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Being Italian, I don't know much about the history of the Pilgrim Fathers. "Plymouth Adventure" appears to be a correct, somewhat non-exciting tale of their voyage to America, with all their sufferings and dismay. A patriotic aura pervades the movie, but exceeding rhetoric is carefully avoided: this is a merit of the film. The photography and the costumes are beautiful, the acting is high-standard. The great Spencer Tracy was fifty-two years old when "Plymouth Adventure" was made, and, unfortunately, he looked seventy. Despite his huge talent, he was definitely too old for the role of the captain of the Mayflower. A main theme in the plot is that the Pilgrims survive during the first terrible winter in America thanks to the decisive help of the rough captain. In fact, despite his strong dislike for the Pilgrims, he decides not to abandon them to sure death, because he loves Dorothy Bradford - Gene Tierney. Well, as a proud fan of Gene Tierney, the idea that her fantastic beauty and loveliness could be so crucial in the development of human history sounds perfectly reasonable to me...
Where is the masterpiece American film on this dramatic voyage and settlement of the founders of our democracy? Plymouth Adventure, the best of its kind, has many of the virtues of great American studio work (convincing mise en scene, great ship, vivid action [the storm], fine acting [try to ignore the hobbled accents], and smooth story continuity) and can be enjoyed because of all that, but it never conveys a sense of the agonized desperation and profound spiritual quest of the dissenters. Perhaps Gene Tierney is just too beautfiul, perhaps the costumes are just too sparkling, and certainly the tragic affair with the Captain is better suited to a Douglas Sirk melodrama. For a different account, one can view Mayflower (Anthony Hopkins version), but that errs on the side of political correctness, and drab plotting, and tub-sails a low-budget toy Mayflower. We await the great film about the adventure of these heroic common folks to whom we owe so much.
An already aged-looking SPENCER TRACY is Captain Jones of the Mayflower
in this MGM visualization of what the crossing to the New World may
have been like on an overcrowded ship full of hopeful, determined
passengers and crew. But neither he nor GENE TIERNEY (as Mrs. Bradford)
seem at home in roles that are never really fleshed out by the script.
Nevertheless, Tierney gets plenty of wistful close-ups as she gazes
toward the horizon (or Tracy), but little of substance to do.
Neither does VAN JOHNSON get more than a brief supporting role as John Alden. LEO GENN gets more material as Tierney's stuffed shirt husband but little can be said of the other passengers except for LLOYD BRIDGES who struts around as a bronzed, blue-eyed pirate with taking ways. He at least livens up the scene whenever he's around.
The main trouble is the lack of strong drama in the script. Most of the passengers are a dull lot. Added to that, the lack of real chemistry between Tracy and Tierney makes it difficult to believe their love could be deep enough for her to care about this rude and cynical man completely lacking any sort of refinement in his nature.
The big storm scene is well realized and staged for maximum effect, but only serves to remind us how dull the other sections of the film are.
Summing up: A very uneven drama about an historical event that celebrated the birth of the New World. Should have been so much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fairly entertaining adventure yarn,with too much resorting to
voice-over. There are two very good moments:the storm -Van Johnson will
have known two in the space of 2 years;he'll be on the Caine during the
typhoon(the Caine mutiny 1954)- and the little boy who dies with the
bird (Noah's dove)in his hand.He ,too,had flown too far from home.
Spencer Tracy has a tailor-made part:the grumpy captain with a heart of gold.Gene Tierney's grace and beauty supply the love interest.Her death is quite romantic.The film is somewhat too short and the building of the village and the first winter are botched.
An interesting scene shows the birth of a democracy and ideas that 1789 French revolution will rekindle.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In doing a review of Plymouth Adventure we should start out by saying
this is most definitely not a docudrama about the Pilgrims. This is a
film adaption of a novel by Ernest Gebler in which the author threw
some things in there that never happened or are the subject of much
Gene Tierney's character of Dorothy Bradford did in fact drown under unknown circumstances, but there is no reason to think it was suicide as opposed to an accident and her yearnings for Captain William Jones of the Mayflower is just part of the Gebler's fertile imagination. He was certainly imaginative enough giving a little scandalous romance into the Puritan community.
Plymouth Adventure is a nice tribute to those brave and hearty souls who set forth into an unknown land in which half of them died the first winter, but those who survived creating an American national tradition in the Thanksgiving Holiday. And a black day for turkeys everywhere.
