The Guns of Navarone (1961)

157 mins | Melodrama | 22 June 1961

Director:

J. Lee Thompson

Writer:

Carl Foreman

Producer:

Carl Foreman

Cinematographer:

Oswald Morris

Editor:

Alan Osbiston

Production Company:

Open Road Films, Ltd.
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HISTORY

A news item in the 2 Mar 1957 NYT announced that Columbia Pictures had acquired film rights to Alistair MacLean’s recently published novel, The Guns of Navarone. Later that year, a 23 Dec 1957 DV brief noted that Carl Foreman Productions would likely produce.
       According to the 8 Jan 1958 LAT, Alec Guinness was attached to star in the picture, to be shot in New Zealand. Later reports in the 12 Jun and 18 Sep 1958 DV, 22 Sep 1958 LAT, and 26 Oct 1958 NYT noted that writer-producer Carl Foreman, who was set to adapt the screenplay, was interested in casting Cary Grant, William Holden, Peter Finch, John Mills, and Jack Palance, in addition to Guinness. In a 12 Nov 1958 Var article, Foreman refuted such reports, stating that only one “top American star – not, as rumored Cary Grant,” had been cast, and other roles would not be filled until the script was finished. After an announcement that the project was set to be Columbia’s biggest release of 1959, Foreman was swarmed by talent agents hoping to cast their clients. In response, he sent out a form letter asking actors’ representatives not to contact him while the script was still in development, as he “wanted the artists to fit the roles and not vice versa.”
       The 22 Sep 1958 LAT stated that promotional and distribution plans were already underway, although production was not expected to begin until spring 1959. The picture was said to have the highest budget of any Columbia picture, to date. While several contemporary ... More Less

