Cast & Crew
Off the Greek island of Hydra in the Aegean Sea, Phaedra, a beautiful peasant girl who tends the village windmill, dives for sponges with her belligerent boyfriend Rhif. Although Rhif makes empty promises to Phaedra about providing her with financial security, Phaedra's true concern is the welfare of her younger brother Niko. While prowling the undersea terrain one day, Phaedra spots a statue of a boy on a dolphin, which is tied to the mast of a sunken ship. As she swims closer to investigate, Phaedra cuts her leg on a clump of spiny coral, and Rhif takes her to the town's besotted physician, Dr. Hawkins. After extracting a nail from her wound, the doctor dismisses Phaedra's report about an undersea statue as an hallucination. The next day, however, Hawkins visits Phaedra, unfurls a drawing of the statue and exclaims that the nail he extracted from her wound belongs to an ancient vessel that sank thousands of years earlier. Sensing profits, Rhif sends Phaedra to Athens in hopes of interesting some wealthy Americans in the statue. At the Parthenon, Phaedra shows the drawing to American archaeologist James Calder. Wary of peasants claiming to have found lost treasure, Calder turns her away. Phaedra then meets Victor Parmalee, an imperious opportunist who has made his fortune in stolen antiquities. After fruitlessly trying to interest other archaeologists in the statue, Phaedra returns to the earnest Calder, who, recognizing the drawing as a mosaic found on the island of Delos, arranges to meet Phaedra later that evening at an outdoor café. Phaedra arrives early for the meeting, and is refused service because she is unescorted. Seeing Parmalee seated at a nearby table, Phaedra insists on joining him. When Parmalee learns that Phaedra is to meet Calder, his rival, he tricks her into accompanying him to his yacht. After instructing his crew to hold Phaedra prisoner until he can determine the statue's authenticity, Parmalee travels to Meteora, an isolated monastery perched upon a mountain precipice, the repository of an archive of rare manuscripts detailing the history of Greece. Upon arriving, Parmalee is surprised to see Calder seated at a table, researching the history of a statue of a gold boy seated upon a bronze dolphin. After Calder warns Parmalee that it is illegal to remove antiquities from Greece, Parmalee returns to his yacht, woos Phaedra with promises of riches and sails back to Hydra with her. Upon reaching the island, Parmalee drops anchor at a secluded cove and sends Phaedra ashore, instructing her to set a marker at the site of the statue. Calder has also landed on the island, and to avoid him, Rhif, Phaedra and Hawkins furtively sneak out to Parmalee's yacht. When he discovers that Calder is on the island, Parmalee instructs Phaedra to lead him on an unsuccesful search for the statue. Two weeks later, Niko, who has befriended Calder, points out Parmalee's yacht docked in Smuggler's Cove, and Calder realizes that Phaedra is in league with Parmalee. That night, Calder coldly informs Phaedra that he has acquired a scientific device that will help him locate the statue. Alerted by Phaedra, Parmalee directs her to remove the statue from the ship's hull and conceal it in a nearby grotto. The next morning, Phaedra is awakened by Calder, who confesses he will miss her and tenderly kisses her on the shoulder. Confused because she is falling in love with Calder, Phaedra goes to the church to pray for guidance. That night, a self-important Rhif orders Phaedra to distract Calder at the tavern while he removes the statue from the grotto and delivers it to Parmalee. When Niko informs Calder that the yacht has sailed, Calder rushes out of the tavern, followed by Phaedra. After Calder accuses her of stealing from her own people, Phaedra responds that as a rich American, he is incapable of comprehending the desperate life of the Greek peasants. Phaedra then breaks down in tears, and after they embrace, she offers to take him to the statue in the morning. The next day, they discover that the statue has disappeared, and Calder curses himself for allowing his feelings to compromise his mission. Later, Rhif slaps Phaedra unconscious and ties her up aboard his boat. At the harbor, meanwhile, Calder meets an agent of the Greek government, who informs him that he has been following Parmalee and intends to retrieve the statue. Meanwhile, Phaedra, a captive on Rhif's boat, spies Niko hiding in the hills above the harbor and signals him that the statue is suspended under the boat, secured by ropes. Niko runs to tell the doctor, and Hawkins quickly sobers up and takes charge. Just as Rhif approaches Parmalee's yacht to deliver the statue, the government boat pulls alongside and the agent informs Parmalee that he is under arrest. When they discover that the ropes have been cut, thus liberating the statue, Phaedra smiles and Parmalee admits defeat and sets sail for Monte Carlo. The government boat then transports Calder, Phaedra and Rhif back to town, but when they reach the harbor, it is deserted. Just then, the cannon at the old fort booms, and the fishing fleet, led by Niko, sails in, proudly bearing the statue. When Phaedra quietly walks away, Calder chases and tackles her, and she then smiles and kisses him.