Lately the religious right has latched on to the Pilgrims in their efforts to prove America is a Christian nation. Of course once they got here they ran what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a theocracy. Still they were an intrepid lot and their courage is beyond question.
Spencer Tracy gives a fine performance as the rugged and cynical sea captain of the Mayflower, the chartered ship which takes the Pilgrims from Southampton to an unknown world. I think Tracy drew a lot from some of the characters in Eugene O'Neill's plays in his portrayal of Jones. He has a moment in which he says that people have disappointed him, but the sea never let him down. Could have come from any of O'Neill's works.
An Oscar for Best Special Effects went to Plymouth Adventure showing some of the travails at sea the Mayflower went through. Back in its day MGM had a huge water tank that was used for all the sea sagas filmed there. Occasionally other studios rented it out, the facility was that good. Tracy has been there before when he was in Captains Courageous in spirit so to speak.
Players like Van Johnson, Lowell Gilmore, Dawn Addams, Noel Drayton, Barry Jones, Kathleen Lockhart play some of the Pilgrim names come down from historical legend. Leo Genn is William Bradford, author of the Mayflower Compact which is cited interminably now by fundamentalist TV reverends as proof of our Christian heritage. Genn who rivaled Ronald Colman as possessor of the most beautiful speaking voice in the English speaking world would be a pleasure to listen to reading the Erie County phone book.
My favorite in this is young Tommy Ivo who played William Button the only voyager on the Mayflower to die at sea. His death scene is a heart string tugging experience.
Not the real story of the Mayflower voyage, Plymouth Adventure is still good entertainment and a stirring tribute to those who formalized the giving of thanks and the reasons they had to be thankful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I assumed that because Hollywood made this film long ago and because
there often has been a desire to over-idealize our history that "The
Plymouth Adventure" would totally suck--especially since I am a history
teacher and HATE historical inaccuracies. However, apart from a little
artistic license here and there, the essence of this story is quite
true and the film is very watchable--even if a few plots here and there
are hooey. The worst is the supposed suicide--which is not confirmed in
the contemporary accounts of her death. In fact, this entire story line
is a problem as it almost certainly never occurred. But apart from that
and a few bits of artistic license, the tale is pretty good--
historically speaking. And also, the film fails to really discuss the
true cost to the settlers, as they lost half their people in the first
year in Plymouth Colony--something the film never mentions, as it ends
just after their arrival.
The story chronicles the journey from England to the New World and shows the hardships that the passengers and crew endured. Fortunately, the film pointed out that not all the settlers were religious pilgrims but a mixed bag seeking a new life in America. Their hunger, thirst and sickness were all featured in the film--though a bit sanitized, as few in the audience really wanted to see all the vomiting and fever that really occurred! So is this a perfect film? No. But considering the average film of the era about Americana tended to play very fast and loose with the facts, this one stands up very well. And because of this, it is still very watchable today. Good acting, a pretty good script and good direction--it's much better than I expected.
This is a very fine movie! As I am not American these pilgrims have not
meant so much to me - although I recognized a name or two - but now I
feel I know them and understand them a little. Not only because of what
I learned in the movie itself, but from the reading I have done after
wards because it awakened my interest and curiosity. Good historical
movies shall work just like that - and for a good cause a little
poetical license is acceptable! Because without the unconsummated and
tragic love story, also if it did not happen in reality, this movie
would not have been half as thrilling.
Some reviewers here have complained that Spencer Tracy looks too old to play Captain Jones, but I find this strange as the real Captain Jones was the same age as Tracy... and as Jones also partook of the hardships on board, not only on this famous voyage but in a whole life at sea, and in fact died only a year after he returned to England, HE probably did not look like a spring chicken either... I also must admit that I at least find Tracy attractive in this part!
The best thing about this movie is the dialogue; there are many lines that are as beautiful as poetry. Captain Jones' words when he talks of his broken ship, his lonely nights and his feverish longing for Mrs Bradford, is some of the best dialogue I have ever heard in a love scene written for a movie. Very pungent and erotic with a feeling of impending doom...
The feeling of being transported to the time period is very good. The sailing part is as far as I can see accurate - you get to see a little of the sailors really working the sails, pulling up the anchor etc. (I would have wanted more of this). The photo is beautiful and there are impressive storm scenes etc..
