Cape Fear (1962)

105 mins | Drama | 12 April 1962

Director:

J. Lee Thompson

Writer:

James R. Webb

Producer:

Sy Bartlett

Cinematographer:

Sam Leavitt

Editor:

George Tomasini

Production Designers:

Alexander Golitzen, Robert Boyle

Production Company:

Melville-Talbot Productions
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HISTORY

The 31 Dec 1960 NYT announced that actress Polly Bergen was taking “an eight-week leave from television commitments” to co-star in Cape Fear, based on John D. MacDonald’s 1958 novel, The Executioners, and produced by Melville Productions, owned by lead actor Gregory Peck. The film marked Bergen’s return to the screen following a nine-year absence. An item in the 7 Feb 1961 LAT noted that the project was initially given the same title as the novel. Hedda Hopper’s column in the 24 Feb 1961 LAT included character actress Hope Holiday among the cast, but she is not credited on screen. In her 7 Apr 1961 LAT column, Hopper revealed that Gregory Peck cast actress-dancer Barrie Chase, based on her her performance of a “beatnik dance” with Fred Astaire.
       According to production charts in the 19 Apr 1961 Var, principal photography began 6 Apr 1961. An article in the 31 May 1961 Var announced the company’s arrival in Savannah, GA, earlier that month. Although location shooting would be brief, local residents were reportedly excited by the presence of celebrities in their midst. Production was completed by mid-Jun 1961, as stated in a news brief in the 15 Jul 1961 NYT.
       The 11 Oct 1961 Var reported that distributor Universal Pictures assembled a fifty-five-minute “trailer” from excerpts of six upcoming releases, including Cape Fear, each having an average budget of $3 million. The reel was screened at the 1961 Theater Owners of America (TOA) convention in New Orleans, LA. ... More Less

The 31 Dec 1960 NYT announced that actress Polly Bergen was taking “an eight-week leave from television commitments” to co-star in Cape Fear, based on John D. MacDonald’s 1958 novel, The Executioners, and produced by Melville Productions, owned by lead actor Gregory Peck. The film marked Bergen’s return to the screen following a nine-year absence. An item in the 7 Feb 1961 LAT noted that the project was initially given the same title as the novel. Hedda Hopper’s column in the 24 Feb 1961 LAT included character actress Hope Holiday among the cast, but she is not credited on screen. In her 7 Apr 1961 LAT column, Hopper revealed that Gregory Peck cast actress-dancer Barrie Chase, based on her her performance of a “beatnik dance” with Fred Astaire.
       According to production charts in the 19 Apr 1961 Var, principal photography began 6 Apr 1961. An article in the 31 May 1961 Var announced the company’s arrival in Savannah, GA, earlier that month. Although location shooting would be brief, local residents were reportedly excited by the presence of celebrities in their midst. Production was completed by mid-Jun 1961, as stated in a news brief in the 15 Jul 1961 NYT.
       The 11 Oct 1961 Var reported that distributor Universal Pictures assembled a fifty-five-minute “trailer” from excerpts of six upcoming releases, including Cape Fear, each having an average budget of $3 million. The reel was screened at the 1961 Theater Owners of America (TOA) convention in New Orleans, LA.
       On 21 Mar 1962, Var announced the picture’s 6 Apr 1962 premiere at the Olympia Theater in Miami, FL. The theater was erroneously referred to as the “Olympic” in the article. Openings followed in New York City on 18 Apr 1961, and Los Angeles, CA, on 16 May 1962. While the 2 May 1962 Var reported encouraging box office receipts, critics were less enthusiastic. The 17 May 1962 LAT warned that the film would leave viewers feeling “lower than a snake’s belly,” and syndicated columnist John Crosby described it as “sordid, vicious and utterly depraved,” according to the 7 Nov 1962 Var.
       An article in the 22 Jul 1962 NYT noted that the British censorship board demanded fifteen cuts to the film. Director J. Lee Thompson claimed the censors intended to make 161 cuts, and protested their attempt to “mutilate and emasculate” his picture. Following a tour of England, Polly Bergen told the 19 Dec 1962 Var that she appeared in most of the deleted scenes, and considered cancelling a series of personal appearances since she was effectively not in the picture. Bergen believed such censorship unnecessary, as the British government already had a rating system in place. An item in the 21 Nov 1962 Var reported that Italian censors passed the film, providing it was shown only to adult audiences. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
7 Feb 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
24 Feb 1961
p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
25 Mar 1961
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1961
p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
10 May 1962
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
17 May 1962
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
31 Dec 1960
p. 10.
New York Times
28 Jun 1961
p. 39.
New York Times
15 Jul 1961
p. 11.
New York Times
23 Jul 1961
Section X, p. 5.
New York Times
10 Apr 1962
p. 44.
New York Times
19 Apr 1962
p. 35.
New York Times
22 Jul 1962
p. 73.
Variety
11 Jan 1961
p. 4.
Variety
19 Apr 1961
p. 22.
Variety
2 May 1962
p. 9.
Variety
31 May 1961
p. 1.
Variety
11 Oct 1961
p. 22.
Variety
22 Mar 1962
p. 4.
Variety
25 Apr 1962
p. 5.
Variety
7 Nov 1962
p. 7.
Variety
21 Nov 1962
p. 16.
Variety
19 Dec 1962
p. 5.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION 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 DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald (New York, 1958).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Executioners
Release Date:
12 April 1962
Premiere Information:
premiered in Miami, Florida: 12 April 1962
New York opening: 18 April 1962
Los Angeles opening: 16 May 1962
Production Date:
6 April--mid June 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Melville-Talbot Productions
Copyright Date:
18 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP24729
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Following a 6-year imprisonment for committing a sadistic sex crime, Max Cady arrives in a small southern town to seek revenge on the man responsible for his conviction, counselor Sam Bowden. Although Cady makes no direct threats, it is apparent that he is after Sam's wife, Peggy, and his 12-year-old daughter, Nancy. Because he has broken no law, neither Sam nor the police are able to take any legal action against him. Consequently, Sam cannot prevent Cady from poisoning the family dog, menacing Nancy when she leaves school, and whispering obscenities to Peggy over the telephone. Furthermore, Cady refuses to be bribed or bullied out of town. Desperate, Sam decides to take the law into his hands and lay a trap for Cady. After hiding his wife and daughter in a houseboat on the Cape Fear River, he leaves town. He then secretly returns, hopeful that Cady has discovered the hiding place. The ruse works, and Cady arrives on the scene late one night. Following a furious struggle in the river, Sam overpowers Cady and once more is instrumental in sending him to ... +


Following a 6-year imprisonment for committing a sadistic sex crime, Max Cady arrives in a small southern town to seek revenge on the man responsible for his conviction, counselor Sam Bowden. Although Cady makes no direct threats, it is apparent that he is after Sam's wife, Peggy, and his 12-year-old daughter, Nancy. Because he has broken no law, neither Sam nor the police are able to take any legal action against him. Consequently, Sam cannot prevent Cady from poisoning the family dog, menacing Nancy when she leaves school, and whispering obscenities to Peggy over the telephone. Furthermore, Cady refuses to be bribed or bullied out of town. Desperate, Sam decides to take the law into his hands and lay a trap for Cady. After hiding his wife and daughter in a houseboat on the Cape Fear River, he leaves town. He then secretly returns, hopeful that Cady has discovered the hiding place. The ruse works, and Cady arrives on the scene late one night. Following a furious struggle in the river, Sam overpowers Cady and once more is instrumental in sending him to prison. +

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.