Samuel G. Engel
W. D. Flick
Harry M. Leonard
Edward B. Powell
Jack Martin Smith
Paul Francis Webster
Lyle R. Wheeler
Boy On a Dolphin - Boy on a Dolphin
Originally, the film was to star Cary Grant and Loren, fresh off The Pride and the Passion (1957), where the two had sparked up a real-life romance. Boy on a Dolphin was four days into shooting in Greece when Grant cancelled. His wife, Betsy Drake, had survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria ocean liner and he went to be with her. Robert Mitchum was next up, but in the end, Alan Ladd was signed by Twentieth Century-Fox president Spyros Skouras, a considerable surprise to director Jean Negulesco, who thought Ladd was all wrong for the part; he was too diminutive in size (reported from 5'4" to 5'6") and presence to visually compliment his costar Loren. "It sounded then and sounds now pure insanity," Negulesco says in his autobiography, Things I Did and Things I Think I Did.
Ladd's smallish frame was overweight and reportedly bloated from alcohol, while his bigger-than-life costar would very likely dominate every scene. Reportedly, Ladd, who had stood on boxes for many of his films, felt the practice was beneath him at that stage in his career, so Loren spent the film standing in holes and walking in trenches so they could at least meet eye to eye.
If the chemistry between the two leads seems to be missing onscreen, it was. Offscreen they didn't have much to say to each other either. Loren has observed that Ladd is the only male costar who didn't want to be her friend. "We spent hours together for two months," she recalls in Warren G. Harris' biography, Sophia Loren. "He was always polite but never seemed to want to have any social contact. I liked Alan, but he didn't seem to like me. I couldn't understand it." Negulesco remembers their bleak introduction: "The first meeting between Sophia and Alan confirmed our worst fears...'Sophia, this is Alan Ladd,' I said. These were the only words exchanged in this encounter. They both mumbled, 'How do,' and sat there open-mouthed measuring each other. They both lost."
Similarly, Ladd and Clifton Webb were reportedly not overly fond of each other. In general, Ladd is said to have been withdrawn and indifferent through the whole of the production. Accounts vary as to the cause of his on-set tension. Perhaps he was embarrassed by Loren's stature, as well as crew whisperings that his unhealthy appearance and aloofness were related to a fondness for ouzo (an anise-flavored liqueur popular in Greece). He was clearly annoyed that Negulesco gave his costar more and better camera time. In Beverly Linet's biography, Ladd: The Life, the Legend, the Legacy of Alan Ladd, he remembers, "Negulesco fell in 'love' with her, so she got all good close-ups. All you ever saw of me in most scenes was the back of my neck. I got fed up with it."
In the film, Loren plays Phaedra, a poor Hydra sponge diver who discovers a valuable statue deep underwater, while her lazy boyfriend rests on deck. Then the task becomes how to sell the treasure so that they can leave their life of poverty behind. Phaedra travels to Athens, where she meets Dr. James Calder (Ladd), a virtuous archeologist working in Greece to restore national treasures. He doesn't want to pay her but a small finder's fee for the piece. Enter millionaire treasure hunter Victor Parmalee (Webb), who is ready to help Phaedra raise the treasure and smuggle it out of the country. He is happy to pay her for it...and for other things, but she already has a steady beau, for better or for worse. Meanwhile, Calder joins in the chase for the statue and Phaedra lies to him about its whereabouts, hoping that the archeologist will give up or run out of money. Ultimately, thanks to her little brother, Rhif (Jorge Mistral), Phaedra does the right thing by giving the statue to her homeland, allowing for a happy fadeout and the promise of a new romance with Calder.