There is one thing lacking though: I would have expected more religious ardor from the passengers. More spirit. After all: these are the founding fathers!!! I think they come out as too ordinary, too preoccupied with practical matters like any migrating peasants.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(There are Spoilers) Recreation of the Pilgrims dangerous voyage to the
new world, America, on the good ship Mayflower in the summer and fall
of 1620 AD.
Put in charge of the Mayflower by England's Virginia Company's Mrs. Weston, Rhys Williams, is that old salt and pragmatic Capt. Chris Jones, Spencer Tracy, who's only in it for the money and nothing else. It's when Weston gives Jones, under the table, an added bonus of 200 English pounds to steer the Mayflower to the north and uninhabited-by the white man- Cape Cod region of New England that he decides to trick his passengers and crew, all 102 of them, into thinking that he was taking them some 500 miles south to Jamestown Virginia that already had an established English colony.
The greedy and criminal minded Mr. Weston was trying to pull a fast one on his employer by buying up all the worthless stock of the almost defunct England's New England Company and cash it in when a colony is established on it's territory with him being the only stock holder. As things turned out, as history shows up, the trip north made it possible for the future establishment, in 1776, of the United States of America!
The dangerous voyage across the almost uncharted Atlantic Ocean had the Mayflower and its passengers and crew face dangers and horrors far worse then they ever dreamed of in their wildest nightmares. Capt. Jones while keeping the ship together and his man, who were on the verge of mutiny, in line soon gets the hots, in her being one of the few women on board, for the very religious pretty and saintly Dorothy Bradford, Jene Tierney, who's husband William, Leo Genn, was also one of the ship's passengers. This sinful and forbidden romance, with Capt. Jones doing most of the romancing, between Capt. Jones and Mrs. Bradford is the most interesting part of the movie even though in real life it never really happened. Dorothy later feeling that she cheated on her husband, by just allowing the slobbering Capt. Jones to kiss her, and broke her marriage vowels ended up drowning herself. The depressed and guilt-ridden Dorothy offed herself just as the Mayflower finally reached land after it's more then three month sail across the wind and storm swept Atlantic Ocean.
It's Dorothy Bradford's tragic death that woke the narrow minded and people hating, on the Mayflower, Capt. Jones up to the humanity that he always either denied or kept from himself. No longer the cynical and Godless person that he once was the "Captain" decided to stay with the Pilgrim settlers, whom half of them were to died because of illness and starvation, throughout the harsh and bitter winter of 1620-1621 until spring, and the spring harvest, arrived. Now a new man with love and understanding in his heart for his fellow human beings Capt. Jones in an act of honesty and forgiveness,for himself, finally confessed to Dorothy's husband William that in fact he did try to break up, by him being the other man, their marriage! But in the end it was Dorothy in her eternal love for William, feeling that she was giving in to Capt. Jones' advances would rather kill herself, that too a mortal sin, then betray her husband!
Beautiful ocean scenery with a very convincing Mid-Atlantic Ocean storm as well as amazing spacial effect-for 1952-adds to the movie's great acting and historical content. Still it was the fictitious relationship between Capt. Jones and Dorothy Bradford that overshadowed all the true events that were depicted in the film "Plymouth Advanture".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A fascinating historical drama, but in typical Hollywood fashion,
incorporating a frustrating(for the historical purist) blend of
meticulous historical fact and pure fabrication. Actually, Hollywood
was not primarily responsible for the plot fabrications,as the film was
based upon the then recent novel of the same title by Ernest Gebler. In
contradiction to some reviewers, I consider this Spencer Tracy's
greatest characterization, albeit a superficially negative one. All the
major characters were well cast, even if Gene Tierney made an unlikely
beautiful Dorothy Bradford, whom Tracy, as Captain Christopher Jones,
lusted after. Some object that Dorothy could not have found Jones
romantically attractive, being old, very grumpy, and contemptuous of
the colonists. I sensed that it was more a case of pity on her part,
and may have included some dissatisfaction with her husband and hope
that she could charm Jones into not leaving for England until spring.
Without the ship as a sanctuary until the colonists built adequate
housing, they surely would all perish from exposure and starvation.
Dorothy presumably felt that this divided loyalty between two men was
an unforgivable sin or an unsolvable problem, necessitating her death.
Would Jones have stayed with the colonists overwinter, had she not
presumably killed herself? I doubt it. It was her sacrificial death
that shortly preceded his changed attitude toward the colonists.
