Cast & Crew
In 1930, in the Spanish coastal town of Esperanza, fishermen discover the bodies of a drowned man and woman. As townspeople gather on the beach, Englishman Geoffrey Fielding recalls events from the past six months: In early March, Geoff finds an old Dutch manuscript on the legend of the Flying Dutchman. That same night, Geoff joins an international group of friends in a local tavern where Reggie Demarest is celebrating the first anniversary of his meeting singer Pandora Reynolds. American ex-patriot Pandora is fond of the brooding Reggie, but he is obsessed with her and poisons himself in the restaurant. English race car driver Stephen Cameron, with whom Pandora has been having an affair, expresses guilt when Reggie collapses, but Pandora coolly walks away, assuring Stephen that only she is to blame. Some of Reggie's friends think that Pandora is heartless, but Geoff knows she is not. Several days later, he encourages Stephen to take Pandora for a drive in his racing car, to the irritation of Geoff's niece, Janet, who is in love with Stephen. When the couple stop to admire the view, they see a schooner offshore and Stephen jokingly says it reminds him of the Flying Dutchman. Pandora tells Stephen to marry Janet, but when he insists that he loves her, she promises to marry him if he will push his car, his most precious possession, off the cliff. Stephen does so, and Pandora says that she will marry him in six months. Later, upon hearing what happened, Geoff philosophically says that love is only worth what one is willing to give up for it and answers Pandora's questions about the Flying Dutchman. He explains that, in the legend, the Dutchman was condemned to sail the earth eternally. While Geoff and Stephen are talking, Pandora wanders away, removes her clothes and swims nude to the schooner. Once onboard, Pandora wraps herself in a canvas sail and approaches the salon, where a man is painting. The man, who is Dutch, introduces himself as Hendrick van der Zee and is amused when Pandora reveals her name, as he is painting a portrait of the mythical Pandora. Pandora is startled that the woman in the painting looks like her, and feeling inadequate, tries to ruin it. Just then, Stephen and Geoff call out from a motorboat and Pandora leaves with them, after making Hendrick promise to dine with them the following night. Soon, Hendrick moves into a villa on shore and becomes part of Pandora's circle. One evening, in late August, Hendrick stops by to see Geoff's manuscript, which he has promised to help translate. Geoff is stunned when Hendrick seems to stop reading the manuscript and recites it, as if from memory: In the 17th century, a wealthy captain returns home from a voyage, eager to see his beautiful, young wife. Gazing upon his sleeping wife, the captain is certain that she has been unfaithful and kills her with his knife. When he is convicted of murder, the captain lashes out and tells the judge that he could sail for eternity and never find a faithful woman. The night before his execution, the captain awakens and finds the door of his cell open. He easily escapes and goes to his ship, which the crew is preparing to sail. Falling asleep in his quarters, the captain has a dream in which a voice tells him that his wife was never unfaithful. When he awakens, the crew is gone and the captain realizes that in the courtroom he pronounced his own sentence, to sail for eternity, landing every seven years for six months to see if he can find a woman who will sacrifice her own life for his. By the end of the story, Geoff knows that Hendrick is the Dutchman of the legend and that his friend Pandora is the woman. Just then, Pandora stops by and says that she will be married on the 3rd of September. Hendrick replies that he must set sail on that day and cannot attend. A short time later, Juan Montalvo, Spain's greatest matador, returns to Esperanza, where he was born. Juan had once been Pandora's lover and tries to impress her and Hendrick with his prowess at a private, midnight bullfight. Juan then takes Pandora to the house of his mother, a gypsy who warns Juan to stop seeing Pandora and his foreign friends. The next day, Stephen breaks the land speed record in a daring race, and the town celebrates. At dinner, Janet drunkenly accuses Stephen of being a fool and slaps Pandora. When Janet runs off, crying, Pandora tells Stephen to go after her. The partygoers then go to the beach and Pandora and Hendrick wander off alone and kiss. They are observed by Juan, who becomes enraged when he hears Pandora speak of the deep love she now feels for Hendrick. The tender moment is shattered when Hendrick claims he is disgusted by her flirtation and leaves. As her wedding day approaches, Pandora confides in Geoff, who knows the sacrifice Hendrick is making, but says nothing. A week before the wedding, Juan goes to Pandora to propose, but is so aggressive that Pandora warns him not to solve his problems with violence. Stung, Juan tells her that she will never marry Stephen because she loves "the other one," who does not love her. That night, when Hendrick returns to his villa, Juan is hiding and throws a knife into his back, apparently killing him, then kills the little dog that Pandora had given Hendrick. As soon as Juan leaves, Hendrick awakens and bitterly prays to die so that Pandora can live. Just then, she arrives, worried for his safety after dreaming that he would be killed. The next day, at a bullfight, when Juan goes in for the kill, he sees Hendrick sitting next to Pandora and is so stunned that he is repeatedly gored. Pandora goes to the dying Juan, who confesses that he killed Hendrick and believes that God has punished him. On the night of Stephen's bachelor dinner, Pandora visits Geoff, who she suspects knows the truth about Hendrick. Geoff, who has been looking through his telescope at the schooner, has seen the ship making itself ready to sail. Pandora tells Geoff about Juan's confession and she says that she will die if she does not see Hendrick again. Thinking that it is now too late for her to stop Hendrick from sailing, Geoff gives her a translation of the manuscript and leaves her alone. After reading the tale, Pandora immediately swims out to the schooner, where she and Hendrick reveal their love. As a violent storm erupts, Pandora assures Hendrick that she is not frightened. Back on shore, Geoff still ponders all that has happened as Janet comforts Stephen.
