Kings of the Sun (1963)

108 mins | Drama | 18 December 1963

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HISTORY

According to the 6 Jul 1961 LAT, Yul Brynner’s first project under his three-picture deal with the Mirisch Company was provisionally titled The Mound Builders. The 18 May 1962 NYT revealed that the Mirisch company proposed making a film about the peoples of pre-Columbian Mexico, and Brynner accepted the starring role based on a “preliminary treatment.” A news item in the 27 Nov 1961 DV identified David Weisbart as the producer. The 9 May 1962 issue stated that the $2.5 million production was scheduled to begin later that year. On 13 Aug 1962, DV announced Lewis J. Rachmil as Weisbart’s replacement. The 18 Oct 1962 DV and 23 Oct 1962 LAT noted that Rachmil was scouting locations in the Mexican state of Yucatan.
       Items in the 16 Nov 1962 and 20 Nov 1962 issues of DV stated that director J. Lee Thompson tested Julie Payne and Sharon Hugueny for the female lead before deciding on English actress Shirley Anne Field. News briefs in the 5 Dec 1962 and 15 Dec 1962 editions of LAT revealed that Field had intermittent romantic involvements with Thompson, to whom she was under “personal contract.”
       The 5 Dec 1962 Var reported that production would be delayed until the following month, due to the impending holiday season. Principal photography began 7 Jan 1963, according to the 16 Jan 1963 Var. The 7 Jan 1963 LAT estimated the budget at $6 million and the shooting schedule at fourteen weeks. ... More Less

