The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)

100 or 104 mins | Adventure | 15 April 1938

Producer:

Samuel Goldwyn

Cinematographers:

Archie Stout, Rudolph Maté

Editor:

Fred Allen

Production Designer:

Richard Day

Production Company:

Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
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HISTORY

Marco Polo was a Venetian who traveled to China in the late Thirteenth Century, possibly the first Western man to do so. His exact dates are unknown, however, he lived from about 1254 to 1324. The details of Polo's trip to China were recounted in the book Tracci di Marco Polo (c.1300, translated as Travels with Marco Polo ), which Polo dictated to Rusticiano of Pisa, a man who was imprisoned with him in Genoa during a war between Venice and Genoa. Stories of Polo's exploits and discoveries, some of which are disputed by modern historians, are contained in his book and have been recounted in novels and films about the Venetian. According to contemporary news items, Douglas Fairbanks had written a script in early 1936 based on Polo's adventures that was to be produced by Samuel Goldwyn. News items in HR indicate that Fairbanks and Goldwyn had wanted Gary Cooper to star in the production, but a $5,000,000 lawsuit initiated by Paramount Pictures against Goldwyn in mid-1936 for allegedly trying to lure their star away apparently delayed the Fairbanks-Goldwyn film indefinitely. In 1937, Goldwyn purchased an original story on Marco Polo from N. A. Pogson, and Fairbanks was apparently no longer involved in the project.
       The film was originally to be shot in Technicolor, but, according to an article in MPH in May 1937, this was impossible because most of the Technicolor equipment then in existence was already in use on other films. Instead, the film was made in a sepia tint, supervised by Jack Nicholaus, who was borrowed from M-G-M for the project. When the production ... More Less

Marco Polo was a Venetian who traveled to China in the late Thirteenth Century, possibly the first Western man to do so. His exact dates are unknown, however, he lived from about 1254 to 1324. The details of Polo's trip to China were recounted in the book Tracci di Marco Polo (c.1300, translated as Travels with Marco Polo ), which Polo dictated to Rusticiano of Pisa, a man who was imprisoned with him in Genoa during a war between Venice and Genoa. Stories of Polo's exploits and discoveries, some of which are disputed by modern historians, are contained in his book and have been recounted in novels and films about the Venetian. According to contemporary news items, Douglas Fairbanks had written a script in early 1936 based on Polo's adventures that was to be produced by Samuel Goldwyn. News items in HR indicate that Fairbanks and Goldwyn had wanted Gary Cooper to star in the production, but a $5,000,000 lawsuit initiated by Paramount Pictures against Goldwyn in mid-1936 for allegedly trying to lure their star away apparently delayed the Fairbanks-Goldwyn film indefinitely. In 1937, Goldwyn purchased an original story on Marco Polo from N. A. Pogson, and Fairbanks was apparently no longer involved in the project.
       The film was originally to be shot in Technicolor, but, according to an article in MPH in May 1937, this was impossible because most of the Technicolor equipment then in existence was already in use on other films. Instead, the film was made in a sepia tint, supervised by Jack Nicholaus, who was borrowed from M-G-M for the project. When the production began on 15 Jun 1937, John Cromwell was the director, however, a few days after filming commenced Cromwell left the project over what a FD news item said were "differences of opinion on story treatment." Modern sources have noted that while Cromwell wanted to film the picture in the tongue-in-check manner suggested in Robert E. Sherwood's screenplay, Goldwyn wanted the picture to be a serious adventure film. Subsequent to Cromwell's departure, Archie Mayo was assigned to direct the picture, after being taken off pre-production work on The Goldwyn Follies (see below). Modern sources have indicated that William Wyler was approached to take over direction of the picture when Cromwell left but refused the assignment, and John Ford directed some of the film's action sequences, including one of a blizzard in the Himalayas. Portions of the film were shot on location at Malibu Lake where, according to a HR news item on 31 Jul, two hundred yards of the Great Wall of China were reconstructed and the crew was put on a twenty-four-hour-a-day schedule. Binnie Barnes, who portrays Nazama in the film, replaced actress Verree Teasdale, who had to withdraw from the film during production because of illness. Modern sources also mention that Basil Rathbone, who portrayed Ahmed in the picture, replaced John Carradine shortly after filming began.
       Some reviews were positive about the film, although most wrote unfavorably about the picture. An unidentified but contemporary newspaper review contained in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library called it "Mr. Deeds Goes to China Town," spoofing Gary Cooper's popular 1936 film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , and the MPD reviewer called it Kublai Khan Rides Again . The reviewer also noted the irony that when writer Sherwood, was a film critic for Life he called the highly successful 1921 film, The Sheik "an average Western with the cowboys wearing Kimonos." Several other reviewers compared the film to a Western in theme and story. Actress Sigrid Gurie made her American motion picture debut in the film. Several ads emphasized Gurie, and one mentioned that her wardrobe in the picture cost $150,000. Though Gurie was reared in Norway, and ads and reviews for the film refer to her as Norwegian, she was born in the United States. Modern sources have noted that Gurie's American birth soon became a joke in the press where she was variously called "Brooklyn-born" or "born in Flatbush." Modern sources also note that the film lost a great deal of money, the first time that Cooper had had a large flop since becoming an international star.
       According to an obituary for actor and stuntman Richard Farnsworth , he was cast as one of the 500 Monogolian horsemen in the film; however, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Additional cast members included in modern sources are, Reginald Barlow, James Leong , Dick Alexander, Jason Robards, Granville Bates, Theodore von Eltz , Gloria Youngblood, Diana Moncardo, Mia Schioka, Dora Young, Diane Toy, Henry Kerua, Greta Granstedt, Harry Cording, Dick Rich , Joe Woody and Leo Fielding. A number of films have been made featuring fictionalized accounts of Marco Polo's exploits. Among them are the 1962 Italian film called Marco Polo , directed by Hugo Fregonese and starring Rory Calhoun, a 1966 film entitled Marco the Magnificent , directed by Dennis De La Patalliere and Noel Howard, and starring Horst Buchholz and Anthony Quinn (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.3089 and 3090) and a 1972 television movie entitled Travels with Marco Polo , starring Desi Arnaz, Jr.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Feb 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 May 37
p. 12.
Film Daily
23 Jun 37
p. 7.
Film Daily
24 Jun 37
p. 4.
Film Daily
26 Jul 37
p. 8.
Film Daily
15 Feb 38
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 37
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 38
pp. 9-19. (ad)
International Photographer
Mar 38
p. 29.
Motion Picture Daily
15 Feb 38
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
22 May 37
p. 50.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Feb 38
p. 38.
New York Times
8 Apr 38
p. 17.
Variety
16 Feb 38
p. 15
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
COLOR PERSONNEL
Tinting and toning supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 April 1938
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 7 April 1938
Production Date:
16 June--early September 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Samuel Goldwyn
Copyright Date:
11 March 1938
Copyright Number:
LP7885
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100 or 104
Length(in feet):
9,362
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3857
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Thirteenth century Venetian Marco Polo is sent by his merchant father Nicolo to China on a trade mission, accompanied by his accountant Binguccio. After an arduous journey, Marco and Binguccio arrive in China and are befriended by Chen Tsu, a scientist, who introduces Marco to the wonders of "Spaghett," chop sticks, and explosive powder. Chen Tsu warns Marco to be wary of Ahmed, the emperor Kublai Khan's chief advisor. In the emperor's court, Marco claims only to be there for travel, but meanwhile collects samples to take home. He and the emperor's daughter, Princess Kukachin, begin to fall in love, even though she has been engaged since infancy to the king of Persia. Ahmed dislikes Marco and plots his death, just as he plots to take over the empire. He has been collecting extra taxes from the people, especially the Mongols, who are ready to fight. While the Kublai Khan goes to war with Japan, he sends Marco as his emissary to Kaidu, leader of the Mongols. Kaidu's men capture Marco and plan to kill him until Kaidu's possessive wife Nazama is attracted to him and Kaidu sees Marco as a means to ease her possessiveness. While Kublai Khan is away, Ahmed takes over the palace and plans to marry Kukachin. When the emperor returns, Ahmed threatens to kill her if her father does not submit to Ahmed's plan to rule the kingdom with Kukachin as his bride. Marco has meanwhile gotten word of Ahmed's treachery and, after preventing an assassination attempt against Kaidu, asks for his help in saving Kublai Khan. Marco reaches the palace in time to prevent Kukachin's ... +