Dr. Hubert Clifford
W. Percy Day O.b.e.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Arriving at the tail end of this trend as fantasy began to segue into science fiction, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) loosely injects elements of the nautical legend of the Flying Dutchman, a cursed ghost ship that can never make port and often foretells of impending death. Much of the source legend here is a combination of Richard Wagner's 1843 opera, The Flying Dutchman, and the writings of Heinrich Heine, which introduced the concept of a captain who can only set foot on land every seven years to find redemption through a faithful woman. (The same idea was later used in two of the films in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series.)
In this case, the Flying Dutchman is actually the name given to the cursed captain himself, Hendrick van der Zee, played by James Mason. His boat moored on the shores of La Esperanza, Spain, attracts the interest of free-spirited American performer Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner), a siren who goads her lovers into extreme acts of sacrifice ranging from dumping a valuable sports car into the sea to suicide. One night while out with her fiancée, race car driver Stephen (Nigel Patrick) and the film's English archaeologist narrator, Geoffrey (Harold Warrender), she decides to swim out to the mystery ship where she encounters Hendrick painting a woman who looks just like her - with the same name. Thus begins a tragic romance in which the captain's dark past becomes a test of Pandora's own character.
Pandora's Brooklyn-born producer-turned-director, Albert Lewin, never became a household name thanks to the fact that he only directed seven films, but the four titles he helmed in the 1940s were all distinctive, stylish entertainments which have inspired considerable reappraisal. His first film, The Moon and Sixpence (1942), gave George Sanders (a Lewin regular) one of his best leading roles in an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's fictionalized version of the life of Gauguin, while his 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray for MGM is still regarded by many as the definitive adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic novel. The theme of a cad stepping outside the boundaries of society repeated again in 1947's The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, with Sanders as the social-climbing antihero of Guy de Maupassant's novel. All three of these films were marked by the striking stylistic choice of black and white photography punctuated with brief but powerful bursts of color, often used to depict paintings.
The leap to a complete feature film in color proved effortless here thanks to the canny decision to spotlight rising star Ava Gardner, and to hand cinematographer duties to Jack Cardiff, who had won an Academy Award in 1948 for Michael Powell's Black Narcissus (1947) and revolutionized the use of Technicolor with the following year's The Red Shoes. (It was Gardner's star marking role in 1951's Show Boat that caused Pandora's release to be delayed by MGM to cash in on that musical's success, making Pandora technically her first appearance in color). After completing Pandora, he immediately embarked on one of the most challenging assignments of his career with The African Queen (1951), which was shot largely on location. The combination of Gardner's beauty and Cardiff's masterful use of light and hue gives the film much of its intoxicating appeal, with avowed Powell follower Martin Scorsese admiring the film so much his Film Foundation along with the George Eastman House embarked on a Technicolor restoration along with two European co-financiers, shortly after Scorsese also performed similar duties refurbishing The Red Shoes (1948).