The majority of Boy on a Dolphin was shot on Hydra, an island not equipped to house Hollywood visitors in the style to which they were accustomed. So the studio hired luxury cabin cruisers to provide temporary residences. Ladd (and wife Sue Carol) and Webb (with mother Maybelle) got the largest boats, while Loren and Negulesco stayed on land in each of the two available houses to rent.
Though the setting of the film was breathtaking, it didn't do much to improve Ladd's disposition. He was reportedly eager to get home to the States, his children and his various California properties. Overseas travel wasn't easy for Ladd, who was afraid to fly. To add to the strain, he and his wife were robbed on the Orient Express en route to Greece, losing her best jewelry and his evening clothes, which seemed to set his overseas adventure off on the wrong foot.
To add to the mix, in 1956 fighting was raging in Cyprus, the Suez Crisis was underway and there was fear that a Middle East war was impending. The State Department had begun evacuating American personnel from the area and Boy on a Dolphin was in a race to the finish line.
Loren's famous dripping sponge-diving outfit was devised by Negulesco from a photograph he had of a Japanese pearl diver. He had Loren try it out in her warm bathtub and then double-lined the dress so that they could get past censors. But when it came time to shoot in the cold Aegean Sea, the results were even more striking: "When Sophia surfaced, her lovelies were pointing at us with daring accuracy. The still man dropped his camera. The soundman raised his boom. The Greek laborers were thunderstruck," he recalled in his autobiography. The image became a best-selling poster around the world and helped launch Loren, in her first American film, as one of the sexiest actresses of the era.
Boy on a Dolphin was great exposure for Sophia's career, but was otherwise not lauded by critics. The New York Times gave its verdict on April 20, 1957. Though the Grecian scenery and Loren came off well, Ladd was said to be "merely a moody scientist who doesn't give the impression that he's really her type." The New York Herald Tribune was less impressed all around, saying of Loren, "....[S]he waggles her hips, she exposes her legs. Can she act? That's a matter of definition."
Hugo Friedhofer received an Oscar® nomination for the film's score, but that's where the kudos ended. Though the studio launched a major advertising campaign featuring Loren and her many assets, Boy on a Dolphin didn't perform at the box office as they'd hoped. For those filmgoers who were seeing her for the first time, however, Loren would never again belong just to Italy.
Producer: Samuel G. Engel
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Ivan Moffat, Dwight Taylor; David Divine (novel)
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Art Direction: Jack Martin Smith, Lyle R. Wheeler
Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Film Editing: William Mace
Cast: Alan Ladd (Dr. James Calder), Clifton Webb (Victor Parmalee), Sophia Loren (Phaedra), Alex Minotis (Government Man), Jorge Mistral (Rhif), Laurence Naismith (Dr. Hawkins), Piero Giagnoni (Niko), Gertrude Flynn (Miss Dill).
by Emily Soares
Boy On a Dolphin - Boy on a Dolphin
The film opens with a montage of scenic views of the Greek Islands, which ends with an undersea shot off the island of Hydra. According to a May 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Alec Coppel was initially signed to write a screenplay for this film. By November 1955, a Daily Variety news item noted that Leon Uris was to write the screenplay, which Henry Koster would direct. The extent of Coppel's and Uris' contribution to the completed script has not been determined, however. Although an October 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item places Antonio Ciarramela and Paris Pappis in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
According to materials contained in the Charles G. Clarke Collection at the AMPAS Library, location shooting for the film took place on the Greek islands of Mykonos, Rhodes, Delos and Sonterrini. Other locations included the Parthenon and the Amphitheatre in Athens, Delphi, Corinth and the Meteora Monastery. Interiors were shot at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The Clarke Collection adds that the film was produced using funds frozen by the Italian government. According to a May 1957 article in American Cinematographer, filming began at Hydra, where two Greek landing barges were hired to transport the cameras and generators. The studio planned to shoot the picture in 55 millimeter until it decided that it would prove too difficult to transport the bulky equipment through the rugged terrain.
This picture marked Sophia Loren's American screen debut and was the initial production of her four-picture deal with Fox. Director Jean Negulesco, cameraman Milton Krasner and actor Clifton Webb had worked together previously in Rome on the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain (see below).
Released in United States Spring April 1957
Released in United States Spring April 1957