Destination Gobi (1953)

89 mins | Drama | March 1953

Director:

Robert Wise

Writer:

Everett Freeman

Producer:

Stanley Rubin

Cinematographer:

Charles G. Clarke

Editor:

Robert Fritch

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, Lewis H. Creber

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Ninety Saddles for Kengtu, Sixty Saddles for Gobi and Gobi Outpost. After the picture's opening credits, a written foreword reads: "In the Navy records in Washington, there is an obscure entry reading 'Saddles for Gobi.' This film is based on the story behind that entry--one of the strangest stories of World War II." According to studio publicity, Edmund G. Love's magazine article was based on a real incident that occurred during World War II, in which U.S. military meteorologists stationed in the Gobi Desert gave ninety saddles to a Mongolian tribe as a gesture of good will. A Jan 1952 DV news item announced that Love would be working on the screenplay, but the extent of his contribution to the completed screenplay, if any, has not been determined.
       A 20 Jan 1952 LAT article speculated that Richard Basehart, William Lundigan, David Wayne and Gary Merrill were going to be cast in the film. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: John Fritz, King Kong , Sunrise Riley, Dayton Lummis, Dayton Moore, Ray Montgomery, Russ Conway and Hugh Beaumont. Studio publicity notes that Willis Bouchey was originally signed to play "Capt. Briggs," but he appeared as "Capt. Gates"; Stuart Randall played Briggs. HR news items and studio publicity list Nixon and Fallen, NV as location sites, and note that Piute Indians residing on a reservation in Nixon played Mongol extras. Destination Gobi was Robert Wise's first color film.

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The working titles of this film were Ninety Saddles for Kengtu, Sixty Saddles for Gobi and Gobi Outpost. After the picture's opening credits, a written foreword reads: "In the Navy records in Washington, there is an obscure entry reading 'Saddles for Gobi.' This film is based on the story behind that entry--one of the strangest stories of World War II." According to studio publicity, Edmund G. Love's magazine article was based on a real incident that occurred during World War II, in which U.S. military meteorologists stationed in the Gobi Desert gave ninety saddles to a Mongolian tribe as a gesture of good will. A Jan 1952 DV news item announced that Love would be working on the screenplay, but the extent of his contribution to the completed screenplay, if any, has not been determined.
       A 20 Jan 1952 LAT article speculated that Richard Basehart, William Lundigan, David Wayne and Gary Merrill were going to be cast in the film. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: John Fritz, King Kong , Sunrise Riley, Dayton Lummis, Dayton Moore, Ray Montgomery, Russ Conway and Hugh Beaumont. Studio publicity notes that Willis Bouchey was originally signed to play "Capt. Briggs," but he appeared as "Capt. Gates"; Stuart Randall played Briggs. HR news items and studio publicity list Nixon and Fallen, NV as location sites, and note that Piute Indians residing on a reservation in Nixon played Mongol extras. Destination Gobi was Robert Wise's first color film.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Feb 1953
---
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1952
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1953
p. 3
Film Daily
2 Mar 1953
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1952
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 1952
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 1952
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1952
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1952
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1952
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1952
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1952
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1952
p. 15
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1952
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1952
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1952
p. 14
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1952
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1953
p. 4
Los Angeles Times
20 Jan 1952
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1953
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Feb 1953
p. 1742
New York Times
30 May 1953
p. 7
Time
6 Apr 1953
---
Variety
18 Feb 1953
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
J. Richard Maybery
Asst dir
David Silver
2d asst dir
Erich Von Stroheim Jr.
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Lewis Creber
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Men's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Arthur L. Kirbach
Sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Makeup
Thomas Tuttle
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
Asst prod mgr
Scr supv
Loc dept
Loc auditions
Unit casting dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "Ninety Saddles for Kengtu" by Edmund G. Love in Collier's (6 Sep 1952).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Gobi Outpost
Ninety Saddles for Kengtu
Sixty Saddles for Gobi
Release Date:
March 1953
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 20 Mar 1953
Production Date:
23 Jul--2 Sep 1952; addl seq began 23 Oct 1952
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
4 March 1953
LP2474
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
89
Length(in feet):
8,049
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16063
SYNOPSIS

In November 1944, Chief Bosun's Mate Sam McHale is aghast to learn that he is being transferred from his beloved aircraft carrier to a Navy-operated weather station in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia. Capt. Gates explains to McHale that accurate weather forecasts are crucial to the Allies' success in the Pacific theater, and that his practical experience is required by meteorologist Commander Hobart Wyatt and his crew of scientists: Jenkins, Walter Landers, Wilbur "Coney" Cohen, Elwood Halsey, Frank Swenson and Paul Sabatello. Despite his longing for the ocean, McHale adjusts to life in the desert during the following six months, although Wyatt is bemused by McHale's dependence on the military's strict chain of command. Three weeks before they are to be relieved, the crew learns that Japanese cavalry has been spotted nearby, and McHale begins plans for increasing the outpost's negligible defenses. The group is also baffled by the arrival of a tribe of nomadic Mongols, who camp at the station's oasis. After determining that the Navy men are not interested in the oasis' grass, the Mongols' leader, Kengtu, expresses no further interest in them until Elwood attempts to take photographs of the tribe. The Mongols react hostilely, but McHale gains Kengtu's respect when he shows him how the camera works. Observing the Mongols' riding expertise, former cowboy Jenkins muses that they would make an excellent cavalry. The next day, Kengtu orders his people to return the many things they have stolen from the station, although McHale allows them to keep his own cap and Wyatt's dress uniform. Later that day, the Navy men learn that due to increasing pressure from ...

