The Wreck of the Mary Deare


Feb 24, 2004
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...with Gary Cooper, Charleton Heston and Richard Harris, based on the 60s best-seller by Hammond Innes.

The tank shots of the ship in a near-hurricane off northern France are still among the best water shots in any film. And the screenplay is a lot smoother and less frustrating than the novel.

I've been wondering. There are some real structural similarities between Innes's novel and Robertson's "Futility" -- big ship wreck at the beginning, while the remainder deals with one of the sailors trying to restore his good name. Has anyone ever examined at it from that angle?

Also, for the film, the two "good guys" were played by American actors. But I don't think Innes specified what nationality they were. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Roy
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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This was a good film IMO that showed off two great actors from an earlier generation of films (Cooper) and the #1 box office draw at the time (Heston, who had "Ben Hur" coming out simultaneously) back then.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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And a young and upcoming . . . and very nasssssty . . . Richard Harris. He didn't fit Innes's description of the character, Higgins, but that's okay. I reread the novel recently and found a lot of the writing tedious. I felt the screenplay changes made for a much more exciting film and I've never been able to shake my impression that Innes was well up on his Morgan Robertson.
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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I've not seen the film, but recently found the novel for the first time on a charity stall, and enjoyed it. Obviously, personal opinions will vary, but I found the writing style of Hammond Innes smoother, "deeper" and preferable to that of Robertson.

I didn't spot the similarities between the two works and, although I can see where Roy is coming from, to my mind the resemblances in structure are coincidental. JMHO!
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Paul!

I read the novel when it first came out and I liked it very much. When I saw the film version, I liked it as well, but could see they'd made some important changes from the book. Not to worry, because I've seen far worse Hollywood hatchet jobs inflicted on popular works of fiction.

I thought Patch became irritating because of his unceasing (read that "overly repetitive") reluctance to share helpful information with people he was virtually press-ganging into aiding him. Other readers might not be bothered by it - I found myself saying, "Come on, already! Clue 'im in, will ya?!"

The other thing, and I think you might have had to study creative writing back in the late 50s to remember this, was that we were taught one of the marks of good descriptive writing was when you peppered your phrases with all sorts of jargon peculiar to the subject you were writing on - in this case, "nautical"-speak. To me this is a gimmick that's totally separate from competent writing. I didn't believe my teachers on it back then and I sure don't now.

As far as any possible similarities to "Futility," those I alluded to were purely structural. I don't feel Innes "copied" Robertson, or "cribbed" Robertson. But I think he "knew" his Robertson, enough to be aware of the basic structure of "Futility" and write a more modern story built around it. I would be very surprised if I learned Innes had never read "Futility."

But that structure didn't lend itself well to making a filmed translation. Hitchcock considered doing it and gave up on it because, he said, once you get past the terrific opening, it doesn't go anywhere. The changes the final screenplay made were mostly to tighten that structure and create a more filmable dramatic storyline, one that would demand an audience's attention past the excitement of the opening.

Again, I don't have a problem with this, because it happens all the time in films. I can only think of a few that have remained totally faithful to their sources and I don't think it's always been the best choice.
 

Paul Rogers

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Hello Roy.

Yes, I understand exactly what you mean, and I agree that Patch's intransigence was annoying - but then he did have the body in the coal chute on his mind, and was undoubtedly keen to keep his own counsel until that matter could be tidied up!

As for films remaining faithful to their source books, I cannot think of a single example where this has worked well. Films and books are such different mediums, after all. (Although I do wish that Raise the Titanic had stuck a tad closer to Clive Cussler's excellent novel.)

You've got me really eager to see the Mary Deare movie now. I feel a trip to Amazon coming on...
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Paul!

>>As for films remaining faithful to their source books, I cannot think of a single example where this has worked well.

The only one that comes to my mind, that's generally regarded as a masterpiece, is To Kill a Mockingbird, with Gregory Peck as Finch and a young Robert Duvall as Boo, the mystery guy in the creepy old house down the street. Harper Lee evidently had only the one book to write, but it was a doozie. And the movie works beautifully!

>>You've got me really eager to see the Mary Deare movie now. I feel a trip to Amazon coming on...

It was released on VHS and Laserdisc, but to my knowledge, it hasn't made it out on DVD yet. Pity! Have you seen all the drek they're releasing these days??

The other question I've had about Mary Deare is, what nationality are these guys? The movie made them Americans, but unless I missed it, I don't think the book says anything at all on the matter.

Best wishes, Paul!

Roy
 

Paul Rogers

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Hello Roy.

To Kill a Mockingbird was a great film (I had to study the book for my O-Levels at age 16) but, even though it remained pretty faithful to the book, I believe the film was set over one Summer whereas the book was spread over several years of Scout's life. Thus, Horton Foote had to compress the timeline of the story in order to make the screenplay work - which it does, beautifully.

As for the nationality of Mary Deare's John Sands, Mike Duncan and Harold Lowden (Hal), I'd always assumed that they were British but, you're right, the book doesn't seem to specify a nationality for any of them. I would assume that this was deliberate on the part of Innes, together with the 1st person narrative, to ensure "buy-in" from the reader.

All the best,
Paul.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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>>I believe the film was set over one Summer whereas the book was spread over several years of Scout's life.

Yes, that's the kind of story compression that screenwriters often use. Peter Jackson's folks did the same thing with the opening scenes of Fellowship of the Ring.

>>the book doesn't seem to specify a nationality for any of them.

Good. I thought I was losing it.

>>I would assume that this was deliberate on the part of Innes, together with the 1st person narrative, to ensure "buy-in" from the reader.

And because it was an American-made film, we claimed the bragging rights. Hmmmm...

'-)

Cheers, Paul!
Roy
 
Feb 24, 2004
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For Region 1 DVD collectors, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" is now available in a multi-disc Gary Cooper collection from Warner Brothers:

http://www.amazon.com/Gary-Cooper-Collection-Fountainhead-Springfield/dp/B000HWZ4EI/sr=1-1/qid=1163105953/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-7356027-4207009?ie=UTF8& s=dvd

There's also a single disc release that Amazon claims is an "Authentic Region 1 DVD from Warner Brothers starring Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston", but otherwise, they provide very little info on its pedigree:

http://www.amazon.com/Wreck-Mary-Deare-Authentic-Brothers/dp/B000KE5V5K/sr=1-2/qid=1163105953/ref=sr_1_2/103-7356027-4207009?ie=UTF8&s=dvd

Best wishes!
Roy