The Sand Pebbles (1966)

155 mins | Drama | 20 December 1966

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HISTORY

A news item in the 30 Jul 1964 LAT mentioned that actor Jack Lord was “campaigning” for the role of a gunboat captain in the film version of Richard McKenna’s 1962 novel, to be produced by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (TCF). The part ultimately went to Richard Crenna. The 24 Aug 1964 DV reported that producer-director Robert Wise planned a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan, known at the time as Formosa, to scout locations. Weeks later, the 17 Sep 1964 DV stated that Wise was scouting near Sacramento, CA. The 21 Sep 1964 issue announced that the picture would be shot in black-and-white using the Cinemascope process.
       The 22 Sep 1964 DV revealed that Wise was in arbitration with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and producer Martin Ransohoff to discuss renaming the latter’s next project, which bore the similar-sounding title, The Sandpiper (1965, see entry). An item in the 9 Oct 1964 issue noted a temporary change to Cry of the Sandpiper.
       Wise proceeded to Taiwan on 5 Oct 1964, as reported in that day’s DV. Joining him were art director Boris Leven, associate producer Charles Maguire, unit production manager Saul Wurtzel, and sketch artist Maurice Zuberano. Wise used the opportunity to interview native actresses for a specific role. He returned four weeks later, according to the 3 Nov 1964 DV. The 6 Nov 1964 issue stated that the filmmaker was traveling to the East Coast for assistance regarding unspecified “objections” concerning production on Taiwan. He also intended to film in Northern California ... More Less

