City Beneath the Sea (1953)

87 mins | Adventure | March 1953

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HISTORY

City Beneath the Sea is based on the legend of the city of Port Royal, which sank into the sea off the coast of Jamaica when an earthquake hit in 1692, killing five thousand inhabitants. According to a Nov 1949 HR article, producer Albert J. Cohen bought the rights to Harry E. Reiseberg's book I Dive for Treasure , which included the short story "Port Royal...City Beneath the Sea," then hired Reiseberg to recreate a salvage dive that he had undertaken years earlier at Silver Shoals.
       A May 1952 NYT article and studio press materials detail how the film's underwater special effects were achieved: actors Robert Ryan and Anthony Quinn shot their diving scenes on an above-ground set, and were made to appear to be underwater by a special effects crew, who later hand-painted air bubbles and superimposed footage of water onto the shots. Universal press materials add that for these scenes, the camera were speeded up to approximate the more deliberate pace of underwater motion. Press materials also state that a crew of more than 100 created a 10,000-square-foot replica of the city of Port Royal. Modern sources state that footage of Reisenberg's actual dive also was included in the finished film.
       Mala Powers was borrowed from RKO for the production. Although an Apr 1952 HR news item adds Kathleen Freeman to the cast, she was not in the released film. In an Aug 1952 article, HR reported that screenwriter Ramon Romero, backed by the Screenwriter's Guild, brought charges against Universal over the onscreen credits, which he felt should have credited him and Jack Harvey with "original ... More Less

City Beneath the Sea is based on the legend of the city of Port Royal, which sank into the sea off the coast of Jamaica when an earthquake hit in 1692, killing five thousand inhabitants. According to a Nov 1949 HR article, producer Albert J. Cohen bought the rights to Harry E. Reiseberg's book I Dive for Treasure , which included the short story "Port Royal...City Beneath the Sea," then hired Reiseberg to recreate a salvage dive that he had undertaken years earlier at Silver Shoals.
       A May 1952 NYT article and studio press materials detail how the film's underwater special effects were achieved: actors Robert Ryan and Anthony Quinn shot their diving scenes on an above-ground set, and were made to appear to be underwater by a special effects crew, who later hand-painted air bubbles and superimposed footage of water onto the shots. Universal press materials add that for these scenes, the camera were speeded up to approximate the more deliberate pace of underwater motion. Press materials also state that a crew of more than 100 created a 10,000-square-foot replica of the city of Port Royal. Modern sources state that footage of Reisenberg's actual dive also was included in the finished film.
       Mala Powers was borrowed from RKO for the production. Although an Apr 1952 HR news item adds Kathleen Freeman to the cast, she was not in the released film. In an Aug 1952 article, HR reported that screenwriter Ramon Romero, backed by the Screenwriter's Guild, brought charges against Universal over the onscreen credits, which he felt should have credited him and Jack Harvey with "original story and screenplay." The parties settled on an undisclosed payment. An Aug 1953 item in Var noted that agents Mark Herstein and Harold Cornsweet sued Reiseberg, Cohen and Universal for $25,000, asserting that Reiseberg made a deal with them to buy his book but then gave it to Cohen. The disposition of this suit has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Feb 1953.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Feb 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 52
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 53
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 53
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
4 Jun 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Feb 53
p. 1709.
New York Times
25 May 1952.
---
New York Times
12 Mar 53
p. 24.
Variety
4 Feb 53
p. 6.
Variety
5 Aug 1953.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
DANCE
Mus numbers
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
Scr supv
Dial dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on stories from the book I Dive for Treasure by Harry E. Rieseberg (New York, 1942).
SONGS
"Handle with Care," music and lyrics by Frederick Herbert and Arnold Hughes.
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1953
Premiere Information:
Cleveland, OH opening: 25 February 1953
New York opening: 11 March 1953
Production Date:
31 March--early May 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
2 January 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2227
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
87
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16096
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Salvage divers Brad Carlton and Tony Bartlett arrive in Kingston, Jamaica just in time to meet their new employer, Dwight Trevor of Farmby and Company. Trevor explains that years earlier, the ship the Lady Luck sank during a typhoon with one million dollars in gold bullion aboard, and if they recover the gold, they will receive payment of $25,000. Outside the office, womanizer Tony is so distracted by a pretty girl that he drives into a banana cart, ruining the shipment that sea captain Terry McBride was about to deliver. As Terry chastises the divers and insists on payment, Brad grows more and more enamored of her, and quickly charms her into agreeing to pilot them to the Lady Luck dive site the next day. After five days at the site, they have found nothing, and Trevor orders a reluctant Tony, who is underwater but can communicate via radio, to give up the search. Before he can surface, however, Tony's hose becomes caught on a rock, and Brad immediately dives down to save him, at the risk of his own life. Days later, Trevor secretly visits Captain Meade, who arranged the wreck with Trevor and who has been hiding out for years under the name Ralph Sorensen. Feeling that the time is finally ripe to recover the gold, the two uneasy partners scheme to hire a diver. Although Trevor pressures Meade to reveal the exact position of the sunken Lady Luck , Meade refuses. That night, Brad and Tony visit local dance hall The Rum Pot, and while Brad mopes because Terry ... +


