The Poseidon Adventure (1972) Poster


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Paul Gallico was inspired to write his novel by a voyage he made on the Queen Mary. When he was having breakfast in the dining room, the liner was hit by a large wave, sending people and furniture crashing to the other side of the vessel. He was further inspired by a true incident which occurred aboard the Queen Mary during World War II. Packed with American troops bound for Europe, the ship was struck by a gargantuan freak wave in the North Atlantic. It was calculated that if the ship had rolled another five inches, she would have capsized like the Poseidon.
Shot in sequence, taking advantage of the fact that the principals became dirtier and more tattered and suffered injuries - some real and some artificial - as they progressed.
Shelley Winters gained 35 pounds for the part of Belle Rosen. Afterward, she complained that she was never able to get back to her original weight, no matter how hard she tried.
Such mid-ocean "rogue waves" were previously thought to occur only once every ten thousand years. A 2004 study of satellite radar images showed they can happen as often as hundreds of times every decade.
Except for the most dangerous sequences, all of the stunts were done by the actors themselves. All the actors, at one point, complained to the production staff about how difficult the shoot was physically.
Red Buttons and Carol Lynley, whose characters fall in love in the movie, actually disliked each other intensely during filming. They refused to have anything to do with each other, except when the cameras were rolling. Ironically, after being constantly reminded of this, they ended up becoming great friends in later years. Both Lynley and Pamela Sue Martin were with Buttons at the time of his final public appearance - the world premiere of Poseidon (2006) at Mann's Chinese Theatre in May 2006.
Contains five Academy Award winning actors - Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson and Red Buttons; and one Oscar nominee: Arthur O'Connell.
Most of the exterior shots of the Poseidon were shot using a large miniature built from the original blueprints of the Queen Mary. The model is on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum at the Los Angeles harbor. The real Queen Mary is located just a few miles away in Long Beach.
Shelley Winters trained with an Olympic swim coach so that her character, who is a former award-winning swimmer, would come across more realistically in the underwater scenes.
The set for the banquet hall was designed so that very few objects needed to be moved from the floor to the ceiling (and vice versa); the columns along the walls were identical at the top and bottom, and the wall decorations were all removable.
After the cable telegram is delivered to the Shelby stateroom, Robin jumps off the bed, inadvertently capsizing his plastic model of the S.S. Poseidon.
It is said that 125 stunt people were used during the filming. No one was killed or injured. Imdb only has listed 53 of them - all but one uncredited.
Some of the pre-capsize sequences were shot aboard the Queen Mary, including the opening storm sequence, the pre-disaster scenes in the staterooms and hallways, the scenes above decks, and an early scene in the engine room.
The song "The Morning After" is credited on screen as "The Song From The Poseidon Adventure".
Filming was delayed twice due to cost. In addition to oceans of red ink incurred by its television division (ironically from high-budget shows produced by Irwin Allen), Twentieth Century-Fox was also suffering from losses from several big-budget musicals undertaken in the wake of the studio's enormous success with The Sound of Music (1965), Doctor Dolittle (1967), Star! (1968), and Hello, Dolly! (1969), as spectacles were being trounced by smaller character-driven films, and the studio was nervous about a disaster movie's prospects, especially one produced by Allen. Fox finally relented when Allen promised to raise half of the budget himself. Reportedly, Allen found outside backers by crossing Pico Boulevard from Fox's main gate to the nearby Hillcrest Country Club, where he found some friends playing cards. During the card game, Allen cajoled them into backing his film. Because the studio never spent any of the backers' money, the backers made a tidy profit from the success of the film without actually spending a dime.
The famous interior "capsizing" sequence was done in two parts. The first part had the hydraulically-controlled set tilted to its maximum 45 degrees. The cameras were then stopped and the set was redressed so that the floor (deck) became the ceiling (overhead), and vice versa. The actors were then returned to the set which was then tilted further to complete the sequence.
In the scene in which Rev. Scott rescues Robin, the set was built on tracks which would slowly lower the inclined set into a large water tank. The set was supposed to stop moving once the set was half-submerged, but for some reason it continued until the camera crew was underwater. The film magazine was rushed to the lab, where immediate processing showed the film was undamaged.
Part of the set was built on a hydraulic system which would raise it to a 45° angle, and camera tricks were used to suggest more severe angles.