A news item in the 30 Jul 1964 LAT mentioned that actor Jack Lord was “campaigning” for the role of a gunboat captain in the film version of Richard McKenna’s 1962 novel, to be produced by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (TCF). The part ultimately went to Richard Crenna. The 24 Aug 1964 DV reported that producer-director Robert Wise planned a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan, known at the time as Formosa, to scout locations. Weeks later, the 17 Sep 1964 DV stated that Wise was scouting near Sacramento, CA. The 21 Sep 1964 issue announced that the picture would be shot in black-and-white using the Cinemascope process.
       The 22 Sep 1964 DV revealed that Wise was in arbitration with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and producer Martin Ransohoff to discuss renaming the latter’s next project, which bore the similar-sounding title, The Sandpiper (1965, see entry). An item in the 9 Oct 1964 issue noted a temporary change to Cry of the Sandpiper.
       Wise proceeded to Taiwan on 5 Oct 1964, as reported in that day’s DV. Joining him were art director Boris Leven, associate producer Charles Maguire, unit production manager Saul Wurtzel, and sketch artist Maurice Zuberano. Wise used the opportunity to interview native actresses for a specific role. He returned four weeks later, according to the 3 Nov 1964 DV. The 6 Nov 1964 issue stated that the filmmaker was traveling to the East Coast for assistance regarding unspecified “objections” concerning production on Taiwan. He also intended to film in Northern California on the Sacramento River, and was considering Chinese actress Nancy Kwan for a featured role. Wise later told the 5 Feb 1965 NYT that he was leading the first American production crew to film on Taiwan, with a guarantee of full cooperation from the island’s government. On 16 Feb 1965, DV reported that the filmmaker dispatched ship designer David Logan to Hong Kong in hopes of finding a contractor to build a 150-foot gunboat. The additional weight of the many blueprints Logan was carrying supposedly added $82.63 to his airfare. Wise told the 16 Jul 1965 issue that he anticipated a five-month shoot, requiring 2,000 background actors, whom he promised higher wages than the local standard of $2.50 per day.
       The 12 Aug 1965 DV stated that actor Cliff Robertson declined a role in deference to a previous commitment. Five days later, LAT reported that Wise was negotiating with Carol Lynley to play “Shirley Eckert.” The 31 Aug 1965 LAT credited John T. Kelley with rewriting the screenplay. The 30 Sep 1965 DV included comedian Frank Gorshin among prospective cast members. The 1 Sep 1965 DV revealed that the picture would be filmed in color, using a new process that would accurately portray the waters off the Taiwan and Hong Kong coasts.
       On 2 Nov 1965, LAT announced that TCF was offering “up to $1,000” for a photograph of the USS Villalobos, the ship Richard McKenna envisioned when writing the source novel. That same day, Wise began his “airlift” of personnel and equipment to Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to the 3 Nov 1965 DV. Flights were scheduled to continue over the next three weeks. The addition of “dependents” nearly doubled the size of the eighty-four-member company, as noted in the 11 Nov 1965 issue. A news item in the 17 Nov 1965 DV stated that the company landed at the Taiwanese port of Keelung, which was experiencing torrential seasonal rains. Following location work in Hong Kong, Wise planned to return to Keelung for interior scenes. Principal photography began 22 Nov 1965, according to a 26 Nov 1966 DV production chart.
       Cast members included Jimmy Sheppard (18 Nov 1965 DV) ; Wang Hen Wen, Chen Teh Shang, and Chen Wan Lee (29 Nov 1965 DV) ; Jerry Gatlin, Jerry Summers, and Ronnie Rondell (1 Apr 1966 LAT) ; Gene Blakely and John Logan (7 Jul 1966 LAT) ; and Lennie Weinrib (12 Sep 1966 DV). The 22 Sep 1965 DV noted that William Smithers tested for an unspecified role.
       Seven days into production, DV reported that Wise held a cocktail party to celebrate the company’s arrival on Taiwan. Among the more than 500 guests were several U.S. military officers, including General James Van Fleet, who commanded United Nations forces during the Korean War. To facilitate communication between American and Taiwanese crewmembers, Wise hired thirty-two Chinese-speaking interpreters, each assigned to a key technician. In addition, everyone in the company was issued a card, printed in Chinese, bearing the name and address of their hotel.
       The 30 Nov 1965 DV noted that the Taiwanese government planned to produce two television documentaries on the making of The Sand Pebbles, hoping to attract more film production. Location shooting on the island was completed on 12 Dec 1965, according to the next day’s DV.
       Later that month, the 27 Dec 1965 issue reported that Wise and TCF were petitioning the Taiwan government for “relief” from a ten percent income tax levied against approximately seventy cast and crew members. Failure to pay the tax would result in the revocation of their exit visas. TCF ultimately acceded to the government’s demands, as noted in the 21 Feb 1966 DV.
       On 31 Dec 1965, DV announced Thai model Marayat Andriane’s screen debut as “Maily.” She was scheduled for three weeks on location, and interior scenes in Los Angeles during mid-March 1966. Andriane later became known as writer Emmanuelle Arsan.
       Wise told the 26 Dec 1965 LAT that he had no choice but to film in Taiwan, based on the production's need for authentic Chinese sailing vessels and background actors. He commissioned the construction of four "junks," a type of sailing ship, and a functioning gunboat, christened the USS San Pablo, modeled after the Villalobos.
       Dock 1 in Keelung Harbor was "dressed to resemble the Shanghai Bund" of the 1920s, attracting thousands of spectators while filming was underway. Each member of the 111-person company required official identification and security clearance from military personnel stationed at Keelung, which was prone to sneak attacks from PRC agents. Approximately sixty native crewmembers and twenty actors were under contract to the Taiwan’s Central Motion Picture Corporation, which also supplied the production with a soundstage. Some filming took place aboard the San Pablo, which had a permanent crew of six Taiwanese under the command of Captain Lin Miao, a defector from the PRC. Wise also planned shoots in eleven "outlying areas" of the island, and in the city of Taipei, which resembled the mainland cities of Shanghai and Canton as they appeared in the 1920s. At the time of the article, the production was two days behind schedule because of heavy seasonal rains. The 19 Jan 1966 DV later noted that filming was interrupted again on 21 Jan 1966 for Taipei's three-day celebration of the Chinese New Year.
       DV announced the company's departure for Hong Kong on 17 Mar 1966. The 23 Mar 1966 edition anticipated their return to the U.S. on 10 Apr 1966 to begin six weeks of interior scenes. To avoid delays from winter rains in Southern California, a number of sequences intended for Los Angeles were filmed on location, using sets shipped from TCF Studios.
       On 8 Apr 1966, DV reported that the Hong Kong government imposed a curfew the previous day, following a series of "street riots." Although no company members were injured, congested streets prevented several from reaching the set.
       An obituary in the 29 Apr 1966 DV stated that former Ziegfeld showgirl, Peggy Watts Callow, died in Hong Kong from an embolism while accompanying her husband, assistant director Ridgeway Callow. Their son, Alan Callow, was second assistant director.
       The 2 May 1966 DV reported that Hong Kong's Communist newspaper, Tai Kung Pao, published a two-part editorial the previous weekend, accusing Wise of being "an imperialist American provocateur," and The Sand Pebbles of being "anti-Chinese" propaganda. Wise declined to comment.