One of the most unexpected names associated with Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was Man Ray, the American painter and photographer whose innovative work with the Surrealist and Dada movements ran alongside his occasional short films and collaborations with filmmakers like Marcel Duchamp and René Clair. For Pandora, Lewin (an admirer of the artist) recruited him to shoot the film's publicity photos of Gardner (achieved using a telephoto lens from a great distance to enhance her unearthly aura). Furthermore, the artist designed a striking chess set for the film and even created the memorable Pandora painting, which is given a delicious Surrealist flourish when her head is transformed into a large egg. Hollywood's love for Surrealist artists had begun to wane by the time of this film, but the previous decade had seen the wildly experimental short films of the movement (epitomized by 1929's short film, Un Chien Andalou) influencing a number of productions as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound in 1945 (with its Salvador Dali dream sequence) and Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast in 1946. While director Luis Buñuel kept the Surrealist torch burning throughout his career into the 1970s, the movement's commercial prospects had become more uncertain. Thus in Pandora, these elements are handled in an understated fashion, often extending subtly into the production design such as the optical illusions created around Mason during his pivotal "condemned" flashback and the wild beach party which finds revelers and musicians becoming compositional tools alongside half-buried ancient statues.
A contract star with MGM since 1941, North Carolina-born Gardner first gained critical notice in 1946's The Killers (adapted from a story by Ernest Hemingway, who later became a friend of Gardner's during an extended stay in Spain during the 1950s). Already divorced from Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney, she was engaged to singer Frank Sinatra during the filming of Pandora, and the pair wed the year of its release. The marriage caused a press scandal due to Sinatra's decision to leave his current wife, Nancy, though ultimately Gardner and Sinatra's careers and friendship thrived even when the marriage dissolved in 1957. Her reputation as a temptress certainly helped Pandora, which was picked up for release by MGM as the project was independently financed by Romulus Films, a then-fledgling British company which went on to such films as Beat the Devil (1953) and Oliver! (1968).
Stepping into George Sanders' shoes as Lewin's leading man of choice for this film, English actor James Mason had already earned a reputation as one of the screen's most magnetic brooding protagonists in films like The Seventh Veil (1945) and a recent move to Hollywood with Caught (1949) and an unusual turn as Gustave Flaubert for the framing story in Vincente Minnelli's Madame Bovary (1949). After Pandora, he remained extremely busy and became a genuine A-list name in 1954 with the double punch of A Star Is Born opposite Judy Garland and his indelible turn as Captain Nemo in Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He remained in demand for the rest of his acting career, including such highlights as North by Northwest (1959), Lolita (1962), Georgy Girl (1966), Heaven Can Wait (1978), and The Verdict (1982). He passed away in 1984, while Gardner followed him to "the other side of time" six years later.
Producer: Joe Kaufmann, Albert Lewin
Director: Albert Lewin
Screenplay: Albert Lewin
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Production Design: John Bryan
Music: Alan Rawsthorne
Film Editing: Ralph Kemplen, Clive Donner (uncredited)
Cast: James Mason (Hendrik van der Zee), Ava Gardner (Pandora Reynolds), Nigel Patrick (Stephen Cameron), Sheila Sim (Janet), Harold Warrender (Geoffrey Fielding), Mario Cabré (Juan Montalvo), Pamela Mason (Jenny), Marius Goring (Reggie Demarest), John Laurie (Angus), Abraham Sofaer (Judge).
by Nathaniel Thompson
Man Ray: American Artist by Neil Baldwin, Da Capo Press (2000)
Botticelli in Hollywood: The Films of Albert Lewin by Susan Felleman, Twayne Publishers (1997)
Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing by Lee Server, St. Martin's Griffin (2007)
Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Blu-Ray) - James Mason & Ava Gardner in PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN on DVD
Critics looking for literary merit praised Lewin for raising the level of Hollywood sophistication. One of the few dissenters was James Agee, who found The Picture of Dorian Gray dramatically inert, and cited Lewin's over-reliance on direct dialogue quotes from the source book. Sanders recites Lord Wotton's eloquent, acid remarks with great skill, but the movie only occasionally comes to life.
The Moon and Sixpence and Dorian Gray, both B&W films, utilized brief Technicolor snippets for a visual jolt. Both instances involve artwork -- Strickland's burning paintings and Dorian Gray's portrait of horror. In 1951 Albert Lewin produced, wrote and directed the fully Technicolored Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring Ava Gardner and James Mason. The story is ideal Albert Lewin material, a classic tale with roots in folklore and high culture.