Thirteenth century Venetian Marco Polo is sent by his merchant father Nicolo to China on a trade mission, accompanied by his accountant Binguccio. After an arduous journey, Marco and Binguccio arrive in China and are befriended by Chen Tsu, a scientist, who introduces Marco to the wonders of "Spaghett," chop sticks, and explosive powder. Chen Tsu warns Marco to be wary of Ahmed, the emperor Kublai Khan's chief advisor. In the emperor's court, Marco claims only to be there for travel, but meanwhile collects samples to take home. He and the emperor's daughter, Princess Kukachin, begin to fall in love, even though she has been engaged since infancy to the king of Persia. Ahmed dislikes Marco and plots his death, just as he plots to take over the empire. He has been collecting extra taxes from the people, especially the Mongols, who are ready to fight. While the Kublai Khan goes to war with Japan, he sends Marco as his emissary to Kaidu, leader of the Mongols. Kaidu's men capture Marco and plan to kill him until Kaidu's possessive wife Nazama is attracted to him and Kaidu sees Marco as a means to ease her possessiveness. While Kublai Khan is away, Ahmed takes over the palace and plans to marry Kukachin. When the emperor returns, Ahmed threatens to kill her if her father does not submit to Ahmed's plan to rule the kingdom with Kukachin as his bride. Marco has meanwhile gotten word of Ahmed's treachery and, after preventing an assassination attempt against Kaidu, asks for his help in saving Kublai Khan. Marco reaches the palace in time to prevent Kukachin's marriage and, with the help of Kaidu's army, and Chen Tsu's explosive powder, kills Ahmed and saves the throne. After Kublai Khan settles his differences with Kaidu, he asks Marco to accompany Kukachin on her voyage to Persia. When she asks Marco if the journey will take a long time, they kiss after he tells her that it is a very long journey. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Historical


Subject

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

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