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In November 1944, Chief Bosun's Mate Sam McHale is aghast to learn that he is being transferred from his beloved aircraft carrier to a Navy-operated weather station in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia. Capt. Gates explains to McHale that accurate weather forecasts are crucial to the Allies' success in the Pacific theater, and that his practical experience is required by meteorologist Commander Hobart Wyatt and his crew of scientists: Jenkins, Walter Landers, Wilbur "Coney" Cohen, Elwood Halsey, Frank Swenson and Paul Sabatello. Despite his longing for the ocean, McHale adjusts to life in the desert during the following six months, although Wyatt is bemused by McHale's dependence on the military's strict chain of command. Three weeks before they are to be relieved, the crew learns that Japanese cavalry has been spotted nearby, and McHale begins plans for increasing the outpost's negligible defenses. The group is also baffled by the arrival of a tribe of nomadic Mongols, who camp at the station's oasis. After determining that the Navy men are not interested in the oasis' grass, the Mongols' leader, Kengtu, expresses no further interest in them until Elwood attempts to take photographs of the tribe. The Mongols react hostilely, but McHale gains Kengtu's respect when he shows him how the camera works. Observing the Mongols' riding expertise, former cowboy Jenkins muses that they would make an excellent cavalry. The next day, Kengtu orders his people to return the many things they have stolen from the station, although McHale allows them to keep his own cap and Wyatt's dress uniform. Later that day, the Navy men learn that due to increasing pressure from the enemy, they will not be relieved. Hoping to persuade the Mongols to help them defend the station, McHale requisitions sixty saddles, and although the order is met with bewilderment, the saddles soon arrive and the delighted Mongols begin training with Jenkins, who dubs them the "1st Mongolian Cavalry, U.S. Navy." Before long, however, the camp is bombed by Japanese planes, and Wyatt and several Mongols are killed. The radio is also destroyed, and McHale is disappointed when the Mongols disappear, leaving them alone and defenseless. Rather than walking 300 miles to the nearest weather station, which might also have been attacked, McHale decides that the men should travel 800 miles to the sea. The men are flabbergasted, but McHale's determination to return to the ocean prevails and they begin walking. Hoping to reach Peking, and from there sail to Okinawa, which is held by American forces, McHale drives the men onward, and they stop at an oasis at which some Chinese traders are camped. Also at the oasis are Kengtu and his people, and McHale reproaches the chief for deserting them. Kengtu replies that he had to protect his people from the "birds in the sky," and when McHale demands protection in exchange for the saddles, Kengtu returns the saddles. Chinese trader Yin Tang then offers to give McHale four camels for the saddles, and the next day, the Americans travel with the Chinese. That night, however, the treacherous Yin Tang attempts to kill them, but is stopped by the arrival of Kengtu and his men. Kengtu tells McHale that his people want the saddles back and are willing to escort the Americans to Peking, provided that they dress in native garb to avoid the Japanese. McHale agrees, although the men worry that they will be considered spies if they are captured because they will be out of uniform. Kengtu's plan appears to be working, however, until they reach the Chinese village of Sangchien, which is a garrison for the Japanese. Power-hungry Mongol Tomec, fed up with the troublesome Americans, appears to persuade Kengtu to turn them in, and later, McHale is horrified when Kengtu leads them into an ambush by Japanese soldiers. The Navy men are taken to a prison camp near the ocean, and when he is questioned by a Japanese officer, McHale refuses to divulge any information about the remaining weather stations. Angered, the officer holds the men as spies rather than prisoners of war, which means they will be shot. Their depression is lifted, however, by the arrival of one of Kengtu's men, Wali-Akhun, who was arrested while wearing Wyatt's stolen uniform. Wali reveals that Kengtu has arranged for their escape, and that night, they sneak out of the camp and to the docks, where Kengtu is waiting with a Chinese junk. Kengtu explains to McHale that he did not betray them, but rather tricked the Japanese soldiers into transporting them to the ocean. An alarm sounds, and as a Japanese search party approaches, Kengtu and his men are forced to board the junk and accompany the Americans. They are pursued by a motorboat, but are able to sink it with an ancient cannon stolen by the Mongols. Coney is killed during the battle, however, and the men soberly set sail for Okinawa. Eleven days later, the junk is spotted by American planes, which are about to bomb it until they see a large sign, with the inscription U.S.S. Cohen painted on it. The men are rescued, and soon after, Kengtu is returned to his people, along with sixty saddle blankets. Kengtu and McHale say farewell, and when McHale tries to explain that he is not the head chief of the Navy, as Kengtu had mistakenly thought, Kengtu replies that it is the Navy's mistake, not his.

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

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