       The 17 May 1966 DV noted the production's departure from Hong Kong, although a second unit and Richard Crenna were expected to stay behind. The 27 May 1966 issue noted that night filming at TCF's Malibu, CA, ranch would commence the following week, using a 2,500-square-foot "Oriental set" constructed at the site. During that time, actor Paul Chinpae arrived in Los Angeles for his U.S. screen debut. Meanwhile, the 31 May 1966 DV reported that associate producer Charles Maguire and production associate Maurice Zuberano captured the picture's "climactic battle sequence" the previous day, shortly before Typhoon "Judy" ravaged Hong Kong. Approximately three more weeks of second-unit photography were expected. The 10 Jun 1966 DV identified the battleship USS Texas as the final location for the picture. The ship, designated as a national shrine, was encased in concrete on the Houston, TX, waterfront. The article added that filming in Malibu was nearing completion. According to the 20 Jun 1966 DV and 21 Jun 1966 LAT, production was three months behind schedule, due in part to an illness Steve McQueen contracted while on location. The actor was forced to postpone any further commitments until the following year. McQueen later told the 25 Jul 1966 LAT that he was drinking milkshakes to replace the weight lost during his illness, as he entered his final three weeks of filming. The 4 Aug 1966 DV stated that the company arrived in Houston the previous day to inclement weather. The 7 Aug 1966 completion of photography was announced in the 19 Aug 1966 DV.
       A news item in the 13 Jul 1966 DV reported that Alex North was hired to score the picture. He later declined due to an attack of sciatica, as noted in the 25 Aug 1966 issue, and was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith. Lionel Newman began conducting the score on 20 Oct 1966, as stated in the previous day's DV. The 25 Oct 1966 edition stated that Wise hoped to have the film ready for a Minneapolis, MN, preview over Thanksgiving weekend. The 2 May 1966 NYT noted that the picture was already booked to open at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City. No date had been confirmed as some aspects of production were still in progress.
       he 10 Nov 1966 DV announced the 28 Dec 1966 West Coast debut at the Fox Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation. Cast members Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Candice Bergen, and Richard Crenna were reportedly members of the committee, along with several other celebrities. Los Angeles television station KCOP planned a one-hour live broadcast from the theater, according to the 6 Dec 1966 DV. A news brief in the 19 Dec 1966 issue stated that a print was flown to New York City two days earlier for the 20 Dec 1966 world premiere. It was hinted that a preview screening was held the previous night in Los Angeles. As noted in the 20 Dec 1966 NYT, proceeds from the premiere benefitted the Korea Society and the Pearl Buck Foundation. Reviews were generally positive, although the 21 Dec 1966 DV suggested that the running time could have been shortened by twenty-five minutes. Critics for the 21 Dec 1966 NYT and 25 Dec 1966 LAT noted parallels between the film and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The 29 Dec 1966 DV reported that Robert Wise intended to see the picture with a paying audience before deciding to make any additional edits. The final cost was estimated at $12 million. Wise participated in the production for ten percent of gross receipts above $30 million.
       The Sand Pebbles received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Picture; Actor, Steve McQueen; Supporting Actor, Mako; Art Direction (Color), Boris Leven, Walter M. Scott, John Sturtevant, and William Kiernan; Cinematography (Color), Joseph MacDonald; Film Editing, William Reynolds; Music (Original Music Score), Jerry Goldsmith; and Sound, Twentieth Century-Fox Studio Sound Department, James P. Corcoran, Sound director.
       The film was also listed among the best release of 1966 by the 1 Jan 1967 LAT, and among the most financially successful by the 3 Jan 1968 Var, which estimated its cumulative domestic rentals as $12.5 million to date.
       Running times have been listed at 155, 162, 182, 191, 193 and 195 minutes. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 May 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
17 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Oct 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Nov 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Nov 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1965
p. 2, 4.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1965
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1966
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Mar 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1966
p. 8.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1966
p. 19.
Daily Variety
2 May 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 May 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 May 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
31 May 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Jun 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 Jul 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1966
p. 14.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1966
p. 8.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1966
p. 15.
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Dec 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1966
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1964
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 1964
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
17 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
31 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
3 Nov 1965
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1965
Section B, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1966
Section C, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
1 May 1966
Section P, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1966
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jun 1966
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1966
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
17 Oct 1966
Section C, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1965
p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
25 Dec 1966
Section G, p. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1967
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
7 Feb 1965
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
8 Feb 1965
p. 28.
New York Times
2 May 1966
p. 47.
New York Times
19 Oct 1966
p. 54.
New York Times
20 Dec 1966
p. 56.
New York Times
21 Dec 1966
p. 48.
Variety
3 Jan 1968
p. 21.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Robert Wise Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Prod assoc
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Location constructuon mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna (New York, 1962).
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 December 1966
Premiere Information:
New York premiere and opening: 20 December 1966
Los Angeles opening: 28 December 1966
Production Date:
22 November 1965--7 August 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Argyle Enterprises
Copyright Date:
28 December 1966
Copyright Number:
LP34734
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
155
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1926, as strong feelings of nationalism are sweeping through China and the followers of Chiang Kai-shek, as well as the war lords and communists, are demanding that all foreigners leave Chinese soil, the U. S. gunboat San Pablo is patroling the Yangtze River. The newest member of the crew, who call themselves "sand pebbles," is Jake Holman, a machinist with 8 years previous Navy duty. Although Jake's independent nature is regarded with suspicion by most of the men, he wins the friendship of Frenchy, a sailor in love with an English-educated Chinese girl, Maily, who has been sold into enforced prostitution. When Chiang Kai-shek moves against the feudal war lords, the United States decides to treat the upheaval as a civil war, and the San Pablo is ordered to confine its function to protection of American civilians in the area. Included among them are Mr. Jameson, a missionary, and Shirley Eckert, a schoolteacher whom Jake met earlier. In an attempt to draw the San Pablo 's fire, the Chinese capture Jake's coolie assistant, Po-han, and torture him by slashing his chest with a knife. Unable to bear his friend's agonized screams, Jake grabs a gun and puts a bullet into Po-han's ... +