John Aldren's flirtation with the comely teen Dawn Addams has possible historical accuracy, as they would eventually marry....Lloyd Bridges is great as Jone's piratical-looking swarthy first mate and enforcer, ready to lead a mutiny when Jones inexplicably decided to stay the winter with the colonists.
The long episode of the severe storm is quite riveting. The bit about a large passenger screw being used to help support a cracked beam is historically true....Actually, it was another passenger, not William Brewster, who was washed overboard during a storm. Making it Brewster added to the drama with Jones over Dorothy.
The screen writer presumably followed Gebler in exploiting several common myths to add important fictional plot components. Thus, the implication that the initial landing near Cape Cod instead of the targeted Chesapeake region was a planned conspiracy by financial backers, with the cooperation of Jones, is an unnecessary clear fabrication, if adding to the frictional drama between the colonists and Jones. In contrast to common myth, the agreed upon target was the present NYC area, which was included in the Virginia Charter of the times, not the present state of Virginia! Most of the Separatist colonists had recently been living in Holland, and had heard good reports of this area from the Dutch. After making landfall in the Cape Cod area due to repeated storms, the Mayflower made an attempt to sail south to this area, but weather and current difficulties, along with the storm-battered condition of the Mayflower, caused them to return to their original landing area. Of course, the Dutch would soon begin settlements in the NYC-Hudson area.
The central love/hate triangle between Jones, William and Dorothy Bradford has no historical support, if much adding to the drama. Dorothy did die of drowning after disappearing from the Mayflower soon after it docked along Cape Cod. However, there is no clear reason to believe it was a suicide rather than accidental.This accusation originates from a mid-19th century fictional magazine story, presumably repeated in Gebler's novel(which I haven't read).
The characterization of Captain Jones as a disagreeable extreme world-weary cynic has no historical support. There are, however, several historical facts or misconceptions that might lend some credence to this characterization. He had fathered 10 children, most of whom had died as infants or small children. Secondly, during the 19th century, it was thought that the captain was one Thomas Jones: a sometimes pirate and slave trader, thus presumably a rather rough cynical character. This might also lend credence to the rather piratical charisma of the first mate, Mr.Coppin, a genuine historical name. Thirdly, there was a seaman who repeatedly belittled the colonists as having no chance of surviving this voyage or their desired destination. Interestingly, this seaman was one of only two to die during the voyage! Surprisingly, this seaman is not included in the film story, hence probably was incorporated into the Captain's character.
Some reviewers think Tracy was too old for the part of Captain Jones. Well, the real Jones was only 2 years younger and died only a year after returning to England..Incidentally, his return trip took only 1 month compared to the more than 2 months getting to Cape Cod. This shows the influence of favorable winds, the Gulf Stream, and generally fewer storms in spring.
This is the story of how the English pilgrims journeyed over the
treacherous Atlantic waters, to form their colony at Plymouth,
Massachusetts. These were the "seeds" that grew into The United States
of America. Helming the famous "Mayflower" ship of colonists is grouchy
Spencer Tracy (as Christopher Jones). Mr. Tracy doesn't let his
passengers know they are headed for New England, instead of Virginia.
But, in the end, the local "savages" are more friendly up North, we are
How these adventurers survived the hellish conditions is revealed to be due to Tracy's forbidden love for the wife of passenger pilgrim Leo Genn, a Godly-clean and good-looking Gene Tierney (as Dorothy Bradford). Tracy gets drunk and tries to have "his way" with her, but she apparently isn't prone to rape fantasies. They continue to make "goo-goo eyes" at each other, though. Meanwhile, carpenter Van Johnson (as John Alden) ogles pretty Dawn Addams (as Priscilla Mullins)...
Here is a prime example of a film that would seem to have everything going for it - but the story floats like a stone. Tracy and Mr. Johnson saw their 1951 "Quigley Box Office Star" positions plummet from #10 (Tracy) and #24 (Johnson), after setting sail. Director Clarence Brown retired. If you do hang around until they reach land, you'll see Mr. Brown and photographer William Daniels create a gorgeous location. Lloyd Bridges (as Coppin) is one who doesn't look like a fish out of water.
**** Plymouth Adventure (11/14/52) Clarence Brown ~ Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney, Van Johnson, Lloyd Bridges
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