Salvage divers Brad Carlton and Tony Bartlett arrive in Kingston, Jamaica just in time to meet their new employer, Dwight Trevor of Farmby and Company. Trevor explains that years earlier, the ship the Lady Luck sank during a typhoon with one million dollars in gold bullion aboard, and if they recover the gold, they will receive payment of $25,000. Outside the office, womanizer Tony is so distracted by a pretty girl that he drives into a banana cart, ruining the shipment that sea captain Terry McBride was about to deliver. As Terry chastises the divers and insists on payment, Brad grows more and more enamored of her, and quickly charms her into agreeing to pilot them to the Lady Luck dive site the next day. After five days at the site, they have found nothing, and Trevor orders a reluctant Tony, who is underwater but can communicate via radio, to give up the search. Before he can surface, however, Tony's hose becomes caught on a rock, and Brad immediately dives down to save him, at the risk of his own life. Days later, Trevor secretly visits Captain Meade, who arranged the wreck with Trevor and who has been hiding out for years under the name Ralph Sorensen. Feeling that the time is finally ripe to recover the gold, the two uneasy partners scheme to hire a diver. Although Trevor pressures Meade to reveal the exact position of the sunken Lady Luck , Meade refuses. That night, Brad and Tony visit local dance hall The Rum Pot, and while Brad mopes because Terry is busy with a business meeting, Tony falls for torch singer Venita, whose real name is Mary Lou Beetle. When he sees an audience member bothering Venita, Tony leaps to her defense and begins a fight, which Brad watches calmly until the last possible moment, then helps Tony to defeat dozens of sailors. Soon after, Brad receives a call from Terry asking him to meet her, and Venita invites Tony into her dressing room. Brad walks Terry back to her ship, where he kisses her. Although she does not fully trust him, she agrees to let him accompany her on her next trip. While their romance blooms, Tony, meanwhile, remains in Kingston and urges Venita to return to New Orleans with him. At the Rum Pot one night, Tony accepts Meade's offer of $50,000 to recover the sunken gold, and sails with him to the site the next day. The Lady Luck went down directly over Port Royal, an entire town that sank to the bottom of the sea during a 1692 earthquake and is now rumored to be haunted by drowned souls. The locals, having discovered that someone is tampering with Port Royal, begin a series of voodoo dances. When Brad and Terry, drifting back to Kingston, hear the drums and stop to watch the dance, the tribe surrounds them and warns them not to disturb the waters. They return to town the next day, where Brad learns from Tony, who broke up with Venita after she announced she wanted to marry him, that he has arranged for them to dive for Meade. Brad, certain the dive is illegal, refuses to go along. Hoping to find the gold legally before Tony can get into trouble, Brad then reveals Tony's plan to Trevor. As soon as the sun rises, Trevor, Terry and Brad rush to Port Royal and begin the dive. At the same time, Meade, made anxious by the constant voodoo drums, insists that Tony accompany him that day to Port Royal. They reach the dive site just as Brad finds the gold, and while he is still underwater, Meade and Tony board Terry's boat. After Trevor attacks Meade and is shot and killed, Terry deduces that they are in on the scheme together. Immediately afterward, an earthquake occurs causing a typhoon, and in a panic, Meade slips off the boat and drowns. Tony, who believes Brad tried to double-cross him, nonetheless jumps in to save his friend as soon as he realizes that Brad is trapped by a rock. He frees Brad's hose and the two race to the surface, leaving the gold behind. Days later, Brad, Terry, Tony and Venita prepare to sail to America and be married by the captain on the way. Before they set sail, however, they learn that Farmby and Company has offered thousands for one last dive for the gold. As the men rush to the office, Terry and Venita realize they may have to settle for an underwater honeymoon. +

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.