Moonfleet (1955)

86 mins | Adventure | 24 June 1955

Director:

Fritz Lang

Producer:

John Houseman

Cinematographer:

Robert Planck

Editor:

Albert Akst

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written prologue: "Two hundred years ago the great heath of Dorsetshire ran wild and bleak down to the sea. Here, in hidden coves and lonely villages, the smuggling bands plied their violent trade. And here, one October evening of the year 1757, a small boy came in search of a man whom he believed to be his friend." A Jan 1952 news item in DV announced that William H. Wright would produce the film. A Sep 1954 HR news item adds Ronald Green to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       According to HR news items, portions of the film were shot on location along the Southern California coastline, in Laguna, Corona del Mar, Palos Verdes and the Point Dume area of Malibu. A 2 Sep 1952 HR news item reported that director Fritz Lang and cinematographer Robert Planck planned to shoot with minimal lighting in an attempt to create the "turbulent and brooding atmosphere" of an English smugglers' cove from the eighteenth century. According to the news item, the lighting would not exceed 500-foot candle power--the level used for black-and-white films--compared with the 1,000-foot candle power often used on color films.
       Moonfleet was Lang's first film for M-G-M since Fury in 1936 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), and his first film shot in CinemaScope. In a modern interview, Lang claimed that producer John Houseman reedited the film without his knowledge or consent. "Producer's cuts not only drastically reduced Viveca Lindfors' part," Lang said, "but rendered certain sequences almost unintelligible." ... More Less

The film begins with the following written prologue: "Two hundred years ago the great heath of Dorsetshire ran wild and bleak down to the sea. Here, in hidden coves and lonely villages, the smuggling bands plied their violent trade. And here, one October evening of the year 1757, a small boy came in search of a man whom he believed to be his friend." A Jan 1952 news item in DV announced that William H. Wright would produce the film. A Sep 1954 HR news item adds Ronald Green to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       According to HR news items, portions of the film were shot on location along the Southern California coastline, in Laguna, Corona del Mar, Palos Verdes and the Point Dume area of Malibu. A 2 Sep 1952 HR news item reported that director Fritz Lang and cinematographer Robert Planck planned to shoot with minimal lighting in an attempt to create the "turbulent and brooding atmosphere" of an English smugglers' cove from the eighteenth century. According to the news item, the lighting would not exceed 500-foot candle power--the level used for black-and-white films--compared with the 1,000-foot candle power often used on color films.
       Moonfleet was Lang's first film for M-G-M since Fury in 1936 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), and his first film shot in CinemaScope. In a modern interview, Lang claimed that producer John Houseman reedited the film without his knowledge or consent. "Producer's cuts not only drastically reduced Viveca Lindfors' part," Lang said, "but rendered certain sequences almost unintelligible." Moonfleet marked British actress Joan Greenwood's American film debut. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 May 1955.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1952.
---
Daily Variety
9 May 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 May 55
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 54
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 54
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 54
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 54
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 54
p. 3, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 54
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 54
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 55
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
12 May 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald
14 May 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 May 55
p. 433.
New York Times
25 Jun 55
p. 9.
Variety
11 May 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Flamenco mus comp and played by
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner (London, 1898).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 June 1955
Production Date:
mid August--15 October 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 May 1955
Copyright Number:
LP4774
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
86
Length(in feet):
7,797
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17271
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

After a long journey by foot to Moonfleet, England in 1757, young John Mohune passes out, and awakens at a tavern surrounded by smugglers. The smugglers search his possessions and discover a letter written by John's late mother Olivia, instructing the boy to seek out a man named Jeremy Fox, who has returned from the colonies to live in the house that was once hers. Jeremy soon arrives at the tavern and, after questioning the boy, alludes darkly to a past "folly" between John's mother and himself. The following day, Jeremy's men load the struggling boy into a carriage and send him away, but John leaps out and is discovered by a girl named Grace, who offers to take him to Jeremy's home. Grace takes John to Mohune Manor, a once grand country estate showing the effects of years of neglect. Interrupting a festive dinner party, John tells Jeremy he wants to stay with him, and Jeremy is impressed by the boy's spirit. That night, John tells Jeremy he has had a nightmare about being attacked by dogs in the summer house, as his mother told him once happened to a friend of hers. Jeremy blanches but dismisses the tale, until his mistress, Mrs. Minton, pulls down his shirt to reveal a mass of scars. When Mrs. Minton privately accuses Jeremy of still being in love with Olivia, he coldly tells her she must leave when the ship comes in the following week. The following day, John accompanies Grace to church, and Parson Glennie reprimands the congregation for their superstitious belief in the legendary ghost of Red Beard, who is believed to haunt the graveyard searching for his lost ... +


