at their encampment, Albion, fearing that the meeting is a trap, advises Toussaint not to go. Toussaint agrees and sends Albion in his place, but D'Autremont, jealous of Lydia's joy at seeing Albion, requests that he be killed. Pauline demurs and instead orders D'Autremont to escort Albion to the American consul ship. At the dock, King Dick rescues Albion, while Toussaint, learning of LeClerc's treachery, sends in his soldiers. As the battle sweeps through the town, Albion goes to the townhouse to find Lydia, without realizing that he is being followed by D'Autremont. The infuriated Frenchman attempts to shoot Albion but instead hits Paul and kills him. Grief-stricken, D'Autremont holds his son's body as the house burns down around him and Lydia escapes with Albion. Rushing with Lydia to the docks, Albion finds King Dick waiting for them with a rowboat to take them to the American ship. They thank King Dick for his help, and he urges them to return someday, when Haiti has its freedom.
Luis Van Rooten
Adeline De Walt Reynolds
Roy E. Glenn
Carmen De Lavallade
Willa Pearl Curtis
Vince M. Townsend
The Royal Caribbean Singers
Le Roi Antoine
Paul S. Fox
Harry M. Leonard
J. Russell Spencer
E. Clayton Ward
World premiere at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 1952.
The film's opening title reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Lydia Bailey by Kenneth Roberts." Several written titles appear throughout this film, explaining the historical period of the picture. The film is very loosely based on real persons and events that happened during Haiti's struggle to maintain its independence from France. Led by former slave Toussaint-Louverture (spelled Toussaint L'Ouverture in the onscreen titles), the Haitian people broke free of French-enforced slavery in 1793, but internal strife between whites, blacks and mulattoes plagued the country. In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte, hoping to re-instate slavery, sent his brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Leclerc (spelled LeClerc in the onscreen titles), to retake the island. Overpowered by Leclerc's forces, Toussaint agreed to lay down his arms and was eventually captured and taken to France, where he died. The character of "Mirabeau" is possibly based on André Rigaud, a mulatto leader who violently opposed Toussaint, although the character of "King Dick" is entirely fictional.
As reported in September 1946 Variety and Daily Variety news items, in an unusual transaction, Twentieth Century-Fox obtained the film rights to Kenneth Roberts' novel by leasing the property for ten years before it was published, and without having even seen the book in galley proofs. Variety called the lease "the biggest blind deal of its kind in industry history" and reported that the $215,000 purchase price was paid by the studio "on the basis of a one and one-half page synopsis" of the story. [Roberts was also the author of Northwest Passage: Book One, Rogers' Rangers, which was the basis for the hit 1940 M-G-M film of the same name.] Production plans for Lydia
Bailey were put on hold, however, until June 1949, when a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Sol Siegel would be producing the picture, which was "to be shot entirely in Jamaica and England with frozen coin." In November 1950, Siegel was instead assigned to produce The House in the Square, and Jules Schermer became the producer of Lydia Bailey, according to an Hollywood Reporter news item. Also in November 1950, Los Angeles Examiner reported that Micheline Prelle would be playing the title role, while Los Angeles Times speculated that Jean Simmons would receive the part. According to studio publicity, both Linda Darnell and Susan Hayward had been under consideration to play "Lydia Bailey." In April 1951, it was announced that Tyrone Power would be starring in the picture, although a June 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item revealed that Power had gone on suspension rather than accept a role in another "costume" picture.
Although Hollywood Reporter news items and studio publicity include the following actors in the cast, their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed: Richard Elmore, Roz Cunningham, James Adamson, François Andre, Edgar Washington, William Gillespie, stuntman Ezzard Anderson and technical advisor Le Roi Antoine. Several brief songs, sung in Haitian and French, are heard in the film, but their titles and composers have not been determined. Hollywood Reporter news items noted that some sequences and backgrounds were shot on location at the Twentieth Century-Fox ranch near Calabasas, CA. Although the film was not shot on location in Haiti, the studio sponsored a four-day press junket to the island, during which the film had its world premiere, and the country's president hosted a formal reception and ball for the stars and members of the press.
The picture marked the film debut of African-American stage and radio actor William Marshall, who received excellent notices for his portrayl of "King Dick." Marshall became best known for his appearance in the title role of Blacula (1972) and Scream Blacula Scream (1973). Lydia Bailey also marked the screen debuts of Ken Renard and Gladys Holland. According to a modern source, noted dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey made his screen debut in the film, but he was not identifiable in the print viewed.