According to the 6 Jul 1961 LAT, Yul Brynner’s first project under his three-picture deal with the Mirisch Company was provisionally titled The Mound Builders. The 18 May 1962 NYT revealed that the Mirisch company proposed making a film about the peoples of pre-Columbian Mexico, and Brynner accepted the starring role based on a “preliminary treatment.” A news item in the 27 Nov 1961 DV identified David Weisbart as the producer. The 9 May 1962 issue stated that the $2.5 million production was scheduled to begin later that year. On 13 Aug 1962, DV announced Lewis J. Rachmil as Weisbart’s replacement. The 18 Oct 1962 DV and 23 Oct 1962 LAT noted that Rachmil was scouting locations in the Mexican state of Yucatan.
       Items in the 16 Nov 1962 and 20 Nov 1962 issues of DV stated that director J. Lee Thompson tested Julie Payne and Sharon Hugueny for the female lead before deciding on English actress Shirley Anne Field. News briefs in the 5 Dec 1962 and 15 Dec 1962 editions of LAT revealed that Field had intermittent romantic involvements with Thompson, to whom she was under “personal contract.”
       The 5 Dec 1962 Var reported that production would be delayed until the following month, due to the impending holiday season. Principal photography began 7 Jan 1963, according to the 16 Jan 1963 Var. The 7 Jan 1963 LAT estimated the budget at $6 million and the shooting schedule at fourteen weeks. The 14 Jan 1963 edition claimed that actress Miriam Colon was being considered for a role. Her involvement in the project has not been determined. The 25 Jan 1963 DV noted that Jeff Livingston, Mirish Company vice-president in charge of publicity, spent several days at the location. An eleventh-century Mayan city was constructed on Mexico’s west coast near Mazatlan as reported in the 26 Feb 1963 LAT.
       According to the 24 Jan 1963 DV, film stock for the production was purchased in Mexico City, but shipped to Deluxe Laboratories in New York City to be developed. The process resulted in Thompson and Rachmil experiencing a two-week delay before viewing their daily footage.
       The 6 Feb 1963 Var stated that new titles for the film were under consideration, including Maya. Fourteen days later, Var announced the official title as Kings of the Sun. First-unit filming in Mazatlan was scheduled to conclude by 10 Mar 1963, as stated in the 26 Feb 1963 DV. A second unit, under the direction of Tom Shaw, was expected to stay on location to shoot additional battles sequences. The remaining cast and crew moved to Churubusco Studios in Mexico City for four weeks of interior scenes. Although the production encountered no serious problems involving weather, politicians, or native employees, the 20 Mar 1963 DV reported that the company would delay its departure from Mazatlan until the following week.
       Publicist Jim Denton told the 12 Mar 1963 LAT that filming was on schedule, and identified additional locations as the state of Querétaro, the city of Merida and the ancient ruins at Chichen Itza, both of which were in Yucatan. Noting that the only surviving remnant of ancient Mayan culture was its language, Denton believed that contemporary Mayas knew nothing of their ancestral heritage, evidenced by their frivolous attitude toward appearing in battle scenes.
       A news brief in the 6 Mar 1963 DV reported that Yul Brynner went on hiatus to attend to his duties on behalf of the United Nations Special Consultant to the High Commissioner for Refugees. His current project was the record album, All-Star Festival, which he helped to finance. Proceeds benefited refugees around the world.
       An item in the 12 Apr 1963 DV stated that cast members Brad Dexter and Shirley Anne Field had returned to the U.S. from Mexico, suggesting the completion of principal photography. Journalist Hedda Hopper claimed in her 15 Mar 1963 LAT column that she had acquired one of the headdresses worn in the film by actor George Chakiris.
       J. Lee Thompson told the 6 May 1963 DV that Mexico’s censorship board objected to an historical inaccuracy in the film, and demanded the addition of a foreword to the Mexican version to explain the error, voiced by a Mexican actor. The screenplay and all daily footage needed the consent of board supervisor Carmen Baez, prior to any approval by the production team, Mirisch, or distributor United Artists Corporation (UA). The 9 Jul 1963 DV revealed that actor James Coburn provided voice narration to the English-language version, but received no screen credit and only minimum union wages.
       The 16 Aug 1963 DV announced UA’s publicity campaign, which included a touring “showmanship workshop” for exhibitors and members of the media, a five-minute short subject for television broadcast, prerecorded radio advertisements, and costumes and props used in the film. Among the tour stops were Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; New Orleans, LA; Miami, FL; Dallas, TX; New York City; and Toronto, Canada. The 3 Jul 1963 DV noted that Yul Brynner agreed to make a public appearance tour on behalf of the picture, reportedly his first. On 30 Oct 1963, Var estimated that the film had already acquired 300 domestic engagements for its Dec 1963 opening. According to the 11 Dec 1963 issue, still photographs from the production were displayed at the Tenth Annual Japanese Camera Show at the Japanese Trade Centre in New York City.
       Although the picture was scheduled to open at New York City’s Astor Theatre, the 4 Dec 1963 Var reported that it had been supplanted by the Twentieth Century-Fox release, Move Over, Darling (1963, see entry). Both companies employed UA’s “Premiere Showcase” method, in which concurrent openings were scheduled throughout New York City, with the necessary inclusion of a Broadway theater. However, the 15 Jan 1964 Var noted that UA was unable to find an available Broadway location to participate in the debut. UA licensed the “Premiere Showcase” trademark to Fox.
       Kings of the Sun opened 18 Dec 1963 in Los Angeles, CA, followed by a 25 Dec 1963 debut in New York City. Reviews were unenthusiastic, with the 13 Dec 1963 DV and 19 Dec 1963 LAT noting blatant similarities to Thompson’s previous film, Taras Bulba (1962, see entry). Although the 8 Jan 1964 Var reported earnings of $206,439 from twenty-eight Los Angeles theaters, an article in the 2 Sep 1964 edition listed it among UA’s recent “flops.”
       A novelization of the screenplay was published by Lancer Books.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1962
p. 1.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Dec 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Feb 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Apr 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 May 1963
p. 1, 3.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1963
p. 11.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jul 1961
p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
5 Dec 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1962
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1963
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1963
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1963
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1963
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
18 May 1962
p. 35.
New York Times
6 Dec 1963
p. 31.
New York Times
25 Dec 1963
p. 38.
New York Times
26 Dec 1963
p. 33.
Variety
5 Dec 1962
p. 15.
Variety
16 Jan 1963
p. 19.
Variety
6 Feb 1963
p. 3.
Variety
20 Feb 1963
p. 4.
Variety
30 Oct 1963
p. 21.
Variety
27 Nov 1963
p. 10.
Variety
4 Dec 1963
p. 15.
Variety
11 Dec 1963
p. 18.
Variety
8 Jan 1964
p. 13.
Variety
15 Jan 1964
p. 18.
Variety
2 Sep 1964
p. 16.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Mound Builders
Maya
Release Date:
18 December 1963
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 December 1963
New York opening: 25 December 1963
Production Date:
7 January--early April 1963
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Deluxe Color
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
108
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Hunac Ceel's fierce warriors from the north crush the Mayan tribes of Mexico. The Mayan king is killed, his son, Balam, is chosen as successor, and the tribe runs away to the coast. Hunac Ceel follows and forces them to flee the country, and the Mayans sail to what is now North America, where they settle in hopes of establishing a new civilization. Black Eagle, head of a neighboring Indian tribe, attacks the Mayans and is wounded and taken captive in a battle with Balam. Ixchel, Balam's fianceée, nurses Black Eagle back to health; later, after Balam saves Black Eagle from being sacrificed, the two leaders become friends and decide to live together in peace. However, Hunac Ceel, intent upon destroying Mayan civilization, attacks again. This time the Mayans, with the help of Black Eagle's tribes, defeat the invaders, but Black Eagle is killed saving Balam's ... +


Hunac Ceel's fierce warriors from the north crush the Mayan tribes of Mexico. The Mayan king is killed, his son, Balam, is chosen as successor, and the tribe runs away to the coast. Hunac Ceel follows and forces them to flee the country, and the Mayans sail to what is now North America, where they settle in hopes of establishing a new civilization. Black Eagle, head of a neighboring Indian tribe, attacks the Mayans and is wounded and taken captive in a battle with Balam. Ixchel, Balam's fianceée, nurses Black Eagle back to health; later, after Balam saves Black Eagle from being sacrificed, the two leaders become friends and decide to live together in peace. However, Hunac Ceel, intent upon destroying Mayan civilization, attacks again. This time the Mayans, with the help of Black Eagle's tribes, defeat the invaders, but Black Eagle is killed saving Balam's life. +

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

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