Fire Down Below (1957)

110, 114 or 116 mins | Drama | July 1957

Director:

Robert Parrish

Writer:

Irwin Shaw

Cinematographer:

Desmond Dickinson

Editor:

Jack Slade

Production Designer:

Syd Cain

Production Company:

Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Fire Down Under . The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. According to Feb and Mar 1956 HR news items, Ava Gardner and Anita Ekberg were considered for the role of "Irena." Rita Hayworth joined the project after her lawsuit to end her contract with Columbia was thrown out of court. As part of the settlement between the studio and the actress, Hayworth agreed to appear in Fire Down Below and Pal Joey (see below), according to a 6 Apr 1956 HR news item. Fire Down Below marked Hayworth's return to the screen after a three-year absence.
       A Feb 1955 DV news item notes that Richard Widmark was originally to star. An Apr 1956 news item adds that Trevor Howard was considered for a supporting role in the film. A May 1956 news item in Trinidad Guardian adds Andrew Worker to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been verified. Location filming was done on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, according to a Jun 1956 HR news item. A May 1956 HR news item adds that seventeen members of the U.S. naval base in Trinidad were cast as extras in the scene in which "Tony" is trapped below decks. A modern source notes that the original script began with Tony trapped below decks, with the rest of the story then told in flashback. ... More Less

The working title of this film was Fire Down Under . The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. According to Feb and Mar 1956 HR news items, Ava Gardner and Anita Ekberg were considered for the role of "Irena." Rita Hayworth joined the project after her lawsuit to end her contract with Columbia was thrown out of court. As part of the settlement between the studio and the actress, Hayworth agreed to appear in Fire Down Below and Pal Joey (see below), according to a 6 Apr 1956 HR news item. Fire Down Below marked Hayworth's return to the screen after a three-year absence.
       A Feb 1955 DV news item notes that Richard Widmark was originally to star. An Apr 1956 news item adds that Trevor Howard was considered for a supporting role in the film. A May 1956 news item in Trinidad Guardian adds Andrew Worker to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been verified. Location filming was done on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, according to a Jun 1956 HR news item. A May 1956 HR news item adds that seventeen members of the U.S. naval base in Trinidad were cast as extras in the scene in which "Tony" is trapped below decks. A modern source notes that the original script began with Tony trapped below decks, with the rest of the story then told in flashback. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Jun 1957.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1955.
---
Daily Variety
29 May 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 May 57
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 57
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Jun 57
pp. 401-02.
New York Times
9 Aug 57
p. 11.
Trinidad Guardian
16 May 1956
p. 1.
Variety
29 May 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
2d unit photog
Cam op
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set des
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Miss Hayward's cost
Miss Hayward's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus comp
Played by
Mus for Miss Hayworth's dances comp
Steel band mus
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
Dance arr
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit mgr
Casting
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Fire Down Below by Max Catto (London, 1956).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Fire Down Below" harmonica theme by Jack Lemmon.
SONGS
"Fire Down Below," words and music by Lester Lee and Ned Washington, sung by Jeri Southern.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Fire Down Under
Release Date:
July 1957
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 30 May 1957
Production Date:
14 May--7 September 1956 at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Boreham Wood, Elstree, England
Copyright Claimant:
Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 July 1957
Copyright Number:
LP9220
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
110, 114 or 116
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On the island of San Juan, Felix and his partner Tony, two expatriate Americans who ply the Caribbean in their small craft the Ruby , are hired by a middle-aged American businessman to transport a woman named Irena to a neighboring island. The man explains that because the coldly beautiful and vaguely mysterious Irena has no passport, she is condemned to flee from country to country to stay one step ahead of deportation. The next morning, the shapely Irena boards the Ruby and is met with contempt by the callous, misogynistic Felix. Tony, an idealistic young rebel who fled the constraints of his family’s middle-class existence, is infatuated with the world-weary Irena. As Tony’s attraction grows more evident, Felix's antagonism toward Irena intensifies, resulting in the partners coming to blows. When an infuriated Felix lunges at Tony’s throat, Jimmy Jean, who works aboard the Ruby , pulls them apart. After dropping anchor one night, they all go ashore to attend a carnival. There, Irena asks Felix why he hates women, and he replies that he deserted his wife of six months because she bored him. Later, after Irena returns to the boat, Felix bursts into her cabin, but when he passionately embraces Irena, she icily turns away, stating that she is waiting for someone to touch her with kindness. Upon reaching their destination, Felix brusquely orders Irena ashore, prompting ... +


