Cast & Crew
Charles R. Duncan
On 30 September 1659, a fierce storm wrecks the ship captained by Miss Robin Crusoe's cruel father, and only Robin and a sailor named Sykes survive. They are washed ashore on a deserted island, and Robin records in the ship's logbook her horrible experiences as a "cabin boy" aboard her father's ship, on which she continually had to evade the advances of the crew. The lecherous Sykes attempts to force himself on Robin, and during the ensuing struggle, falls to his death off a cliff. Robin then begins exploring the island and building a treehouse. One Friday in March 1660, Robin is alerted to impending danger by a chattering monkey. From a hiding place, she watches as a group of natives try to sacrifice a young woman. Using her gun, Robin frightens away the men and saves the woman, whom she names "Friday." The two women quickly become friends, and Robin teaches Friday basic English. Their efforts to grow crops are successful and all seems to be going well until September, when a storm hits the island, prompting Robin to worry that the longboat in which she came to the island will be destroyed. The boat barely survives, and after the storm subsides, Robin is shocked to discover that Jonathan, a British Naval officer, has been shipwrecked on the island. Jonathan is at first delighted to find Robin and Friday, but Robin levels her weapon at him and repulses any attempts at friendship. Forced to fend for himself, Jonathan builds his own shelter. Jonathan is thrilled to discover Robin's boat, which was damaged during the storm, and offers to help her rebuild it. Robin adamantly refuses, as the boat can carry only two people, and she worries that he intends to maroon either herself or Friday. Jonathan insists that because he is vaguely familiar with the area, he can reach the shipping lanes and find help, but Robin still does not trust him. One night, Robin and Friday catch Jonathan attempting to moor the boat more securely against the encroaching tides, but do not accept his explanation and mistakenly believe that he was trying to steal the boat. In a struggle, the angered Friday stabs Jonathan, and Robin, unable to let him die, takes him to the treehouse to nurse him back to health. Jonathan is bemused by her actions, and as he regains his health, asks her why she always insists on being the captain, which is a "man's place." Jonathan urges Robin to act more feminine, as Friday does, but Robin tells him of her difficult life trying to cope with her father's drunken and violent lifestyle, which prevented her from fulfilling any dreams of romance or courtship. Jonathan gently tells her that not all men are bad, and as the couple spends more time together, their friendship blossoms into a tentative romance. By the time spring comes, both women have grown to trust Jonathan, but one night, he kisses Robin and she furiously rejects him. Heartbroken, Jonathan slips away and steals the longboat, in which he sets out for the shipping lanes. Believing that Jonathan has betrayed her, Robin writes in her diary that she should have killed him. Unknown to Robin, when Jonathan reaches the shipping lane, his concern for her prompts him to turn back to the island. Upon his return, Jonathan discovers that the natives who attempted to sacrifice Friday have returned, and Friday and Robin are under attack. Jonathan joins in the fray, and Friday bravely sacrifices herself to save them. Just then, a ship appears on the horizon, and Jonathan and Robin, who have decided to marry, are rescued. Robin's last entry in her logbook, dated 22 June 1661, states that she is about to embark on "life's greatest adventure."
Charles R. Duncan
F. Paul Sylos
Miss Robin Crusoe (1953)
The tale of a castaway on a deserted isle had been filmed before as a silent film in 1916, starring Robert Patton Gibbs, in 1932 starring Douglas Fairbanks and as an early 3-D film by the Soviets in 1946. Miss Robin Crusoe wasn't the only "Crusoe" film in production in July 1953. Producer Eugene Frenke had problems registering the title with the Motion Picture Registration Bureau when both MGM and producer Oscar Danciger objected. Danciger had just shot a film called Robinson Crusoe in Mexico and MGM was developing their own version with Spencer Tracy. Both felt Frenke's title would hurt the value of their films. By September, the bureau had approved Frenke's right to use his title and also Miss Robinson Crusoe, which had been the film's original working title. Danciger was forced to change his film's title to Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954).
E.A. Dupont was originally set to direct the film, but was replaced by Frenke, who listed his wife, actress Anna Sten as "advisor," although what the Russian-born Sten knew about the tropics or Robinson Crusoe is unknown. The script was written by Harold Nebenzal and Richard Yriondo from a story by Al Zimbalist. As the daughter of a sea captain, forced to work on her father's boat disguised as a boy, Frenke cast Amanda Blake, whose flaming red hair would show up beautifully in Pathécolor. The native girl Blake rescues (and, of course, renames "Friday") was played by Rosalind Hayes. In a change from the original story, a handsome shipwrecked sailor (played by George Nader) arrives on the island and, after a few conflicts, naturally falls in love with Blake.