A news item in the 2 Mar 1957 NYT announced that Columbia Pictures had acquired film rights to Alistair MacLean’s recently published novel, The Guns of Navarone. Later that year, a 23 Dec 1957 DV brief noted that Carl Foreman Productions would likely produce.
       According to the 8 Jan 1958 LAT, Alec Guinness was attached to star in the picture, to be shot in New Zealand. Later reports in the 12 Jun and 18 Sep 1958 DV, 22 Sep 1958 LAT, and 26 Oct 1958 NYT noted that writer-producer Carl Foreman, who was set to adapt the screenplay, was interested in casting Cary Grant, William Holden, Peter Finch, John Mills, and Jack Palance, in addition to Guinness. In a 12 Nov 1958 Var article, Foreman refuted such reports, stating that only one “top American star – not, as rumored Cary Grant,” had been cast, and other roles would not be filled until the script was finished. After an announcement that the project was set to be Columbia’s biggest release of 1959, Foreman was swarmed by talent agents hoping to cast their clients. In response, he sent out a form letter asking actors’ representatives not to contact him while the script was still in development, as he “wanted the artists to fit the roles and not vice versa.”
       The 22 Sep 1958 LAT stated that promotional and distribution plans were already underway, although production was not expected to begin until spring 1959. The picture was said to have the highest budget of any Columbia picture, to date. While several contemporary sources, including the 24 Sep 1958 Var, listed a budget of $5 million, the 26 Oct 1958 NYT stated that the picture would cost $5.6 million. The 1 May 1961 DV review cited a final budget of $6 million.
       In late Oct 1958, British producer Aubrey Baring was said to be scouting locations with Carl Foreman in Italy and Greece. While filmmakers originally planned to shoot in Cyprus, Foreman decided against the island due to political unrest, according to an 18 May 1960 Var article, and chose the island of Rhodes, instead.
       On 22 Jan 1960, NYT announced that David Niven would co-star with Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn, with principal photography set to begin on 8 Feb 1960 in Greece. Alexander Mackendrick was attached to direct at that time. Filming was delayed until 21 Mar 1960, however, and Mackendrick dropped out due to a “severe back ailment,” as reported in the 8 Mar 1960 NYT. An item in the 15 Mar 1960 DV listed Michael Anderson and J. Lee Thompson as the top contenders to take over for Mackendrick, and an NYT item published the following day confirmed that Thompson was hired.
       According to items in the 17 Dec 1958 Var, 23 Dec 1958 DV, 8 Jul 1959 LAT, and 8 Sep 1959 DV, the following actors were under consideration for roles or cast in the picture: Hugh O’Brian; Annette Stroyberg; opera singer Maria Callas; and Richard Burton.
       Animation company UPA Pictures was contracted to produce an expositional prologue, combining animation with color and black-and-white film. The 8 Apr 1959 Var noted that the prologue, written by Foreman, would visually employ “the style of the Greek frieze and Etruscan bas relief.”
       An article in the 2 Mar 1960 Var noted that a special publicity unit would operate throughout filming, with support from the Greek Ministry of Information and National Tourist Organization. Olympic Airways acted as a sponsor by flying cast and crew to location, and the film received support from the Auto Club of Greece and the Greek Steamship Line. During production, in a ceremony held at the Rhodes City Hall, Foreman was named “an honorary citizen of Rhodes,” according to a 20 Apr 1960 Var brief.
       Over 1,000 Greek soldiers appeared as background actors in battle scenes, the 8 May 1960 NYT reported, and Rhodes locations included the towns of Rhodes and Paradisi. The Maria, a fifty-five-foot caique powered by a one-cylinder engine, was used on location, and a full-scale replica was built at Shepperton Studios in London, England, where filming moved after shooting in Rhodes was completed. According to a 14 Aug 1961 LAT article, the scene showing the “guns of Navarone” being exploded required a full-size cave that was built outside at Shepperton, and three additional reproductions: one fifth-scale model (six stories high); a one tenth-scale model; and a one twentieth-scale model. Six cameras recorded the explosion of all three models.
       A 31 Jul 1960 NYT article stated that filming, which was behind schedule, was expected to continue through Sep 1960. On 17 Oct 1960, DV stated that principal photography would finally be completed that day.
       A royal world premiere was set to take place at London’s Leicester Square Theatre on 27 Apr 1961, according to a 5 Apr 1961 Var brief. Proceeds from the charity event were slated to go to the Edwina Mountbatten Trust, aiding the St. John Ambulance Brigade, the Advancement of World Nursing, and the Save the Children Fund. Soon after, a preview screening was held in Westchester, NY, on 3 May 1961, as noted in a DV item published that day. Theatrical release in New York City followed on 22 Jun 1961, at the Criterion Theatre, where the picture was poised to break an opening-week record with $80,000 in ticket sales in its first seven days, according to a 28 Jun 1961 Var article. The Guns of Navarone was set to open in Los Angeles, CA, on 29 Jun 1961, at the Stanley Warner Beverly Hills Theater, as noted in a 23 Jun 1961 LAT item. New York and Los Angeles screenings included a short film, Rooftops of New York, described in the 23 Jun 1961 NYT review as “a colorful short recording of the behavior of local sun-worshipers hereabouts in the summertime.”
       The film was a critical and commercial success. It was chosen as the Best Picture of 1961 in FD’s annual poll of film critics, as noted in the 19 Mar 1962 NYT, and received an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, in addition to Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Sound, and Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium). Less than two months after its New York release, Foreman predicted it would reach a cumulative domestic gross of $12 million, as noted in the 14 Aug 1961 LAT. Overseas grosses were also high, particularly in the United Kingdom, where the film was poised to surpass The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, see entry) as the highest-grossing theatrical release to that time, according to the 6 Dec 1961 Var.
       Robert Landry, a former Life magazine photographer noted for his coverage of the Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, was working as a still photographer on the picture when he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 30 Aug 1960. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1957
p. 4.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1958
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Jun 1958
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Sep 1958
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1958
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1959
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 May 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 May 1961
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 1959
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1958
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
22 Sep 1958
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1959
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jun 1961
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jun 1961
Section B, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1961
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 1961
p. 24.
New York Times
2 Mar 1957
p. 18.
New York Times
26 Oct 1958.
---
New York Times
22 Jan 1960
p. 15.
New York Times
8 Mar 1960
p. 36.
New York Times
16 Mar 1960
p. 42.
New York Times
8 May 1960.
---
New York Times
19 Jun 1961
p. 30.
New York Times
23 Jun 1961
p. 19.
New York Times
31 Jul 1960.
---
New York Times
31 Aug 1960
p. 29.
New York Times
19 Mar 1962
p. 37.
Variety
24 Sep 1958
p. 3.
Variety
12 Nov 1958
p. 3, 63.
Variety
17 Dec 1958
p. 17.
Variety
8 Apr 1959.
---
Variety
9 Apr 1959
p. 3.
Variety
2 Mar 1960
p. 11.
Variety
20 Apr 1960
p. 108.
Variety
18 May 1960
p. 12.
Variety
5 Apr 1961.
---
Variety
3 May 1961
p. 15.
Variety
28 Jun 1961
p. 9.
Variety
8 Nov 1961
p. 19.
Variety
6 Dec 1961
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
2d cam asst
Cam grip
Dir of photog 2d unit
Cam op 2d unit
1st asst 2d unit
1st asst 2d unit
2d asst 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir-prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Draughtsman
COSTUMES
Ward des
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
Mus perf by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup chief
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean (London, 1957).
SONGS
Sung by Elga Andersen.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 June 1961
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 27 April 1961
New York opening: 22 June 1961
Los Angeles opening: 29 June 1961
Production Date:
21 March--17 October 1960
Copyright Claimant:
Open Road Films
Copyright Date:
1 July 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20445
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
157
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1943, an Allied force becomes trapped on the island of Kheros in the Aegean Sea. The only possible way to evacuate the men is through a small channel dominated by two huge German guns buried deep in the solid rocks of Navarone. Because the guns are impregnable against air or sea attack, a sabotage team of six is sent to Navarone in a desperate attempt to destroy the massive weapons. Security officer Major Franklin leads the commandos, who include: Captain Mallory, a world-famous mountaineer; Corporal Miller, an explosives expert; Col. Andrea Stavros, a Greek resistance fighter; Pvt. Spyros Pappadimos, a New York--educated delinquent who was born on Navarone; and C. P. O. Brown, a veteran knife fighter. After sinking a German patrol boat, the little group loses its own vessel in a violent storm. The men reach shore with their gear, however, and succeed in scaling a sheer cliff face, the only unguarded approach to Navarone. In the ascent Franklin breaks his leg, and Mallory assumes command. The saboteurs then make contact with two resistance fighters (Spyros' sister, Maria, and a former schoolteacher, Anna, who has been shocked into dumbness by Nazi torture). Despite the aid of the two women, the commandos are captured by the Germans. Andrea tricks the Nazi guards, and the saboteurs escape in their captors' uniforms. As they approach the guns, they learn that Anna is a traitor, feigning muteness while supplying the Germans with the group's positions. Realizing she must be killed, Mallory draws his pistol, but it is Maria who fires the fatal bullet. Mallory and Miller then sneak into the fortress and set their explosives, while the others divert the attention ... +