The movie was released by MGM but eventually reverted back to its producers and became difficult to see in quality presentations. TV presentations and video copies never captured the film's radiant colors. Kino International released a DVD ten years ago, sourced from a Technicolor print. Good transfers are almost always made from low-contrast positive or negative film elements, as dense Technicolor prints tend to yield poor results. But with the help of Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation and The George Eastman House Kino has remastered Lewin's romantic fantasy, enabling viewers to enjoy the film's beautiful stars in a much-improved presentation.
The original Flying Dutchman legend actually refers to a fabled vessel that, lost in treacherous straits, reappears as a ghost ship and is sighted by other ships in distress. Wagner's operatic adaptation added a romantic angle: the ghost of a cursed sea captain must sail the seas for eternity, until he finds a woman willing to redeem him with her life.
Lewin sets this core amour fou concept among a group of wealthy English visitors to the East coast of Spain around 1930. American playgirl Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) attracts three ardent suitors. The foolish Reggie (Marius Goring) throws his life away because he cannot possess her. Ignoring the romantic pleas of Janet (Sheila Sim), racing car driver Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick) bargains his way into an engagement with the seemingly aloof Pandora. Impossibly haughty matador Juan Montalvo (Mario Cabré) is willing to commit murder to make Pandora his own. But Pandora is drawn to a mysterious Dutchman, Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason). She finds the moody painter on a yacht moored off the beach. Hendrik explains nothing about himself. Pandora seems to intuit that she's destined to be with this strange man.
Albert Lewin's wordy screenplay is a tangle of romantic notions about Eros and death that does the female sex no favors. Pandora Reynolds is neither a vamp nor an innocent femme fatale like Lulu of Pabst's Pandora's Box, and she cannot be held liable because three foolish men go to extremes to prove their love to her. But she does luxuriate in her power over Stephen, who tries to bargain for her love by willingly destroying his racing car. And we sympathize with Janet, whose conventional love for Stephen can't compete with the glamorous Pandora. Lewin's tale may be a critique of the traditional representation of sexually powerful women as dangerous and unnatural.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman certainly paints the fable in attractive colors. The film's evocative images are supplied by ace Technicolor cameraman Jack Cardiff, just a couple of years after his astonishing color work for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Cardiff's location know-how results in impressive shots of the broad beach and a speed trial with Stephen's vintage automobile. One clever effect shot manages an impressive pullback through a bell tower. The exotic Mediterranean provides a lengthy bullfight sequence and a shorter exhibition of authentic gypsy flamenco, both beautifully photographed in Technicolor.
The film presents indisputably gorgeous images of Ava Gardner and James Mason, two of the most attractive stars of 1951. Cardiff's hypnotic close-ups of Ms. Gardner are almost too luscious to be real. Although the Production Code dictates that Pandora Reynolds be a chaste playgirl, she's afforded an erotic nude swim to Hendrick's yacht, and appears before him wrapped in a piece of sail cloth. Hendrick is absorbed in his latest artwork, a portrait that unaccountably resembles Pandora, whom he has never seen before.
The extended flashback explaining the 200 year-old curse on the Flying Dutchman showcases James Mason's despairing, rage-filled speech, in which he defies God and the Cosmos to punish him without mercy. Designer John Bryan's period décor uses ornate parquet floors to create a subtle surreal effect Mason appears isolated in Escher-like patterns. Lewin's attempt at stylization for a pre- jet set midnight beach party sequence isn't as successful. Decadent rich folk dance among Grecian columns and marble statues, and the forced surreal compositions cross the line into Kitsch.
The fault in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman lies between its glossy visuals and Albert Lewin's literary instincts. Much of the story is told through the experience of the worldly-wise antiquities professor Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender), whose narration puts an unwanted distance between us and the ill-fated lovers. Fielding's observations are barely worthy of a fortune cookie: "To understand a single human heart is like emptying the ocean with a spoon." Lewin insists on having his characters articulate what should have remained subtext: "The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it." When Pandora and Hendrick van der Zee finally face their destiny in a rising storm, they take turns reciting poetic speeches about love beyond space and time. A little of this wordy delirium goes a long way, a lesson Lewin should have learned from David O. Selznick's Portrait of Jennie. Fortunately, the powerful star chemistry between Gardner and Mason retains our interest.
Kino International's Blu-ray of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a fine presentation of this favorite romantic fantasy. The video restoration did not extend to erasing tiny emulsion digs and built-in white specks, so the transfer hasn't the spotless look of recent Criterion discs with much higher budgets. Colors and contrast have been boosted for Kino's HD transfer. I don't remember original Technicolor prints having the intense quality I remember from other Technicolor films -- much of the movie has been given a bluish dusk-for-night effect -- but with the exception of a couple of shots here and there the transfer is fine.