Miss Robin Crusoe was mainly shot in the Palos Verdes area of California, rather than any tropical locale because it was, after all, a low-budget film. But it was a low-budget film with a score by the celebrated composer Elmer Bernstein. Because of the House Un-American Activities Committee, top screenwriters and other industry members accused of Communist leanings were forced to leave Hollywood, work under assumed names or work for less prestigious studios. Among them was Bernstein, who had been what he called "graylisted." "During that period I did such stellar things as Robot Monster , Cat-Women of the Moon , Miss Robin Crusoe, stuff like that." Bernstein's score is the most memorable thing about the film.
The critics reacted predictably. Win Fanning wrote, "As it is quite impossible to believe that a number of grown men and women could seriously go about the making of a movie called Miss Robin Crusoe, it must be assumed some sort of joke is intended. It isn't a very good joke, but it has its moments of hilarity." Part of the hilarity, according to Fanning, is that the film is supposed to be set in 1669 and Blake's makeup is 20th Century.
While Miss Robin Crusoe didn't do Amanda Blake's career any favors, it didn't harm it, either. Less than a year after the film was made, Blake became a television star by playing saloon owner "Miss Kitty" on Gunsmoke, a role she would play for decades. Thirty years after she battled cannibals on a deserted island, an interviewer wrote, "If you want to make Miss Kitty blush, just remind her of Miss Robin Crusoe."
Producer: Eugene Frenke
Director: Eugene Frenke
Screenplay: Al Zimbalist (story); Harold Nebenzal; Richard Yriondo
Cinematography: Virgil Miller
Art Direction: F. Paul Sylos
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Film Editing: Thomas Pratt
Cast: Amanda Blake (Miss Robin Crusoe), George Nader (Jonathan), Rosalind Hayes (Friday)
by Lorraine LoBianco
Fanning, Win "Miss Robin Crusoe" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Apr 54
"Miss Kitty's Back on the Tube" Miami Herald 27 May 86
"Miss Robin Crusoe" The News and Eastern Townships Advocate 22 Jul 54.
O'Toole, Finlan "Elmer Bernstein Finds Himself in Tune with Movies" The New York Times 28 Oct 90
Miss Robin Crusoe (1953)
The working title of this film was Miss Robinson Crusoe. The name of art director F. Paul Sylos, who was sometimes known as Frank or Paul Sylos, was misspelled "Frank E. Sylos" in the onscreen credits. According to a July 2, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Eugene Frenke encountered difficulty registering the title with the Motion Picture Registration Bureau, because both M-G-M and Óscar Danciger protested. Danciger had recently completed a picture entitled Robinson Crusoe, which was filmed in Mexico, and M-G-M was contemplating producing a feature based on the novel starring Spencer Tracy. In September 1953, the bureau granted Frenke the right to use the title. The decision allowed Frenke the rights to that title, as well as Miss Robinson Crusoe. Accordingly, Danciger was forced to change the title of his film to Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
Although the film was not viewed, the above credits and summary were taken from a dialogue continuity and contemporary sources. According to a October 2, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, E. A. Dupont was originally scheduled to direct the picture. According to studio press materials, some scenes were shot on location in Palos Verdes, CA. In September 1953, Frenke was sued for $210,000 by Mid-City Properties, Inc., which alleged that in August 1952, Frenke borrowed $41,000 for production of Miss Robin Crusoe, then failed to supply the company with required contracts. In addition, Mid-City Properties alleged that Frenke accepted another $185,000 from a different company without informing them. The disposition of the suit has not been determined.
Numerous films have been based on the Daniel Defoe classic, including the 1916 Warner Bros. release Robinson Crusoe, starring Robert Patton Gibbs (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-21); United Artists' 1932 release Mr. Robinson Crusoe, which was directed by Edward Sutherland and starred Douglas Fairbanks (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); the 1964 Paramount film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, directed by Byron Haskin (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70); and the 1989 Island Pictures production Crusoe, directed by Caleb Deschanel and starring Aidan Quinn. Miss Robin Crusoe is not related to either the 1917 Metro Pictures Corp. release Miss Robinson Crusoe or the 1919 World Film Corp. production Miss Crusoe (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20).