The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961)

127 mins | Melodrama | 18 October 1961

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Writer:

Liam O'Brien

Producer:

Fred Kohlmar

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Editor:

Charles Nelson

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Fred Kohlmar Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The Devil at 4 O’Clock, based on Max Catto’s 1958 novel of the same name, was announced as an upcoming Columbia Pictures production in the 29 Aug 1958 DV. Soon after, items in the 3 Sep 1958 Var and 9 Oct 1958 DV stated that Richard Murphy would adapt the script and Spencer Tracy would star as “Father Matthew Doonan.” On 12 Feb 1959, LAT reported that Peter Glenville had been hired to direct. Richard Day came on board as art director, and locations were chosen in Martinique, where filming was set to begin on 1 Jun 1959, as noted in the 25 Mar 1959 DV. A Var item published the same day stated that Bridget Boland would write the screenplay. Two days after filming had initially been scheduled to begin, the 3 Jun 1959 Var announced Sidney Poitier’s casting. Other actors considered for roles around that time included Diahann Caroll and the singer-turned-actor, Fabian, the 23 Sep 1959 and 11 Nov 1959 DV noted. The start of principal photography was moved to Mar 1960, according to a 5 Jan 1960 DV item, which stated that Marpessa Dawn had been cast in the leading female role. Tommy Sands was also cast, the 14 Jan 1960 DV reported.
       A Hollywood strike continued to delay production. Peter Glenville left to direct the stage play Becket (New York City, 5 Oct 1960), starring Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. The 15 Jun 1960 DV indicated that John Sturges would replace Glenville, and that Frank Sinatra would co-star ... More Less

The Devil at 4 O’Clock, based on Max Catto’s 1958 novel of the same name, was announced as an upcoming Columbia Pictures production in the 29 Aug 1958 DV. Soon after, items in the 3 Sep 1958 Var and 9 Oct 1958 DV stated that Richard Murphy would adapt the script and Spencer Tracy would star as “Father Matthew Doonan.” On 12 Feb 1959, LAT reported that Peter Glenville had been hired to direct. Richard Day came on board as art director, and locations were chosen in Martinique, where filming was set to begin on 1 Jun 1959, as noted in the 25 Mar 1959 DV. A Var item published the same day stated that Bridget Boland would write the screenplay. Two days after filming had initially been scheduled to begin, the 3 Jun 1959 Var announced Sidney Poitier’s casting. Other actors considered for roles around that time included Diahann Caroll and the singer-turned-actor, Fabian, the 23 Sep 1959 and 11 Nov 1959 DV noted. The start of principal photography was moved to Mar 1960, according to a 5 Jan 1960 DV item, which stated that Marpessa Dawn had been cast in the leading female role. Tommy Sands was also cast, the 14 Jan 1960 DV reported.
       A Hollywood strike continued to delay production. Peter Glenville left to direct the stage play Becket (New York City, 5 Oct 1960), starring Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. The 15 Jun 1960 DV indicated that John Sturges would replace Glenville, and that Frank Sinatra would co-star with Spencer Tracy. The filming site moved from Martinique to Maui, HI, and Mervyn LeRoy – not Sturges – was hired to direct, as stated in the 22 Sep 1960 DV. In the meantime, Liam O’Brien replaced Bridget Boland as screenwriter.
       Doubts arose over whether or not Tracy would remain with the project. Although the 5 Jul 1960 DV suggested he had other commitments to honor, a DV item published two days later confirmed that the actor would stay on, as long as he was released by 15 Dec 1960 for filming of Judgment at Nuremberg (1961, see entry). A contrary report in the 16 Sep 1960 DV stated that Tracy was leaving, and would be paid $75,000 of his $275,000 salary, which was to have included a percentage of the film’s profits. The 19 Sep 1960 DV reported another change in plans, stating that Tracy would film The Devil at 4 O’Clock until 31 Oct 1960, at which point he would return to mainland U.S. for promotional appearances in support of Inherit the Wind (1960, see entry), to be followed by the filming of Judgment at Nuremberg.
       In early Sep 1960, Herbert Lom was cast, and Jack Kruschen was considered for a role, as noted in the 13 Sep 1960 and 14 Sep 1960 issues of DV.
       Principal photography began on 22 Sep 1960 in Maui, where some shooting took place in the town of Lahaina. An estimated sixty tons of equipment had to be shipped from Los Angeles, CA, including the “flame-throwing and exploding-spark machines, composition smoke and lava ash (pumped pulp residue from sugar cane)” needed for volcano eruption scenes, as stated in the 30 Aug 1960 LAT.
It was expected that an influx of $500,000 would boost the local economy, an expenditure that represented one-tenth of the entire production budget, cited as $5 million in the 23 Oct 1960 NYT. Lahaina locations included a County Building-Post Office-Courthouse, which stood in for a French colonial governor’s building; a church with an iron steeple, built especially for the production; and a false road with cables underneath, constructed for the earthquake sequence.
       The latter half of production took place in Southern CA, where locations included Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.’s ranch in Malibu, the 7 Nov 1960 DV reported. After principal photography concluded, additional filming, for the final sequence in which the island is completely destroyed, took place in Fallbrook, CA. The 10 Mar 1961 DV noted that shooting had begun the previous week in Fallbrook, where a number of residents had mistaken the noise and debris caused by simulated eruptions for a real natural disaster. Further filming of a forest fire, scheduled to take place on 13 Mar 1961, was protested by locals.
       In advance of the film’s release, Columbia announced a $1.7 million advertising campaign, according to a 28 Jul 1961 DV item. One promotional effort involved Columbia’s sponsorship of ABC-TV’s Evening Report news program for an entire month in the fall of 1961, the 23 Aug 1961 DV stated.
       Dual world premieres at the Waikiki Theatre in Honolulu, HI, and at the Iao Theater in Maui, took place on 5 Oct 1961, as reported in the 11 Oct 1961 Var. In conjuction with the film’s opening in mid-Oct 1961, the 25 Oct 1961 DV stated that Columbia would release a soundtrack album featuring George Duning’s score. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1958
p. 1.
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1959
p. 14.
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1959
p. 8.
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1959
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1959
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Jan 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1960
p. 5.
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1960
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Sep 1960
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1960
p. 10.
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1960
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1961
p. 10.
Daily Variety
10 Mar 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1961
p. 21.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1961
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1959
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1960
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 1960
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 1961
Section N, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
11 Oct 1961
p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1961
Section A, p. 9.
New York Times
23 Oct 1960
p. 7.
New York Times
3 Nov 1960
p. 49.
New York Times
19 Oct 1961
p. 39.
Variety
3 Sep 1958
p. 14.
Variety
25 Mar 1959
p. 24.
Variety
3 Jun 1959
p. 4.
Variety
14 Sep 1960
p. 13.
Variety
27 Sep 1961
p. 6.
Variety
11 Oct 1961
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mervyn LeRoy-Fred Kohlmar Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Devil at Four O'Clock by Max Catto (London, 1958).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 October 1961
Premiere Information:
Hawaii premiere: 5 October 1961
New York opening: 18 October 1961
Los Angeles opening: 20 October 1961
Production Date:
began 22 September 1960
Copyright Claimant:
Fred Kohlmar Productions
Copyright Date:
1 October 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20765
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé
Duration(in mins):
127
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