In 1926, as strong feelings of nationalism are sweeping through China and the followers of Chiang Kai-shek, as well as the war lords and communists, are demanding that all foreigners leave Chinese soil, the U. S. gunboat San Pablo is patroling the Yangtze River. The newest member of the crew, who call themselves "sand pebbles," is Jake Holman, a machinist with 8 years previous Navy duty. Although Jake's independent nature is regarded with suspicion by most of the men, he wins the friendship of Frenchy, a sailor in love with an English-educated Chinese girl, Maily, who has been sold into enforced prostitution. When Chiang Kai-shek moves against the feudal war lords, the United States decides to treat the upheaval as a civil war, and the San Pablo is ordered to confine its function to protection of American civilians in the area. Included among them are Mr. Jameson, a missionary, and Shirley Eckert, a schoolteacher whom Jake met earlier. In an attempt to draw the San Pablo 's fire, the Chinese capture Jake's coolie assistant, Po-han, and torture him by slashing his chest with a knife. Unable to bear his friend's agonized screams, Jake grabs a gun and puts a bullet into Po-han's head. Later, Frenchy buys Maily's freedom and takes her as his common-law wife because they cannot legally marry. While the San Pablo is forced to remain in a state of siege, Frenchy swims ashore each night to visit his pregnant wife. But the icy waters precipitate pneumonia and he dies in Maily's room. When Jake visits the bereaved woman, the Chinese beat him and put Maily to death. They then brand Jake as the murderer and demand that the San Pablo hand him over for trial. The crew agrees that Jake should be tried, and when Captain Collins refuses the demand and orders the crew to fire on the Chinese the men nearly mutiny. The captain takes advantage of the rising tide and moves his ship into deep water. When word arrives that full-scale fighting has led to the landing of U. S. Marines in Shanghai, Captain Collins decides to give his humiliated ship and disgraced crew a chance for glory by heading for Jameson's mission and a rescue attempt. After a bloody fight, the San Pablo breaks through a Chinese blockade and reaches the mission. But Jameson and Shirley declare themselves stateless and rebuke the captain for interfering in China's affairs. Jake wants to desert, but neutrality is no longer possible. Nationalist troops, incensed by the San Pablo 's defiance of the blockade, storm the mission and kill both Jameson and Collins. Pushed into making a last stand, Jake orders the other crew members to take Shirley to safety while he covers their getaway. But he is killed by a Chinese bullet. As he dies, he cries "I was home. ... What the hell happened?" +

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

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