Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Forgotten Films: Boy on a Dolphin

I'm not widely traveled, and it's too late nowfor me to see in person some of the great places of the world, but that's okay. I've seen them in the movies. One of those places is the Greek island of Hydra, which I saw in Boy on a Dolphin when I was a teenager. It's a beautiful place, and this movie would be worth watching just for that reason alone. I don't think the movie is easily available, which is okay, I guess. It's certainly not a great movie, and the scenery really deserves a theater that can show Cinemascope and has a really wide screen.

And speaking of scenery, there's Sophia Loren. I was about 16 when I saw this movie. Was I impressed. Oh, yes, indeed. Wow. What does the plot matter when you have Sophia playing a sponge diver and walking around in wet clothes?

If you're interested in the plot, Sophia finds a statue of a boy on a dolphin. I suppose the boy is Arion, another reason I remember the movie, but that's another story. Anyway, Clifton Webb is the unscrupulous collector who wants the dolphin for his own, and Alan Ladd is the scholarly archaeologist who thinks it belongs in a museum. Why he'd care about the statue when Sophia is around is a mystery to me.

I remember reading about this movie when it was being filmed. I can't remember where the articles appeared, but there was a problem with Ladd and Loren because of the disparity in their heights. Ladd was a good bit shorter. He had to stand on a box for the kissing scenes, I think, and for the scene of the two of them walking on the beach, they had to dig a trench for Loren to walk in so they would appear to be of about the same height. That didn't bother me. I knew I was taller than Ladd and that Loren would notice that about me if we ever met. Which unfortunately we never have.


  1. I suspect my response to Sophia, beautiful though she undoubtedly is, is somewhat less viseral than a man's response.

    Years ago, I read an article about the cinematic tricks that were used to disguise the fact that Alan Ladd was 5'4", and since then I really can't enjoy his movies because all the time I'm thinking, "Ah, I see what they did there." Even a classic like "Shane" becomes distracting when you notice that Ladd is always in foreground when others are in the background and vice-versa.

    The craziest set-up I've seen was one where Loretta Young plays a deaf woman and Ladd is the brilliant doctor who is trying to cure her. He stands at the top of the stairs, she stands at the bottom. This is their entire courtship.

  2. I never saw BOY ON A DOLPHIN, but I think I'll seek it out after reading about the effect it had on you.

  3. Deb, I suspect she had a much greater effect on me when I was about 15 than she'd have had at any other time.

    George, this one's not impossible to find, but it's probably only on VHS at collector's prices. Not worth it.

  4. Anonymous8:41 AM

    For some reason I mondegreen the title as "Bwana Dolphin". The aquatic sequel to "Bwana Devil", I suppose.

    I've always considered Jackie Bisset's performance in The Deep to be an homage (or a pair of homages) to Loren.

    Art Scott

  5. I like Bwana Dolphin which must have been the 3-D version. I sure wish I'd seen that one. I did see The Deep. But it wasn't in 3-D, either. (No 38-D jokes please.)

  6. I certainly hadn't forgotten it! It was racy enough to be a big deal when on TV, and the plot wasn't bad either.

  7. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Ladd always had to stand on a box for the kissing scenes.

    I still remember this one for the scenery of the island and Sophia.


  8. Anyone read the book? I can't make out the writer's name, is it David Devine? Never heard of him.

  9. That's the name, Juri. I haven't read the book.

  10. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Browsing IMDB I found the interesting tidbit that Sophia's singing in the movie was ghosted by Julie London - and wouldn't she have made a swell sponge-diver as well?

  11. Julie's recording of the title tune is on YouTube. Check it out.

  12. Anonymous2:32 PM

    It pops up on TCM and FMC on occasion. But do you want to possibly ruin your teenage memories by seeing it again?

  13. I remember this too. Haven't seen it in MANY years. Sophia and the Greek Isles - a great combo. Alan Ladd as the lead - not so much. He was...um...laughable next to the statuesque Loren.

    Kind of like Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher - the latest casting atrocity.