Kino's extras begin with a comparison between this transfer and their older DVD release, which was no beauty. An alternate U.K. opening title sequence is next. One of the three trailers included is "hosted" by Hedda Hopper, who proclaims Ava Gardner the most glamorous movie star of 1951. A group of image galleries contain stills and advertising images. The extras conclude with El Torero de Córdoba a two-reel Spanish documentary from the late 1940s that celebrates the career of the matador Manolete, who died in the bullring. Pandora's "Montalvo" is reportedly modeled after this revered figure.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was featured at the first TCM Fest at the Chinese Theater in April of 2010. The screening was attended by the film's continuity girl Angela Allen, who also performed similar duties on, among other legendary pictures, The Third Man and The African Queen. The adventurous Ms. Allen recounted how she doubled for Ava Gardner in wide shots showing Pandora swimming to James Mason's yacht. She also explained that, when Gardner's fiancé Frank Sinatra paid an unexpected visit to the Spanish location, the crew was forced to hide the actress's latest boyfriend... a bullfighter.
For more information about Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, visit Kino Lorber Films. To order Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Blu-Ray) - James Mason & Ava Gardner in PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN on DVD
I pity you not MY doom, but GOD'S!- Judge
The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it.- Geoffrey Fielding
If this be folly, and upon me proved, then let the Divinity which I reject, make what sport He will of my immortal soul!- Hendrik
The first feature film in color for Ava Gardner.
For still photography of Ava Gardner, producer Albert Lewin hired his friend, the famous surrealist artist Man Ray (I).
The tavern "Las Dos Tortugas" shares the same name (but in a different language) as the tavern "The Two Turtles" in Albert Lewin's earlier Picture of Dorian Gray.
Some modern and contemporary sources list the film's running time as 112 or 115 minutes. The film opens with the following written prologue: "According to the legend, the Flying Dutchman was condemned to wander the seas eternally unless he could find a woman who loved him enough to die for him." The film is narrated throughout by Harold Warrender, as his character, "Geoffrey Fielding." The legend of the Dutchman, a nautical tale that recounts the story of a blasphemous captain, was also the inspiration for the 1841 Richard Wagner opera Der Fliegende Holländer. Wagner's opera was based on an early nineteenth century tale included in Heinrich Heine's Memorien des Herrn von Schnabelewopski. The legend of Pandora, which is unrelated to the flying Dutchman legend, emanates from Greek mythology. In that legend, the Greek god Zeus sent Pandora to earth with a box that she was forbidden to open. Pandora disobeyed Zeus and opened the box, unleashing all of the world's ills, but retaining hope, the sole virtue in the box.
According to a 28 July 1941Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M had considered making a musical based on the legend of the flying Dutchman, with lyricist "Yip" Harburg set to produce, but that project appears to be unrelated to the 1951 film. Various news items in Los Angeles Times, Daily Variety, Variety and Hollywood Reporter from 1948 through 1951 indicate that Albert Lewin, who was to write, produce and direct Pandora and the Flying Dutchman for M-G-M, took a leave of absence from the studio to make the picture as an independent production for M-G-M release. A February 1950 Variety news item indicated that the film had joint financing by Lewin and British producer John Woolf, head of Romulus Films, Ltd. Some Hollywood Reporter production charts list the film as a Kaydor-Romulus co-production; it is probable that Kaydor was the same company as Dorkay Productions, Inc., which is listed, along with Romulus, on the film credits.
News items and reviews noted that the film was shot on location, primarily in Spain, with some interiors shot at London Film Studios, Shepperton, England. According to Los Angeles Times, the film's premiere was a benefit for St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles. An Hollywood Reporter news item noted that columnist Hedda Hopper was to appear in the film's trailer. A Daily Variety news item on November 12, 1954 noted that M-G-M May have violated Ava Gardner's contract by selling a print of the film to Los Angeles television station KTLA which was to broadcast it. No additional information on the potential contract dispute has been found. Actress Pamela Kellino was married to James Mason from 1941 to 1964. She appeared in numerous films and television roles under both the surname Kellino and Mason.
Released in United States 1990
Released in United States October 13, 1951
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1951
Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Technicolor Classics) April 30 - May 13, 1990.
Released in United States 1990 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Technicolor Classics) April 30 - May 13, 1990.)
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1951
Released in United States October 13, 1951