The Stowaway

  • aka Le Passager Clandestin (France)

Heir to a large fortune, René Maréchal is in hiding on a tropical island near Tahiti.

This results in a gang of adventurers competing with one another to find him and claim the reward on offer for discovering his whereabouts.

The adventurers include Major Owens (Roger Livesey), a middle-aged Englishman with a Raffles air and a fake military background, and Colette (Martine Carol), a night club hostess who had once been Maréchal's mistress, and most dangerously, there's also the ruthless criminal Mougins (Serge Reggiani). 

Owens discovers the island on which Maréchal is living, but is murdered by Mougins, who then forces Colette to come with him to the island.

But they're beaten to the punch by Jean (Carl-Heinz Boehm), who had helped Colette get to Tahiti by stowing away on an island boat.

Mougins and Jean fight, Mougins falls overboard and is killed by a shark. Jean and Colette decide to give up the search, settling down like Maréchal on the islands, looking for a quiet life...

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Production Details

Unofficial French-Australian co-production

Production companies: Discifilm/Silverfilm (France)/Southern International (Australia)

Budget: + A£250,000

Locations: Tahiti and Society Islands, island studio and ship the Calédonien for interiors

Filmed: last months 1957

Australian distributor: Universal

Australian release:  December 1958 premiere Dubbo, N.S.W., to open a new theatre. First capital city screening September 1959, Tivoli theatre Brisbane. The film opened simultaneously in four Paris cinemas 22nd March 1958.

Rating: A (UK), NSC (Not suitable for children)

35mm     Eastmancolor

Running time: 93 mins (Oxford)

VHS time: c. 1'25"

Box office: minimal in Australia where it failed to attract mainsteam distribution or any kind of commercial release (it didn't even manage a decent sale to television). The premiere was in the country town of Dubbo to help launch a new theatre.

According to director Lee Robinson the film "didn't do too bad" in international markets, but it should be noted this was only as an early form of genre B-picture Euro-Pacific pudding, and was always destined to be a support and television fodder.

Opinion

Awards

None known.

Availability

Copies of the film circulate on DVD amongst collectors, derived from VHS sources, usually with timecode at bottom of frame.

The film should not be confused with the telemovie re-make of Simenon's novel in 1995 directed by Agusti Villagronga using the original Simenon title Le Passager clandestin (which was also the French title for The Stowaway).


1. Source:

The script was based on a crime novel by prolific French crime writer Georges Simenon, originally published under the title Le passager clandestin by La Jeune Parque in 1947.

Simenon is too well known, and has too little to do with Australian movies otherwise, to be listed in detail here. He has a relatively detailed wiki here.

(Below: Georges Simenon, always with the pipe)

The novel has been through many subsequent editions after its original publication.

Some English editions used the film's title:

 

The Australian English-language screenplay is credited to co-director Lee Robinson, in collaboration with Joy Cavill, who had been with Southern International since the beginning, working as continuity and production assistant, and moving up to associate producer on this film.

Cavill continued working with Robinson on the children's television series Skippy, but would strike out on her own as a producer with the biopic of swimmer Dawn Fraser, Dawn!

(Below: Joy Cavill on the set of Walk into Paradise)

2. The Production:

Lee Robinson and Chips Rafferty were trailblazers in the nineteen fifties, but they seem to have almost fallen into co-productions as a way of financing by accident:

A French producer came here looking for a partnership. Of course Chips and I were the only people operative here. Nobody else was making anything (Moran interview, link no longer working).

The film was the second unofficial co-production between the Lee Robinson/Chips Rafferty company Southern International, and French producer Paul-Edmond Decharme.

On this production, another company Silverfilm joined in, via producer Robert Dorfmann, who had earlier attracted attention in France with productions such as Jeux interdits (1951) and Gervaise (1955).

Financing on the Australian end came from returns on Walk into Paradise and funds loaned by Herb McIntyre from Universal Picture's Australian branch.

