Green Mansions (1959)

104 mins | Drama | April 1959

Director:

Mel Ferrer

Producer:

Edmund Grainger

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

William A. Horning, Preston Ames

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The following prologue and acknowledgment appear after the opening credits: “Nearly fifty years ago, a young naturalist, W. H. Hudson, penetrated the jungles of South America, lived there, and wrote a love story that has become a modern classic. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the government officials of British Guana, Venezuela and Colombia, who made it possible to photograph scenes of this picture in the actual locale of the story.” The film changes the famous novel's desolate ending, suggesting that "Rima" survives the jungle fire.
       Prior to the 1959 production, there were several attempts to film Hudson’s popular novel, which contained elements of fantasy and magical realism considered difficult to translate to the screen. According to Apr and May 1944 LAT articles, in 1933, RKO production chief Marion Cooper bought the story rights, and a screenplay was written at that time for an adaptation to star Dolores Del Rio. The film was tentatively to be shot in a new three-strip Technicolor process. Modern sources indicate that Cooper also considered casting well-known Peruvian singer Yma Sumac for the role of “Rima.” When Cooper left the studio after a change in administration, the project was shelved until 1943 when former press agent-turned-independent producer James B. Cassidy acquired the rights. A 1944 HCN item noted that Cassidy intended to shoot primarily in South America with an unknown playing the role of Rima and possibly Fredric March or Ronald Coleman as “Abel.”
       A Jun 1949 LAT item disclosed that M-G-M had purchased the property two years earlier hoping to produce it with Elizabeth Taylor, but that ... More Less

The following prologue and acknowledgment appear after the opening credits: “Nearly fifty years ago, a young naturalist, W. H. Hudson, penetrated the jungles of South America, lived there, and wrote a love story that has become a modern classic. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the government officials of British Guana, Venezuela and Colombia, who made it possible to photograph scenes of this picture in the actual locale of the story.” The film changes the famous novel's desolate ending, suggesting that "Rima" survives the jungle fire.
       Prior to the 1959 production, there were several attempts to film Hudson’s popular novel, which contained elements of fantasy and magical realism considered difficult to translate to the screen. According to Apr and May 1944 LAT articles, in 1933, RKO production chief Marion Cooper bought the story rights, and a screenplay was written at that time for an adaptation to star Dolores Del Rio. The film was tentatively to be shot in a new three-strip Technicolor process. Modern sources indicate that Cooper also considered casting well-known Peruvian singer Yma Sumac for the role of “Rima.” When Cooper left the studio after a change in administration, the project was shelved until 1943 when former press agent-turned-independent producer James B. Cassidy acquired the rights. A 1944 HCN item noted that Cassidy intended to shoot primarily in South America with an unknown playing the role of Rima and possibly Fredric March or Ronald Coleman as “Abel.”
       A Jun 1949 LAT item disclosed that M-G-M had purchased the property two years earlier hoping to produce it with Elizabeth Taylor, but that she had since outgrown the part. The item mentioned John Hodiak as interested in a role. In 1953 an M-G-M bulletin announced that producer Arthur Freed, writer Alan Jay Lerner and director Vincente Minnelli would be making Green Mansions . A Dec 1953 HR item confirmed the production and suggested Leslie Caron was under consideration for the starring role. In Minnelli's autobiography, the director states that he traveled to Venezuela with an M-G-M art director to scout for locations. When Minnelli discovered a Life magazine layout with actress Pier Angeli posing as Rima, he arranged a test with the actress. Minnelli described the test, which included actor Edmund Purdom, as an opportunity to explore how he might realize the mystical, fantasy aspects of the novel. In his autobiography, Minnelli acknowledged the continuing difficulties faced by Lerner in developing the script, but indicated that Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos proceeded with work on a symphonic piece for the picture. There is no information to determine whether the music composed at that time was the same special music Villa-Lobos provided for the released film. Script difficulties eventually forced the Freed-Minnelli-Lerner production to be shelved until actor-director Mel Ferrer expressed interest in reviving it.
       An Aug 1957 HR item stated that Theodore Reeves had been assigned as a writer for a production of Green Mansions headed by Pandro Berman for his Avon Productions, which released through M-G-M. In Nov 1957 Dorothy Kingsley was signed to write the screenplay, and Reeves’s contribution to the final script, if any, has not been determined. In May 1958 James Costigan was reported to be working with Kingsley on the script, but his contribution to the final script, if any, has not been determined.
       A Nov 1957 HR item lists George Folsey as director of photography and a 20 Nov 1957 "Rambling Reporter" item in HR noted that M-G-M was hoping to cast Rock Hudson opposite Audrey Hepburn in the film. As late as May 1958, Berman was associated with the production with Ferrer as director and Hepburn, then his wife, set to play Rima. In a May 1958 LAT interview, Ferrer described a trip to South American jungles hoping to find an appropriate location for the film. Although Ferrer determined that the jungles were too dense to allow sufficient light for shooting, he and his crew did shoot several thousand feet of footage south of Orinoco, Venezuela and in the Parahauri mountains, parts of which were used in the film. Ferrer’s team also imported several animals native to the area, including tropical birds and snakes. According to studio notes, some scenes were shot on location at Lone Pine, CA. A Nov 1958 LAT piece revealed that Ferrer and Hepburn raised a very young fawn in their home for several months in order for the animal to bond with Hepburn for several vital scenes in the film. The DV review indicates that producer Edmund Grainger took over as producer once production was launched. HR production charts list James Kessler, Rennie DeHaven, David Abdar, Bruce Hoy, Harvey Karals, Norman Dejoie and Reed Maxie to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Mar 1959.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Mar 59
p. 14.
Hollywood Citizen-News
19 May 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1958
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1958
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1944.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Mar 59
p. 205.
New York Times
20 Mar 59
p. 26.
Variety
25 Mar 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Spec mus created by
Mus score
Primitive mus courtesy of
Primitive mus courtesy of
and Columbia Records
SOUND
Rec supv
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
DANCE
Marake seq staged by
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest by William Henry Hudson (London, 1904).
SONGS
"Song of Green Mansions," music by Branislau Kaper, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1959
Production Date:
early July--4 November 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 March 1959
Copyright Number:
LP13014
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Photographic lenses by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
104
Length(in feet):
9,380
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19135
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

