|Wake of the Red Witch|
|Directed by||Edward Ludwig|
|Produced by||Edmund Grainger|
|Screenplay by||Harry Brown|
|Based on||Wake of the Red Witch|
by Garland Roark
|Music by||Nathan Scott|
|Edited by||Richard L. Van Enger|
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
|Box office||$2.1 million|
Wake of the Red Witch is a 1948 American adventure film directed by Edward Ludwig and starring John Wayne, Gail Russell, Gig Young, Adele Mara, and Luther Adler. Produced by Edmund Grainger, it is based upon the 1946 novel of the same name by Garland Roark. The film was distributed by Republic Pictures. Rare for a film produced by Republic Pictures, Wake of the Red Witch is an A movie that had a relatively high budget for its production, later becoming one of Republic Pictures' most successful releases.
The first part of the film depicts Captain Ralls as the ruthless master (captain) of the Red Witch, Batjak's flagship. For reasons not entirely clear, Ralls deliberately wrecks and sinks the Red Witch and its cargo of gold bullion worth five million dollars. He escapes a charge of barratry when Batjak unexpectedly withdraws its complaint.
Ralls and his first mate Sam Rosen (Gig Young) spend some time as fishermen on a schooner. They eventually follow a treasure map to an uncharted island. They are greeted on the island by Sidneye, the map turning out to be a ploy to lure Ralls to the island so Sidneye can deal with Ralls in his own way.
The film then uses a series of flashbacks to describe how Ralls and Sidneye first met and how Ralls became captain of the Red Witch. Specifically, it is revealed that both Ralls and Sidneye fell in love with the same beautiful woman, Angelique (Gail Russell). When Ralls accidentally killed Angelique's uncle, Angelique married Sidneye even though Ralls is the man she really loved. However, when Angelique became ill and was dying, she somehow got word to Ralls and he returned to the island. Angelique dies in his arms soon after he arrives. It is strongly hinted that Ralls's deliberate sinking of the Red Witch was an act of revenge against Sidneye for depriving him of the woman he loved.
After the flashbacks the film returns to the present. Ralls and Sidneye strike a deal in which Ralls will reveal the exact location of the wreck of the Red Witch in exchange for a portion of the gold recovered from it. But when the salvage operation is to begin, it is discovered that the wreck is resting precariously on an underwater ledge, half on the ledge and half hanging over deeper water, making salvage extremely dangerous. Ralls is the only one willing to take the risk. He dives down to the wreck and manages to get a portion of the gold back up to the surface. But then the wreck begins to slide off the ledge. Falling debris traps Ralls inside the wreck, and he dies after the descending wreckage severs the hose supplying him with air.
- John Wayne as Captain Ralls
- Gail Russell as Angelique Desaix
- Gig Young as Sam Rosen
- Adele Mara as Teleia Van Schreeven
- Luther Adler as Mayrant Ruysdaal Sidneye
- Eduard Franz as Harmenszoon Van Schreeven
- Grant Withers as Captain Wilde Youngeur
- Henry Daniell as Jacques Desaix
- Paul Fix as Antonio "Ripper" Arrezo
- Jeff Corey as Mr. Loring
- Duke Kahanamoku as Ua Nuke
- Dennis Hoey as Capt. Munsey
- Erskine Sanford as Dr. van Arken
- John M. Pickard as Second Diver (uncredited)
- James Dime as a seaman
The novel was published in 1946. It was written by Garland Roark, a Texan who worked in advertising. The Washington Post called it "a smashing melodrama." The book became a best seller ultimately selling over a million copies.
Republic Films paid $100,000 for the screen rights to the book, reportedly the most money that studio had ever paid. (Traditionally Republic focused on making medium and low budget Westerns and serials.) Edmund Grainer was assigned the job of producing. John Wayne, the studio's biggest star, was always discussed as a possible lead. Charles Laughton was also mentioned as possible casting.
The movie was part of an attempt by Herbert Yates, head of Republic, to increase the prestige of the studio's output. Other films around this time made by the studio include Orson Welles' version of Macbeth and The Red Pony starring Robert Mitchum. Wake of the Red Witch was to be a "deluxe" production, and was given one of the highest budgets in Republic's history.
The budget was originally $1.8 million but this was reduced to $1.5 million then $1 million.
Wake of the Red Witch represented the second screen teaming of John Wayne and Gail Russell, after Angel and the Badman the previous year, during which he and Russell allegedly had an offscreen affair, a claim which both Wayne and Russell denied; the film must also have held some special significance for Wayne, since he named his own production company, Batjac, after the shipping firm depicted in the picture named "Batjak". Wayne's secretary misspelled it as Batjac on the corporation papers, and Wayne let it stand.
Wake of the Red Witch shares similarities in both character and climax to a similarly titled earlier John Wayne sea picture, Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind released six years earlier, but this film has a more direct approach in exploring the complex motivations of its characters.
Filming started in July 1948. The island scenes were shot at Rancho Santa Anita, formerly owned by Lucky Baldwin, with sea footage shot at the Isthmus on Catalina Island. Underwater scenes meant extensive work was done in post production.
A new restoration of Wake of the Red Witch by Paramount Pictures, The Film Foundation, and Martin Scorsese premiered at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on August 9, 2018. The screening was part of the museum's program of showcasing 30 restored films from the library of Republic Pictures curated by Scorsese.
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- "Martin Scorsese Presents Republic Rediscovered: New Restorations from Paramount Pictures, Part 2". MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
- Wake of the Red Witch (1948 film); produced by Republic Pictures
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- "Wake-of-the-Red-Witch – Trailer – Cast – Showtimes – NYTimes.com". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2012. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- Schallert, Edwin (July 9, 1948). "Andrews Star in 'Mews;' Luther Adler to Return". Los Angeles Times. p. 20.
- Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The (Oct 22, 1948). "Letter From Hollywood". Christian Science Monitor. p. 5.
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