The film received eight competitive nominations, and was awarded a non-competitive Special Achievement Oscar (Visual Effects). It also won Best Original Song for "The Morning After".
The role of James Martin was originally to go to Gene Wilder. Scheduling forced him to turn the role down.
Stella Stevens (Linda Rogo) said once that she always wished she had kept the panties she had worn in the film, as she could "sell them on EBay and make a fortune."
The boots and pendant that Carol Lynley wears in the film actually came from her own private collection.
While waiting for Reverend Scott, Mr. Rogo jokes that the others should break out their hymnals and sing "Nearer, My God, to Thee." That song was sung by the crew and passengers of the SS Valencia as it sank and was allegedly the final song the band of the RMS Titanic played as it went down.
Once this film's theatrical run was over and was eligible to be broadcast on national TV, ABC paid 1 million dollars to acquire the rights to it, at the time the most money a network had ever paid for a film's broadcast rights. Unfortunately, as far as the viewing public was concerned, the film was presented pan/scan in the standard 4:3 television ratio, which was the normal procedure of that era. It was not until decades later that it was restored to its correct, original wide screen ratio.
In the 2006 DVD commentary, Pamela Sue Martin stated she kept her red sandals after filming completed.
In the scene where Rev. Frank Scott is giving his sermon on the deck, actress Pamela Sue Martin is wearing a white and yellow poncho that was actually made for actress Rosemary Forsyth who wore it in City Beneath the Sea (1971), the TV-film that Irwin Allen produced the year before.
Carol Lynley, who played terrified non-swimmer Nonnie Parry, is actually an avid swimmer in real life.
The sequence where Nonnie (Carol Lynley) rehearses "The Morning After" with her band mates was the first scene to be filmed. Originally Waddy Wachtel (the guitarist) was to be cast as her brother Teddy, but as Wachtel had brown eyes and Lynley was blue-eyed, drummer Stuart Perry was cast as Nonnie's brother.
In her autobiography, Esther Williams claims she was offered the role of Belle Rosen by producer Irwin Allen because of her former swimming roles (though this remains open to debate, as the character of Belle Rosen called for a large woman).
Milton Berle's brother was an extra in the dining room.
George C. Scott was considered for the role of Rev. Frank Scott.
Co-director and co-producer Irwin Allen's wife Sheila Allen played the nurse.
Petula Clark was under consideration for the role of Nonnie Parry.
The cast includes 5 Oscar Winners (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson) and 1 Oscar nominee (Arthur O'Connell).
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Reverend Scott's sermon reflected director Ronald Neame theory on life.
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The lyrics for the theme song were written in a single day.
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Sally Kellerman was originally offered the role of Linda Rogo.
Burt Lancaster told Larry King that he turned down the role of Rev. Frank Scott, because he didn't think it was right for him.
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The miniature built of the ocean liner was twenty-five feet long.
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Red Buttons died in July of 2006, only two months after this film's remake Poseidon (2006) opened up in movie theaters.
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In 1985, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, and Shelley Winters starred in Irwin Allen's Alice in Wonderland (1985). Buttons played the White Rabbit, McDowell was the March Hare, Borgnine was the Lion, and Winters was the Dodo Bird.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The original script called for Rev. Scott to send Mrs. Rosen on her underwater mission, and for her to be trapped and needing rescuing by him. Gene Hackman decided that his character would never ask her to do this, and suggested their characters' situations be reversed. Director Ronald Neame agreed, and they persuaded Shelley Winters that this was, indeed, better for her character.
An ending scene showing rescue boats surrounding the sinking ship was planned, but the budget ran out. The shot of the helicopter lifting off the hull with the six survivors was done on the studio lot, looking upward to avoid seeing the surrounding buildings.
When Robin jokes about almost dying in the john (bathroom), his sister says "what a stupid way to die, going to the john. This is a homage to the novel as Robin is last heard from when he goes to the John.
Regarding Scott's "instant death" upon hitting the water being realistic.

As generally injured and exhausted as Scott may have been previously, he likely also had just lost his ability to swim with his arms effectively due to fatigue and severe burns to his hands; additionally, he had just sustained probable heat damage to his lungs, being in close proximity to scalding steam and air temperatures while attempting to close the valve, on top of having recently nearly drowned. His loss with the ship is not improbable.
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