fIn late nineteenth-century Venezuela, the son of a murdered government official, Abel Gueva de Argensola, escapes from rebels and makes his way to a river outside of Caracas. Bent on avenging his father, Abel resolves to travel to the interior in search of a rumored wealth of gold with which he can hire soldiers. With the assistance of supply store owner Don Panta, Abel secures Indian guides and a canoe and learns that the primitive jungle natives value courage highly. After a lengthy journey down the river into the jungle, the guides panic upon seeing along the shore several spears with red feathers and abandon Abel. Caught in the rapids, the canoe overturns, forcing Abel to swim to shore where he is immediately surrounded by natives who escort him to a large village. There Abel is presented to chief Runi, who wears a large golden necklace. Determined to find out the source of the gold, Abel refuses to be intimidated by the natives and endures an entire day standing in the scorching sun. At dusk, Abel is near collapse when Runi’s son Kua-Ko appears and speaks to him in English, revealing that he spent years in a mission where he learned to speak the non-native language. Relieved, Abel assures Kua-Ko that he is a friend, then presents Runi with a flint which makes fire. Runi is pleased and offers Abel food and drink. Later, Abel asks about Runi’s necklace, but Kua-Ko insists that only his father knows its origins. Kua-Ko then cautions Abel not to hunt in the nearby forest. His curiosity peaked, Abel ... +