A seaplane en route to Tahiti with three convicts -- Harry, a white American; Marcel, a Frenchman; and Charlie, an African American -- makes a stopover on a tiny volcanic island in the South Pacific. The pilot deposits his fourth passenger, young Father Perreau, the replacement for aging, bad-tempered Father Matthew Doonan, whom the natives consider slightly insane because of his devotion to a mountain-top hospital he has built for children afflicted with leprosy, and who has eased his frustration with drink. The convicts are recruited to make repairs at the hospital, and Harry falls in love with a beautiful, blind nurse, Camille. One day the volcano erupts and threatens to destroy the entire island. The governor orders everyone evacuated but decides there will not be time to rescue the hospital children. By promising the three convicts parole, Father Doonan gets them to volunteer for a rescue mission while Father Perreau nurses a broken leg. After being parachuted onto the mountaintop, Father Doonan and his volunteers round up the children and personnel and begin the long, tortuous descent down the mountainside. During the trek, Harry and Camille are married by Father Doonan. As the volcano continues erupting, the journey becomes more perilous, and Marcel perishes in a quicksand mire. Later, Father Doonan is trapped on a narrow ledge when a footbridge collapses and Charlie is impaled. Harry leads the others to the safety of the beach and a waiting schooner, but he is unable to abandon Father Doonan and Charlie. He returns as Charlie dies, then waits with Father Doonan until the island is blown out of the sea with an ear-shattering ... +


A seaplane en route to Tahiti with three convicts -- Harry, a white American; Marcel, a Frenchman; and Charlie, an African American -- makes a stopover on a tiny volcanic island in the South Pacific. The pilot deposits his fourth passenger, young Father Perreau, the replacement for aging, bad-tempered Father Matthew Doonan, whom the natives consider slightly insane because of his devotion to a mountain-top hospital he has built for children afflicted with leprosy, and who has eased his frustration with drink. The convicts are recruited to make repairs at the hospital, and Harry falls in love with a beautiful, blind nurse, Camille. One day the volcano erupts and threatens to destroy the entire island. The governor orders everyone evacuated but decides there will not be time to rescue the hospital children. By promising the three convicts parole, Father Doonan gets them to volunteer for a rescue mission while Father Perreau nurses a broken leg. After being parachuted onto the mountaintop, Father Doonan and his volunteers round up the children and personnel and begin the long, tortuous descent down the mountainside. During the trek, Harry and Camille are married by Father Doonan. As the volcano continues erupting, the journey becomes more perilous, and Marcel perishes in a quicksand mire. Later, Father Doonan is trapped on a narrow ledge when a footbridge collapses and Charlie is impaled. Harry leads the others to the safety of the beach and a waiting schooner, but he is unable to abandon Father Doonan and Charlie. He returns as Charlie dies, then waits with Father Doonan until the island is blown out of the sea with an ear-shattering explosion. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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