Mr. Robinson Crusoe
Cast & Crew
Steve Drexel, William Belmont and Professor Carmichale are sailing by a deserted South Seas island when Belmont bets Steve that he could not survive alone on the island like Robinson Crusoe. Steve agrees to the bet, jumps overboard with his dog and swims ashore. He is immediately industrious, finding fresh water and food, and making tools to build a home with all the conveniences of a Park Avenue apartment. After a month, Steve has built every possible convenience, including animal traps, a home on stilts and various pulleys for transportation. Meanwhile, his friends have continued to Sumatra for a successful tiger hunt. When a native canoes over from a neighboring island, Steve initiates him as his "Man Friday." Finding radio tubes hung around Friday's neck, Steve ingeniously builds a radio. From the same neighboring island, a young bride-to-be escapes from her wedding and canoes to Steve's island. Steve adopts her and names her Saturday, after which Friday leaves. As Steve teaches Saturday rudimentary English, Belmont goes to the neighboring island and instructs the natives to descend on Steve's island and scare him so he can win the bet. One of the natives is Saturday's ex-fiancé, and when he recognizes her, the farce becomes a real fight and Steve must outwit hundreds of natives. After his friends return to their yacht, Steve leads the natives on a chase until he is able to catapult himself to the yacht. Once safely aboard, they discover Saturday has stowed away. Back in New York, Steve watches Saturday perform a native dance for the Ziegfeld Follies.
The working titles were Tropical Knight and Robinson Crusoe of the South Seas. Elton Thomas, the name that is credited with the story, is Douglas Fairbanks' pseudonym. Publicity records note the following: The Invader, private yacht of the president of United Artists, Joseph Schenck, sailed some of the staff from San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti, in early March, where the film was made in its entirety, using the islanders as extras. Production was halted for two days when Walter Pallman married a Tahitian descendent of royalty, Simone Terai, and the crew participated in the native wedding celebration. Although Film Daily credits Walter Pallman with the recording, screen credits list him as technical effects. According to modern sources, the extras were available for one dollar per day. Because the sound equipment failed on the first day of shooting, director Sutherland was forced to dub the sound upon their return to California. A Variety news item noted that Douglas Fairbanks protested Universal's potential production called Robinson Crusoe, claiming that he had "priority for his South Sea picture tentatively titled A Modern Robinson Crusoe." Universal did not release a film with a similar title. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, the film was previewed for 1932 Olympic athletes on August 10, 1932. Modern sources also report that Robert Benchley and Lewis Milestone accompanied Fairbanks to Tahiti, and that Fairbanks "discovered" Maria Alba in the islands.