Underwater! (1955)

98-99 mins | Drama | 9 February 1955

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

Walter Newman

Producer:

Harry Tatelman

Cinematographer:

Harry Wild

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Carroll Clark

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Big Rainbow . Onscreen credits include the statement: "This Is an RKO SuperScope Production." Voice-over narration, spoken by Richard Egan as his character, "Johnny Grant," is heard intermittently throughout the picture. HR and DV news items add the following information about the production: After purchasing their story in Apr 1953, RKO assigned writers Hugh King and Robert B. Bailey to work on the screenplay. Only Walter Newman received onscreen credit for the screenplay, however. Niven Busch was also hired to work on the script, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       Dale Robertson was initially announced as Gilbert Roland's co-star. John McIntire was originally cast in the role of the priest, but was replaced by Robert Keith. In early Dec 1954, location shooting began in Hawaii, using forty tons of sets built in Hollywood. After six weeks of bad weather, which destroyed the sets, the production moved to Hollywood, where the sets were rebuilt and a tank was set up for the underwater shots. It is not known how much, if any, of the Hawaii footage ended up in the final film. One source notes that footage was also shot in the Caribbean. RKO borrowed Lori Nelson from Universal for the production. "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," which was listed as "La Promesa" in the copyright continuity, is performed as an instrumental by Pérez Prado and his band and was one of their big hits. It later became a hit song, with English words by Mack David. Underwater! marked editor Harry Tatelman's first ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Big Rainbow . Onscreen credits include the statement: "This Is an RKO SuperScope Production." Voice-over narration, spoken by Richard Egan as his character, "Johnny Grant," is heard intermittently throughout the picture. HR and DV news items add the following information about the production: After purchasing their story in Apr 1953, RKO assigned writers Hugh King and Robert B. Bailey to work on the screenplay. Only Walter Newman received onscreen credit for the screenplay, however. Niven Busch was also hired to work on the script, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       Dale Robertson was initially announced as Gilbert Roland's co-star. John McIntire was originally cast in the role of the priest, but was replaced by Robert Keith. In early Dec 1954, location shooting began in Hawaii, using forty tons of sets built in Hollywood. After six weeks of bad weather, which destroyed the sets, the production moved to Hollywood, where the sets were rebuilt and a tank was set up for the underwater shots. It is not known how much, if any, of the Hawaii footage ended up in the final film. One source notes that footage was also shot in the Caribbean. RKO borrowed Lori Nelson from Universal for the production. "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," which was listed as "La Promesa" in the copyright continuity, is performed as an instrumental by Pérez Prado and his band and was one of their big hits. It later became a hit song, with English words by Mack David. Underwater! marked editor Harry Tatelman's first producer credit.
       On 10 Jan 1955, in what DV called one of the best "gimmick picture promotion stunts in many years," RKO flew 156 reviewers to Silver Springs, FL, for a special underwater screening of the film. To accomplish the feat, a screen and some benches were submerged in twenty-feet of water, and a glass bottom boat was converted into a projection booth. The studio supplied reviewers with aqua-lung equipment borrowed from the Air Force, as well as flippers, water-proof watches and swimsuits. In her autobiography, Jane Russell noted that the screening was conducted at the bottom of a small lake.
       Another modern source adds that reviewers who preferred to stay dry watched the film through the portholes of six electrically powered submarines stationed strategically around the screen. Russell credits Jack Ackerman as Richard Egan's skin diving double. In early Mar 1955, according to Life , Lyn Jones, a New York model, filed a $100,000 mental anguish lawsuit against RKO, claiming that the studio had pasted Russell's head onto a photograph of Jones in its magazine and newspaper advertisements for the film. Editors at Collier's , the magazine for which Jones posed, however, claimed that Jones's photograph was replaced by another model's, and Jones withdrew her suit in late Mar 1955. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Jan 1955.
---
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jan 55
p. 3.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1955.
---
Film Daily
11 Jan 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 53
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 53
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 53
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 53
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 54
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 55
p. 3.
Life
7 Mar 55
pp. 38-39.
Los Angeles Examiner
21 Mar 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Jan 55
p. 289.
New York Times
10 Feb 55
p. 27.
News Life
28 Feb 1955.
---
Saturday Review
29 Jan 1955.
---
Variety
12 Jan 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Underwater photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Miss Russell's makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," music by Louiguy
"Maria Elena," music by Lorenzo Barcelata.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Big Rainbow
Release Date:
9 February 1955
Production Date:
2 December 1953--late February 1954
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4551
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
SuperScope
Duration(in mins):
98-99
Length(in feet):
8,914
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16825
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While scouring the Caribbean sea floor for treasure, Johnny Grant discovers the remains of a small ship and reports his findings to his Cuban business partner, Dominic Casada, who is manning their boat. Dominic joins Johnny underwater, and together they collect several manmade artifacts near the ship. When they surface, they are greeted by shark hunter Rico Arrera, who has maneuvered his boat next to Dominic and Johnny's. Rico feigns a casual curiosity about Johnny's activities, while Johnny claims he is gathering rocks for a scientific study. Later, in Cuba, Johnny and Dominic reunite with Johnny's wife Theresa and show her the artifacts, which date back to the early seventeenth century. Theresa, who has lived through many failed get-rich-quick schemes with Johnny and Dominic, angrily protests their plan to sell their boat, which they use in the tourist trade, in order to raise money for a sunken treasure expedition. Johnny acquiesces to Theresa's demands, and Dominic apparently accepts defeat and leaves. Once they are alone, however, Theresa yells at Johnny for giving in too easily and hiding his true feelings from her. Dominic, meanwhile, drops by the yacht of an American millionaire but finds only Gloria Warner, the millionaire's distraught secretary. After Gloria explains that her debt-ridden boss abandoned the boat, whose title is under her name, and left her stranded, Dominic convinces her to become his partner. Later, at a nightclub, Gloria and Dominic run into Johnny and Theresa, who reveal that they sold their boat to finance the expedition, and a four-way partnership is formed. Now flush with equipment and supplies, the four are joined on the yacht by Father Cannon, ... +