After a long journey by foot to Moonfleet, England in 1757, young John Mohune passes out, and awakens at a tavern surrounded by smugglers. The smugglers search his possessions and discover a letter written by John's late mother Olivia, instructing the boy to seek out a man named Jeremy Fox, who has returned from the colonies to live in the house that was once hers. Jeremy soon arrives at the tavern and, after questioning the boy, alludes darkly to a past "folly" between John's mother and himself. The following day, Jeremy's men load the struggling boy into a carriage and send him away, but John leaps out and is discovered by a girl named Grace, who offers to take him to Jeremy's home. Grace takes John to Mohune Manor, a once grand country estate showing the effects of years of neglect. Interrupting a festive dinner party, John tells Jeremy he wants to stay with him, and Jeremy is impressed by the boy's spirit. That night, John tells Jeremy he has had a nightmare about being attacked by dogs in the summer house, as his mother told him once happened to a friend of hers. Jeremy blanches but dismisses the tale, until his mistress, Mrs. Minton, pulls down his shirt to reveal a mass of scars. When Mrs. Minton privately accuses Jeremy of still being in love with Olivia, he coldly tells her she must leave when the ship comes in the following week. The following day, John accompanies Grace to church, and Parson Glennie reprimands the congregation for their superstitious belief in the legendary ghost of Red Beard, who is believed to haunt the graveyard searching for his lost diamond. He adds that Red Beard was John's ancestor, Sir John Mohune, who betrayed his duty to the crown for a valuable diamond, then died a madman. After the service, John is walking through the churchyard when he stumbles into an open grave and falls into an underground tomb. John accidentally knocks over one of the stone caskets and finds a locket among the crumbling bones. He hides when he hears voices, and watches as a band of smugglers meet with Jeremy, who is the leader of their enterprise. The departing smugglers then cover up the grave, leaving John trapped in the catacomb. Later, at a party at Lord James Ashwood's house, Jeremy engages in a passionate flirtation with Lady Clarista Ashwood. Lord Ashwood asks Jeremy to go abroad with them as their business partner in a new venture. Just then, Jeremy receives a message from his aide, Felix Ratsey, that John has been found in the catacomb. He returns to the smugglers' lair, and the men proclaim that John has seen too much and should be killed. With the smugglers on the brink of rebellion, Jeremy defeats their ringleader, Elzevir Block, in a savage duel. As he prepares to leave with Jeremy, John retrieves the locket he found in the tomb from Ratsey. The locket contains a sheet of paper, and Ratsey observes that there are Bible verses written on it, but all the chapter citations are wrong. At home, Jeremy tells John he has no choice but to send him to the colonies, then reminds Mrs. Minton that she must depart that evening. Furious at her rejection, Mrs. Minton sends for the police, and Jeremy is ambushed on the beach. Mrs. Minton is killed in the shootout, but Jeremy and John escape. While they hide from the police, John shows Jeremy the locket and the paper with the misnumbered Bible verses, and Jeremy deduces that the numbers refer to a word in the verse, which spell out the location of the diamond, in the deep well at Hollisbrook Castle. Intending to use the diamond as his investment capital, Jeremy arranges to depart for the colonies with the Ashwoods the following night. In the morning, wearing a stolen military uniform, Jeremy takes John to Hollisbrook Castle and uses a bucket to lower him into the well, where the boy discovers a loose brick with the diamond hidden behind it. Later, in their hideout on the beach, John talks about their future life together in the colonies, and after he falls asleep, Jeremy leaves him a note and slips out to meet the Ashwoods. As they ride to the ship, however, Jeremy grows glum thinking of John, and abruptly stops the carriage and orders the driver to return to the beach. The driver fights with Jeremy, and Lord Ashwood stabs him in the back. Jeremy shoots Lord Ashwood, and the horses bolt, causing the carriage containing Lady Ashwood to crash. The mortally wounded Jeremy returns to the hideout and wakes John. Telling the boy their plans have changed, Jeremy gives John the diamond and instructs him to return to Moonfleet at dawn and tell Pastor Glennie everything. Assuring the boy he will return to England as soon as he can, Jeremy bids John goodbye and, with the last of his strength, pushes off to sea on a small boat. Later, at the Mohune estate, John tells Grace and Parson Glennie that he is sure Jeremy will come back because he is his friend. +

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

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