In 1943, an Allied force becomes trapped on the island of Kheros in the Aegean Sea. The only possible way to evacuate the men is through a small channel dominated by two huge German guns buried deep in the solid rocks of Navarone. Because the guns are impregnable against air or sea attack, a sabotage team of six is sent to Navarone in a desperate attempt to destroy the massive weapons. Security officer Major Franklin leads the commandos, who include: Captain Mallory, a world-famous mountaineer; Corporal Miller, an explosives expert; Col. Andrea Stavros, a Greek resistance fighter; Pvt. Spyros Pappadimos, a New York--educated delinquent who was born on Navarone; and C. P. O. Brown, a veteran knife fighter. After sinking a German patrol boat, the little group loses its own vessel in a violent storm. The men reach shore with their gear, however, and succeed in scaling a sheer cliff face, the only unguarded approach to Navarone. In the ascent Franklin breaks his leg, and Mallory assumes command. The saboteurs then make contact with two resistance fighters (Spyros' sister, Maria, and a former schoolteacher, Anna, who has been shocked into dumbness by Nazi torture). Despite the aid of the two women, the commandos are captured by the Germans. Andrea tricks the Nazi guards, and the saboteurs escape in their captors' uniforms. As they approach the guns, they learn that Anna is a traitor, feigning muteness while supplying the Germans with the group's positions. Realizing she must be killed, Mallory draws his pistol, but it is Maria who fires the fatal bullet. Mallory and Miller then sneak into the fortress and set their explosives, while the others divert the attention of the Germans. Brown and Spyros are killed in the fighting, but the remainder of the group escape to the sea. At midnight British destroyers move into the channel and head for Kheros. As the giant weapons swing into action, a tremendous explosion shatters the entire cliff and the guns of Navarone crash into the sea. +

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

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