The Sun Never Sets (film)

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The Sun Never Sets
The Sun Never Sets (film).jpg
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Written by W. P. Lipscomb
Based on
Produced byRowland V. Lee
Cinematography George Robinson
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Music by Frank Skinner
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
May 31, 1939
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Sun Never Sets is a 1939 American drama film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Basil Rathbone and Barbara O'Neil. [1] [2]



The Randolph family have a tradition of working in the British colonial service. Clive comes home from a mission in the Gold Coast of Africa accompanied by his wife Helen. He discovers his younger brother John, who is in love with Phyllis is not keen on following in his footsteps.

John is persuaded to try colonial service by his grandfather Sir John. John goes to the Gold Coast. He is accompanied by Clive who has been sent to investigate the source of a series of radio broadcasts that are sewing unrest throughout the world. These may be linked to Hugo Zurof, a man plotting to rule the world.

Clive leaves his pregnant wife Helen behind to go on a mission. Zurof tricks John into calling his brother back, causing Clive to be sent home in disgrace, despite the fact that Clive and Helen's child dies in childbirth.

John goes to Zurof's base and infiltrates it by pretending to be drunk. He manages to broadcast a code to his family. Clive leads a bombing mission to destroy the base. John survives it. Zurof and his men are killed.



The film had been in development and Universal "on and off" for three years. [3] Eventually Rowland V. Lee was assigned to direct and Basil Rathbone to star. (The two men had just made Son of Frankenstein together.) In February Douglas Fairbanks Jr. signed to co star. [4]

The script was written by W.P. Lipscomb who said the film wanted to pay tribute to the British colonial service.

We attacked it by telling the story of one family, typical of hundreds of families who devote their lives to "the service." We show human beings and human emotions involved in affairs greater than themselves., and watch how they react. ' They are not conscious heroes; they make bad mistakes and cause intense suffering- If they worry through, it is by keeping their sense of humour in desperate circumstances and trusting that doing one's best, although one can't see the end in sight, may sometimes bring unexpected results. That is a trait common to all people in "the service" and is particularly true of Englishmen whose ability to take on a big job, face difficulties and meet them with good humour when 'things go badly, is accepted as one of the finest traditions of their national character. [5]

Filming began 13 March 1939. [6] Lipscomb was a friend of Virginia Field and wrote her into the movie. [7]

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. says C Aubrey Smith walked up to him on the first day of filming and said, "Rotten title. It already has set." [8]


Fairbanks Jr. said the film "did nothing at the bo [box office] because Americans were realizing we'd soon be at war." [8]

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  1. Dick p.97
  2. Sun Never Sets, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 6, Iss. 61, (Jan 1, 1939): 141.
  3. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: 'Disputed Passage,' Based on Medical Novel, to Be Made by Paramount in April PRISON PLAY FOR METRO '6,000 Enemies' Is by Surgeon at San Quentin--Soviet Film Opens Today New York Times 14 Jan 1939: 12.
  4. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Warners Seeking Film Rights to 'Gettysburg' and 'Cyrano'--Fairbanks Jr. in 'Sun Never Sets' Davis Slated for "Desert Song" Cianelli in "Penthouse" Of Local Origin New York Times 21 Feb 1939: 21.
  5. "SCREEN STORY OF BRITISH COLONIAL SERVICE". The Telegraph . Queensland, Australia. 8 August 1939. p. 16 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved 18 December 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  6. Two Studios Planning 'Atlantic Cable' Films: Herbert, Hodges Cast Ann Sheridan Wins Lead Rathbone Role Notable 'Penthouse' Progresses Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 10 Feb 1939: 14.
  7. "THE FEMININE ANGLE". The Canberra Times . Vol. 13, no. 3676. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 18 July 1939. p. 2. Retrieved 18 December 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  8. 1 2 Bawden, James; Miller, Ron (4 March 2016). Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. p. 101. ISBN   9780813167121.