The Blue Lagoon (1949 film)

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The Blue Lagoon
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Directed by Frank Launder
Written byNovel:
Henry De Vere Stacpoole
John Baines
Michael Hogan
Frank Launder
Produced by Sidney Gilliat
Frank Launder
Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited by Thelma Connell
Music by Clifton Parker
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
1 March 1949 (1949-03-01)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget £311,049

The Blue Lagoon is a 1949 British coming-of-age romance and adventure film directed and co-produced by Frank Launder (with Sidney Gilliat) and starring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston. The screenplay was adapted by John Baines, Michael Hogan, and Frank Launder from the 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. The original music score was composed by Clifton Parker and the cinematography was by Geoffrey Unsworth.


The film tells the story of two young children shipwrecked on a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific. Emotional feelings and physical changes arise as they grow to maturity and fall in love. The film has major thematic similarities to the Biblical account about Adam and Eve.


In 1841, 8-year-old Emmeline Foster and 10-year-old Michael Reynolds, two British children, are the survivors of a shipwreck in the South Pacific. After days afloat, they are marooned on a lush tropical island in the company of kindly old sailor Paddy Button. Eventually, Paddy dies in a drunken binge, leaving Emmeline and Michael alone. They survive solely on their resourcefulness and the bounty of their remote paradise.

Eight years later, in 1849, the now-adult couple live together in the island paradise, fish, and collect "beads" from the shellfish in the surrounding lagoon. One day, a ship arrives carrying Doctor Murdoch and James Carter, two British men, who are intimated to have fled as criminals from civilization. Surprised to find the couple on the island, Doctor Murdoch soon realizes that Michael collects valuable pearls without knowing their true worth. While Murdoch attempts to trick Michael into getting him a bounty of pearls, Carter tries to kidnap Emmeline and escape. Murdoch and Carter kill each other on the boat, and Michael and Emmeline vow to never attempt to leave the island again. They marry, and during a tropical storm, a child, Paddy, is born.

In 1852, Emmeline is reminded of the outside world and wants to leave the island. She fears for their child if Michael and she should die. Michael gives in to her pleading and they pack a small boat and leave the island. Becalmed in mid-ocean, they succumb to exposure. They are found by a British ship, but the film leaves their fate ambiguous, showing only that Paddy remains alive in the small boat.


Production history

The film was an adaptation of a novel that had been filmed in 1923, but it was the first notable adaptation.

Herbert Wilcox bought the rights to the novel in 1935, as part of his slate of films in production. [1] It was going to be shot in color in Honolulu. [2]

He did not make the film, though, and sold the rights to Gainsborough Pictures at the recommendation of Frank Launder, who always admired the novel. [3] Gainsborough announced the film in 1938 as part of a slate of 10 films. [4] The stars were to be Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood, who had just appeared in Gainsborough's The Lady Vanishes ; Will Fyffe was to co-star. [5] [6] In 1939, Gainsborough went into a co-production with 20th Century Fox and Lockwood was going to co-star with Richard Greene, under contract to Fox. [7] Plans to make the film were postponed due to the war. [8]

The project was reactivated after the war and announced in 1946 with Frank Launder attached to direct. [9] Extensive location searches were undertaken before deciding to make the film in Fiji. [10]

Plans to make the film were postponed due to Britain's currency difficulties, but eventually plans were reactivated. [11]

The evil traders were borrowed from the second sequel to the source novel for this film and are not part of the original novel.


Jean Simmons was attached to the project at an early stage, due to her success in Great Expectations (1946). [12]

Donald Houston was selected as the male lead over 5,000 applicants, 100 of whom were screen-tested. [13]


The film was shot on location in Fiji, Yasawa Islands, [14] and at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England.[ citation needed ]

In December, a light plane carrying Leslie Gilliat, the producer and brother of Sidney Gilliat, crashed into a river near Suva. Both Gilliat and the pilot escaped unharmed. [15]

Simmons left England in November, spent some time in Australia, and then travelled to Fiji. [16] [17] Some doubt arose that she would be allowed into Fiji, as she was only 18 and the Fijian colonial regime was contemplating a ban on people under 19 into the country as a precaution against polio being introduced. [18]

Huston and Simmons narrowly escaped injury in Fiji when their car overturned. [19]

The bulk of filming in Fiji took place on the Yasawa Islands. Storms caused shooting to take three months. [20]


The Blue Lagoon was the seventh-most popular film at the British box office in 1949. [21] [22] According to Kinematograph Weekly, the 'biggest winner' at the box office in 1949 Britain was The Third Man with "runners up" being Johnny Belinda , The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , The Paleface , Scott of the Antarctic , The Blue Lagoon, Maytime in Mayfair , Easter Parade , Red River , and You Can't Sleep Here . [23]

It made a profit of £40,300. Most of the film's earnings came from abroad.

Other versions and sequel

See also

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