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Using a letter of introduction from Queen Isabella's former confessor, Christopher Columbus gains access to the Spanish court where he tries to convince authorities of the practicality of his proposed voyage to reach to Far East by sailing west. Court intrigue and the efforts of Francisco de Bobadilla, whose financial interests would be hurt by Columbus' success, are roadblocks to the voyage, but the navigator perseveres and ultimately prevails. Written by
In the film, Columbus seems to realize that he never landed in India, whereas in real life, he never realized it. He also talks constantly about having found "new worlds", as if he knew that he had discovered America. See more »
[as he and Diego observe a native smoking tobacco]
Doesn't that prove how backward they are? You never see a civilized man do that.
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I'm not sure what compelled Fredric March and Florence Eldridge to do this British film for J. Arthur Rank based on the life of Christopher Columbus. Or at least an interpretation of that life as come down in popular culture. It didn't add much to either of their reputations, but I suppose did no harm.
March is in the title role of the intrepid Genoese sea captain who is credited with the discovery of America. By America of course we mean the western hemisphere and not the USA. Columbus never did make it in any of his four voyages to the lower 48.
One thing that is a weakness of this film for American audiences is that this it is not made clear that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were joint rulers, she was not just a consort Queen. Earlier in Spanish history, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married and that marriage unified Spain as a nation. But both were monarchs in their own right. It's clear to me, but I fear not to others as to why Florence Eldridge as Queen Isabella can in fact act independently as she does.
Francis L. Sullivan is Count Bobadilla who became Columbus's enemy at court and he plays it in the grand and florid Sullivan manner. He's always a joy to watch in any film, no matter how good or bad it is.
The greatness of Columbus lies in two things, the fact that he had an idea about sailing west in an effort to find a shorter route for trade with the Orient. He was in fact, wrong as you can be on that score. He based his calculations on the fact that he thought the earth much smaller than it really was. But he persisted and eventually sold the notion to the Castilian Queen.
Secondly though, whatever else he was, Columbus was one incredibly good sea captain. In a voyage into unknown territory he kept his crew together for about two months until land was sighted in what is now the Bahamas.
The film itself has quite a few dry patches. It's dull retelling of an exciting adventure. For their time, the special effects are good, but are pretty dated now. It's obvious the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria are all models in a tank.
A couple of films were done in time for the 500 anniversary of the first voyage that were more accurate in the detail. You probably are better off seeing either of them.
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