As with other Southern International unofficial co-productions, there were two versions shot, with dialogue scenes filmed twice, in French and English. French director Ralph Habib worked with Robinson, and was given the only credit as director in the French version of the film.

Robinson had enjoyed a collegiate directorial relationship with French director Marcel Pagliero when working on the first unofficial co-production, Walk into Paradise, and this had allowed Robinson considerable professional leeway, and resulted in a film with some appeal and relevance to Australian audiences.

This wasn't the case on The Stowaway:

Moran: The Stowaway was a co directorial job. Can you tell me about that? If Habib was your co-director on that. Was it something more of a collaboration than it had been with Pagliero?

Robinson: It was an entirely different working relationship. I never became friendly with Ralph Habib at any stage and I didn't like his style of directing at all. He had directed a couple of pictures that had achieved some notoriety but I simply couldn't accept his lack of professionalism as a director. He was a mad home movies crank and would stand by the camera or even ten feet away from it and be shooting the scene that was his first take. I used to wonder how the hell does he know what is going on there. Often he was on an entirely different angle to the camera. He often seemed more concerned about getting a good scene on his little 16 mm camera.

Right from the beginning I found I was in a marvellous position as the second follow-up director because I could see everything that was being done and then rack my brains for some little thing that might spice the scene up a bit. I religiously directed every English version scene. In fact it got to the stage eventually that Serge Reggiani, the Italian actor, had to do a fairly long dialogue scene in French. He came over and was sitting down twiddling a coin thinking. I said "A penny for your thoughts" and he said "What does that mean?" I said, "I don't know what it means, it is a thing we say, I suppose it means what are you thinking about? I'll buy your thoughts." And then he said, "I am trying to think what you are going to tell me to say in English after I do the French version. I am doing in the English what I would want to have done in the French." I had that luxury of just being able to change a little bit here and there after watching the rehearsals and the French takes. (link to interview no longer working)

This supposedly creative co-operative arrangement broke down completely with the next French co-production, The Restless and the Damned aka The Dispossessed, where Robinson gave up directing the English version, leaving French director Yves Allégret to take charge of both versions.

Along with the reduced professional engagement came poor returns, and as Robinson shifted his sights towards television, it would see the end of Southern International's experiments with feature films and unofficial international co-productions.

3. Credits:

Crew and cast were the usual mish-mash of Euro-Pacific puddings.

Desmond Dickinson was a British DOP, a founding member of the BSC and its president from 1954 to 1957 (wiki stub here), and there was a fair sprinkling of French crew along with matching Australian participants.

Perhaps as a result of the animosity and tension between Lee Robinson and French director Ralph Habib, the credits for the English-language version omit almost all French credits (as, it is understood, the French version omits most Australian credits).

There is, for example, no mention in the Australian head credits of the contribution of French composer Michel Emer. 

Many other French credits are omitted, most notably any claims French writers might have had in relation to the screenplay.

Other databases credit assorted French writers, including Paul Andréota (screenplay and dialogue), and Maurice Aubergé (writer), and co-director Ralph Habib, who also apparently claimed a screenplay credit.

Then there were others who made a claim on the screenplay, and aren't listed in conventional film databases, such as Frédéric Dubois, who claims a credit in the 2004 International Who's Who in Poetry:

Others who don't make the cut in the Australian version's credits include French producer Paul-Edmond Decharme, production designer René Moulaert, assistant director Claude Pinoteau, editor Monique Kirsanoff (the Australian credits feature Stanley Moore), and most notably Habib himself, who in other credit lists is given both writer and director credits (with no mention of Lee Robinson).

The Australian English language version looks like an opportunity for credit payback.

Being an Australian site, the Australian head and tail credits are included here, taken from an actual copy of the film.

A few of director Robinson's favourite actors - like Reg Lye, appearing after his role in Walk into Paradise - show that Robinson exercised some of his own preferences in the casting, but generally, as with The Restless and the Damned , there are relatively few Australian actors on view.