|The Captain's Paradise|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anthony Kimmins|
|Produced by||Anthony Kimmins|
|Written by||Alec Coppel
|Based on||story by Alec Coppel|
Yvonne De Carlo
|Music by||Malcolm Arnold|
|Edited by||Gerald Turney-Smith|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)
Lopert Pictures Corporation
United Artists (USA)
|9 June 1953|
The Captain's Paradise is a 1953 British comedy film starring Alec Guinness and directed by Anthony Kimmins. Guinness plays the captain of a passenger ship that travels regularly between Gibraltar and Spanish Morocco. The film begins at just before the end of the story, which is then told in a series of flashbacks.
In early 1950s North Africa, a man (Alec Guinness) is escorted through an angry, clamouring crowd by a platoon of soldiers. They enter a fort and it is clear that he is to be executed. The commander (Peter Bull) orders the men to line up in two rows and gives the order to fire. As the shots ring out, the scene changes to a ferry ship, the "Golden Fleece" in the docks as the passengers embark for the two days' journey to Gibraltar. Amongst the crew, there is much dismay, and the chief officer, Carlos Ricco (Charles Goldner) takes to his cabin with the clear intention of getting drunk. He is interrupted by an elderly gentleman, Lawrence St. James (Miles Malleson), who had come to speak his nephew, Captain Henry St. James on an unspecified, but urgent, matter. He is profoundly shocked to learn that the grief he had encountered on the ship is due to the death of the man he had travelled from England to see. He begs Ricco, to explain what has led to such an event. He learns that his nephew Henry was the prosperous owner and skipper of this small passenger ship which he captained as it ferried regularly to and fro between Gibraltar and Kalique, a port in North Africa.
In Morocco, he lives with his lover, Nita (Yvonne de Carlo) - a young, hot-blooded, exotic lady. She is 13 years younger than he and refers to him as "her Jimmy". He takes her out every night to expensive, fashionable restaurants and night clubs, where they lead a loud and wild lifestyle. In Gibraltar, he shares his life with Maud (Celia Johnson) - his devoted, domesticated wife, just three years his junior - living a respectable, sober existence, and going to bed every night no later than ten o'clock with mugs of cocoa. St James gives Nita lingerie. He gives Maud a vacuum cleaner. Both are delighted. He has found a perfect existence - his paradise.
Growing perhaps complacent, St. James makes a careless mistake. This leads to Ricco, up till then believing Nita to be the captain's wife, discovering that the true Mrs. St James is living in Gibraltar. Ricco is glad to assist St. James in maintaining the deception and is soon called into action when Maud flies to Kalique and by chance meets Nita. St. James arranges to have Maud arrested before she and Nita realise that they are married to the same man. He convinces Maud that Morocco is a dangerous place and that she should never return there.
The years pass by. Maud has twins. She is thrilled with her two boys, but when they are sent to school in England, Maud is no longer enamoured with her existence. She wants to dance and drink gin. On the other hand, Nita wants to stay home and cook for her man. Henry is dismayed and makes every effort to keep everything just the way it was. His attempts to maintain the status quo result in both women taking lovers. When St James discovers Nita's infidelity, he leaves the flat as she continues the argument with her lover, Absalom. Nita shoots and kills her lover. In order to protect Nita, Captain St. James claims that he was the killer.
The execution is then shown, but the firing squad swing their rifles to the left and shoot their commanding officer. St. James hands them money and walks away.
It was called Paradise. In 1951 it was announced that Rex Harrison and Lili Palmer would star. The following year it was announced Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were going to star, with Olivier to direct and Alex Korda to possibly produce.
Olivier and Leigh became unavailable. Yvonne de Carlo says when she was offered her role by director Anthony Kimmins, agreed to do it if Alec Guinness played the lead. Kimmins said it was unlikely to get Guinness and that they would probably go for Ray Milland or Michael Wilding; de Carlo urged they try Guinness again and the actor accepted. (Alec Guinness had a contract with Alex Korda to make one film a year and he agreed to star.) Celia Johnson signed to play the other lead.
Kimmins said, "We're trying to show man's triple side... there's the domestic wife - pipe and slippers side; then the jungle side - the girl-in-port sort of thing. Then there's the conversational, man-to-man side... And naturally we stay tongue in cheek throughout so we don't expect to wreck any homes."
The film was a hit at the box office.
The film was refused approval by US censors on the ground it was immoral. Some cinemas played it anyway and the film was popular.
The film was edited for US release. A line referring to Guinness' character as a "saint" was cut, and an epilogue added to the end which stated the film was only a fairytale.
The film was banned in Maryland because it "made light of marriage".
Included as part of the Alec Guinness Collection,The Captain's Paradise was released on DVD in September 2002.