Seagulls Over Sorrento

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Seagulls Over Sorrento
Seagulls Over Sorrento film poster.jpg
UK quad poster
Directed by John Boulting
Roy Boulting
Screenplay by Frank Harvey
Roy Boulting
Based on Seagulls Over Sorrento by Hugh Hastings
Produced byJohn Boulting
Roy Boulting
Starring Gene Kelly
John Justin
Bernard Lee
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Max Benedict
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Ernesto de Curtis
Distributed by Loew's, Inc.
Release date
  • 13 July 1954 (1954-07-13)(London)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$675,000 [1]
Box office$939,000 [1]

Seagulls Over Sorrento is a 1954 British war drama film made by the Boulting brothers based on the play of the same name by Hugh Hastings. The film stars Gene Kelly and was one of three made by Kelly in Europe over an 18-month period to make use of frozen MGM funds. The cast features John Justin, Bernard Lee and Jeff Richards. It was shot at MGM's Elstree Studios with sets designed by the art director Alfred Junge with location shooting taking place in the Channel Islands. Although the film finished shooting in July 1953, MGM could not release it in the United Kingdom until the play finished its London run, which delayed the film's release for almost a year. It was released as Crest of the Wave in the United States and Canada.



A small group of British sailors stationed on a Scottish island engaged in top-secret research on a new and dangerous torpedo are joined by a US Navy scientist, Lt. Brad Bradville (Gene Kelly), and his assistants. When several tests of the weapon fail, and men are killed, tensions within the group mount. Bradville must prove that the torpedo can work and win over the British, especially Lt. Rogert Wharton (John Justin), before the Admiralty pulls the plug on the project.


Original play

The original stage play was written by Australian playwright Hugh Hastings and was based on his experiences in World War II. [2] [3] It opened in London's West End on 14 June 1950, [4] and was a hit there, [5] but played for only two weeks on Broadway in New York City. [6] Bernard Lee played the same role in the London stage production. [5]

The play ran for over 1,600 performances in London. [7] [8] Film rights were sold to the Boulting Brothers for £10,000. [9] [10]


Because the play in which all the characters were British, and the emphasis was more on the enlisted men than in the film was a hit, MGM retained the title for the film everywhere except in the US and Canada, where the title Crest of the Wave was used. [5]

Although set on a Scottish island, the movie was filmed in Jersey and at Fort Clonque on Alderney in the Channel Islands, with interiors filmed at MGM's British studios at Borehamwood, Elstree. [5] Production took place between 4 May and late July 1953. The corvette monitoring the tests was HMS Hedingham Castle (pennant F386).

Ernesto de Curtis's song "Torna a Sorrento" [11] ("Come Back to Sorrento"), is performed on the concertina by David Orr, and was also used as background music throughout the film.

MGM was contractually obligated not to release the film until Seagulls Over Sorrento finished its West End run, which delayed the film's release until 13 July 1954, almost a year after filming had completed. The film then premiered in New York City on 10 November of that year, and went into general American release on 6 December. [12]


According to MGM records the film earned $349,000 in the US and Canada and $59,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $58,000. [1]

Filmink magazine wrote that:

The guts of the play – the adventures of ordinary seamen – was still there, but was greatly truncated in order to make room for a whole new plot about the officers conducting the torpedo experiments... [and] a new subplot added about the clash between American and British methods... In hindsight, this was a bad decision. I don’t think there was anything wrong with adding action or even Americans...but taking the focus away from ordinary seamen and emphasising the officers was totally contrary to the DNA of Seagulls Over Sorrento.... The Gene Kelly-MGM Seagulls of Sorrento was a hybrid, part-action film, part-abridged version of the play; audiences sensed it and stayed away. Still, it’s not a bad watch, with pleasing photography and location work, and superb performances from Sid James and Bernard Lee (Lofty). [13]

1960 Australian TV adaptation

The film was adapted for Australian television in 1960.


Hastings later did a musical version of his play called Scapa which debuted in London in 1962. It received terrible reviews. [14]

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  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Johnson and Smiedt 1999, p. 130.
  3. "Australian makes grade in London." The Sunday Herald , 20 November 1949, p. 6. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  4. TCM "Screenplay info: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 TCM "Notes: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  6. "Seagulls Over Sorrento". Internet Broadway Database.
  7. " Australian wrtiter' big success in U.K." The Sydney Morning Herald , 14 November 1952, p. 3. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  8. "People in the news." The Sunday Times , Perth, 5 December 1954, p. 2. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  9. "£10,000 for play by Austn." The Mail , 12 August 1950, p. 9. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  10. "Australian's play is big hit in West End." The Australian Women's Weekly , 24 February 1951, p. 15. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  11. TCM Music: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  12. IMDB Release dates: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." IMDb. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  13. Vagg, Stephen (20 December 2020). "Forgotten Australian TV Plays: Seagulls Over Sorrento". Filmink.
  14. "Aust Show Under Fire". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 March 1962. p. 5.


  • Johnson, Rob and David Smiedt. Boom-Boom: A Century of Australian Comedy. Sydney, Australia: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999. ISBN   978-0-7336-0938-1.