On the island of San Juan, Felix and his partner Tony, two expatriate Americans who ply the Caribbean in their small craft the Ruby , are hired by a middle-aged American businessman to transport a woman named Irena to a neighboring island. The man explains that because the coldly beautiful and vaguely mysterious Irena has no passport, she is condemned to flee from country to country to stay one step ahead of deportation. The next morning, the shapely Irena boards the Ruby and is met with contempt by the callous, misogynistic Felix. Tony, an idealistic young rebel who fled the constraints of his family’s middle-class existence, is infatuated with the world-weary Irena. As Tony’s attraction grows more evident, Felix's antagonism toward Irena intensifies, resulting in the partners coming to blows. When an infuriated Felix lunges at Tony’s throat, Jimmy Jean, who works aboard the Ruby , pulls them apart. After dropping anchor one night, they all go ashore to attend a carnival. There, Irena asks Felix why he hates women, and he replies that he deserted his wife of six months because she bored him. Later, after Irena returns to the boat, Felix bursts into her cabin, but when he passionately embraces Irena, she icily turns away, stating that she is waiting for someone to touch her with kindness. Upon reaching their destination, Felix brusquely orders Irena ashore, prompting Tony to call him a brute and dissolve their partnership. A few days later at the hotel in which Tony and Irena have taken up residence, the clerk threatens to expose Irena to the authorities unless she "sleeps" with him. That night, when Tony asks Irena to marry him, she recalls the incident with the clerk and says that she is “all used up.” To earn enough money to start a new life with Irena, Tony seeks out Felix and proposes that they smuggle one last shipment of contraband, then sell the boat and split the proceeds. After warning Tony that Irena will destroy his life, Felix tells him to take the boat and go by himself. The next night, as Tony’s contraband-laden boat rounds the coast, a Coast Guard cruiser appears and orders Tony to let them board. After jumping overboard to avoid arrest, Tony, certain that Felix betrayed him, signs on as a crewmember aboard a Greek freighter. Soon after, the freighter collides with an ocean liner, gashing a hole in the freighter’s hull. In the crash, Tony is trapped below decks, pinned under a heavy metal beam. Dr. Sam, the port’s physician, is summoned to treat Tony. Because Tony is uncommunicative when the doctor questions him about his family, Doc searches his bunk and finds a photograph of Felix, Irena, Tony and Jimmy Jean. As the freighter limps into port, a fire smolders in its cargo hold filled with rubber tires. In the hold next to the tires, is a shipload of nitrate, and while the firefighters struggle to keep the flames from spreading into the highly explosive nitrate, Lt. Sellers of the United States Navy tries to extract Tony from the debris with a hydraulic jack. When word comes that the fire will rage out of control within twelve hours, Doc proposes freeing Tony from the beam by amputating his legs. When Tony refuses, Doc realizes that he must give Tony a reason to live. After Doc returns to shore, Jimmy Jean anxiously questions him about the accident. Recognizing him from the photograph, Doc asks Jimmy Jean to take him to the others in the hope of persuading Tony to change his mind. When the harbor master orders the ship to be hauled out to sea and abandoned, Lt. Sellers begs for one last chance to free Tony. Although the jack briefly lifts the beam, it comes crashing back down, dooming Tony to certain death. After the ship is towed out of the harbor, Jimmy Jean, Felix, Irena and Doc arrive at the docks and Doc asks Felix to accompany him to the freighter. Irena insists on joining them, and after Jimmy Jean pilots the craft to the freighter, Doc and Felix climb onboard to talk to Tony. Once below decks, Felix tries to convince Tony to go through with the amputation, promising that he and Irena will take care of him. After Tony rebuffs his offer, Felix asks Doc to leave. Once they are alone, Felix confesses that as an outcast, he felt a kinship with Irena and admits that he reported Tony to the Coast Guard because he was jealous of his alliance with her. Just then, an explosion rocks the ship, knocking Tony free. Hoisting Tony onto his shoulders, Felix climbs through the gash in the hull, jumps overboard and swims to the waiting boat. After the unconscious Tony is pulled aboard, they cast off just as the ship explodes into flames. Some time later, Irena and Felix are seated at a bar when Jimmy Jean comes to warn them that Tony checked out of the hospital and is armed with a gun. Tony then enters, approaches their table and asks to speak to Irena outside. When Irena turns and kisses Felix, Tony realizes that he has nothing to say to her. After pouring a shot from the bottle, Tony pays for a round of drinks and then walks out. +

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

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