While scouring the Caribbean sea floor for treasure, Johnny Grant discovers the remains of a small ship and reports his findings to his Cuban business partner, Dominic Casada, who is manning their boat. Dominic joins Johnny underwater, and together they collect several manmade artifacts near the ship. When they surface, they are greeted by shark hunter Rico Arrera, who has maneuvered his boat next to Dominic and Johnny's. Rico feigns a casual curiosity about Johnny's activities, while Johnny claims he is gathering rocks for a scientific study. Later, in Cuba, Johnny and Dominic reunite with Johnny's wife Theresa and show her the artifacts, which date back to the early seventeenth century. Theresa, who has lived through many failed get-rich-quick schemes with Johnny and Dominic, angrily protests their plan to sell their boat, which they use in the tourist trade, in order to raise money for a sunken treasure expedition. Johnny acquiesces to Theresa's demands, and Dominic apparently accepts defeat and leaves. Once they are alone, however, Theresa yells at Johnny for giving in too easily and hiding his true feelings from her. Dominic, meanwhile, drops by the yacht of an American millionaire but finds only Gloria Warner, the millionaire's distraught secretary. After Gloria explains that her debt-ridden boss abandoned the boat, whose title is under her name, and left her stranded, Dominic convinces her to become his partner. Later, at a nightclub, Gloria and Dominic run into Johnny and Theresa, who reveal that they sold their boat to finance the expedition, and a four-way partnership is formed. Now flush with equipment and supplies, the four are joined on the yacht by Father Cannon, a priest and historian. Once at sea, Father Cannon questions Dominic about the relics, noting that one of them could only have come from a big ship. Dominic admits that he bought the artifacts from a fisherman, who had found them in the vicinity of the sunken ship, and scattered them around to entice Johnny. Father Cannon then states that the ship was probably the pilot vessel of a convoy that fled Panama with a gold statue of the Madonna, which sank during a hurricane. Thrilled at their prospects, Johnny and Theresa dive the next day and find a second ship, a man o' war. Later, the group discusses the probable location of the treasure ship and are disturbed when Rico and his crew, Miguel and Jesus, reappear. Rico obviously does not believe Johnny's rock hunting story, but leaves without incident. Dominic and Johnny then dive and spot the treasure ship lodged on a coral cliff. That evening, Theresa, who has already sensed a growing obsession in her husband, suggests that they picnic on a nearby island. Their romantic plan is spoiled, however, when Dominic and Gloria insist on joining them. On the beach, Johnny tells Theresa about his dreams to travel the world with her, and the two happily contemplate a new life. The next day, Dominic and Johnny, a former Navy explosives expert, return to the treasure ship and set dynamite to blast open a sealed door. Although the explosion rocks the ship, the door falls off and stacks of gold bullion are discovered. While Johnny is carrying some of the gold up to the yacht, Dominic suddenly becomes ill and loses consciousness. Dominic revives before any harm is done, but Johnny realizes that the middle-aged Dominic is no longer strong enough to dive. Johnny then devises a plan to pull a second door open by means of a hook and rope and, despite Dominic's near miss, both men go under to implement it. While they work on the door, the fragile ship starts to break apart and Dominic is buried in sand. Johnny rescues him, and once back on the surface, Dominic tells Father Cannon that, before being buried, he felt the Madonna statue and shows him a gold sphere the broke off from its hand. Soon after, Rico and his men return, and when Rico asks to confess to Father Cannon, the group allows him on board, then extends a dinner invitation. The dinner is tense but cordial until Rico finally confronts the group about the treasure. A fight breaks out, but Rico and his men are subdued and dumped on the island. Disturbed by the confrontation, Theresa begs Johnny to quit, but he refuses to give up his dream. The next day, Theresa insists on diving with Johnny, and during the pulling operation, the ship timbers crack and fall, pinning Theresa. When the engine pulling the rope stalls, Johnny surfaces to fix the problem, and Dominic dives in to help. Although Johnny and Dominic free Theresa, the ship breaks apart, and Dominic narrowly escapes with his life. As soon as they return to the ship, they are greeted by a gun-toting Rico, Jesus and Miguel, who were brought back from the island by Gloria. Rico demands the gold, but Johnny wrests a rifle away from Jesus and trains it on Rico. To end the impasse, Johnny offers Rico some of the gold. After Rico accepts his share and departs peacefully, Dominic tells Father Cannon that the statue is lost forever. Johnny then embraces a relieved Theresa, and they all head back to Cuba with the remaining gold. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.