fIn late nineteenth-century Venezuela, the son of a murdered government official, Abel Gueva de Argensola, escapes from rebels and makes his way to a river outside of Caracas. Bent on avenging his father, Abel resolves to travel to the interior in search of a rumored wealth of gold with which he can hire soldiers. With the assistance of supply store owner Don Panta, Abel secures Indian guides and a canoe and learns that the primitive jungle natives value courage highly. After a lengthy journey down the river into the jungle, the guides panic upon seeing along the shore several spears with red feathers and abandon Abel. Caught in the rapids, the canoe overturns, forcing Abel to swim to shore where he is immediately surrounded by natives who escort him to a large village. There Abel is presented to chief Runi, who wears a large golden necklace. Determined to find out the source of the gold, Abel refuses to be intimidated by the natives and endures an entire day standing in the scorching sun. At dusk, Abel is near collapse when Runi’s son Kua-Ko appears and speaks to him in English, revealing that he spent years in a mission where he learned to speak the non-native language. Relieved, Abel assures Kua-Ko that he is a friend, then presents Runi with a flint which makes fire. Runi is pleased and offers Abel food and drink. Later, Abel asks about Runi’s necklace, but Kua-Ko insists that only his father knows its origins. Kua-Ko then cautions Abel not to hunt in the nearby forest. His curiosity peaked, Abel goes to the forest the next day and is amazed by the exotic birds, monkeys and other animals there. Soon, Abel becomes aware of an unusual chirping sound that appears to influence the jungle creatures’ behavior. While drinking from a pool of water, Abel is startled to see the reflection of a girl’s face in the water, but despite further exploration, he finds no one. Abel’s departure from the forest is witnessed by Kua-Ko, who angrily threatens him, then escorts him back to the village. There Kua-Ko explains that Runi has been impressed by Abel’s brave venture into the forest, which the natives believe to be possessed by a bird spirit they call the Daughter of the Didi. After Runi addresses Abel at length, Kua-Ko unhappily translates that his older brother was killed by the bird spirit and, as Abel has survived his visit there, Runi looks upon him as a new son who will save them from the evil spirit. Abel agrees to return to the woods to confront the spirit and upon arriving there, finds Rima, a beautiful young woman among the trees. Moments after Abel tells the girl that she is in danger from the natives, he is bitten by a snake and collapses. Reviving two days later, Abel finds himself in a small hut with an old man who introduces himself as Nuflo, Rima’s grandfather. Nuflo tells Abel that Rima saved his life and dismisses Abel’s warning about the natives. After recovering, Abel follows Rima deeper into the forest and learns that she has been with her grandfather in the jungle since childhood, following the death of her beloved mother. Rima asks about Abel’s father, whom he spoke of in his delirium. Rima admits to being frightened by Abel’s anger over his father’s death and explains she believes her mother is always with her, even in death. Over the next several days as Abel continues to recover, he spends more time with Rima, learning of her enchanted ability to communicate with all creatures. When Rima shows Abel a hata flower, which she claims blooms for a brief period then reappears in another place, he tells her that it is a lovely legend and Rima pities Abel for his faithlessness. One evening, Abel finds Rima with a small gold container, which she explains was a gift from Nuflo. Suspicious that Nuflo’s numerous disappearances may be connected with the gold, Abel follows Nuflo, only to find him secretly roasting an animal for food. Nuflo admits to hiding his activity to spare the sensitive Rima. Abel asks about the gold, but Nuflo assures him there is none. Soon after, Abel meets Rima at the base of an enormous tree and she confides that his talk of his home has stirred unfamiliar memories of her past, which she longs to understand. When the couple goes into the nearby mountains, Abel points to an area known as Riolama, prompting Rima to recall that as the place of her childhood. Angered that Nuflo has kept the nearness of her birthplace from her, Rima berates him and demands that he take her there. Distressed, Nuflo accuses Abel of shattering Rima’s contentedness with her forest life. Having fully recovered, Abel returns to the village where he admits that he could not kill Rima because she saved his life. Runi and Kua-Ko disbelieve Abel’s tale and accuse him of cowardice. Kua-Ko declares he will kill Rima and orders Abel bound. That night Kua-Ko endures a ritual torture to prove his strength to lead the village men into the woods. After Kua-Ko and the men depart, Abel breaks free and hurries through a rain storm to the forest where he rouses Nuflo and Rima, declaring they must go to Riolama to avoid the natives. After escaping a series of dangers on their trek, the trio nears Riolama but Nuflo insists that he is lost, despite Rima recalling a cave nearby. While Rima looks for the cave, Nuflu confesses to Abel that he knew of Riolama, but could never return there as long ago he was part of a gang who stole the village’s gold. Nuflo admits that the rest of the gang murdered and destroyed the Riolama, while he fled. Discovering a wounded woman and Rima, her four-year-old child, Nuflo brought them to the cave and promised the dying woman to take care of Rima. Having overheard Nuflo’s confession, Rima reproaches him bitterly and flees. Abel follows Rima, who finds only the remains of a long-deserted Riolama and is heartbroken. Later, when Rima admits her anger against Nuflo has dissipated, Abel realizes that he too has lost his need for revenge. Meanwhile, tormented by Rima’s accusations, Nuflo returns to the forest hut where he unearths the bags of Riolama gold, but is caught by Kua-Ko and the others who kill him and burn down the hut. Returning in search of Nuflo, Abel and Rima are separated and Rima is trapped by the natives at the top of the large tree, which is set ablaze. Soon after, Abel finds Kua-Ko, who triumphantly reveals that Rima has died. Furious, Abel attacks Kua-Ko and drowns him in the pool. Later, Abel comes across the burned tree and, overcome with grief, collapses. Upon hearing Rima’s voice, however, Abel revives and, finding a blooming hata flower, recalls Rima’s belief in eternal life. In the distance, Abel sees a light encircling Rima’s figure and goes forward to join her. +

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

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