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Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a 1951 British Technicolor drama film made by Romulus Films and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the United States. The film was directed by Albert Lewin and produced by Lewin and Joe Kaufmann from his own screenplay, based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman. It was filmed mainly on the Costa Brava. The land record speed scenes were shot at Pendine Sands in Wales.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman1.jpeg
Belgian film poster
Directed byAlbert Lewin
Produced byJoe Kaufmann
Albert Lewin
Written byAlbert Lewin
StarringAva Gardner
James Mason
Nigel Patrick
Sheila Sim
Harold Warrender
Mario Cabré
Marius Goring
Narrated byHarold Warrender
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Distributed byRomulus Films (UK)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (USA)
Release date
  • February 1951 (1951-02)
  • 15 October 1951 (1951-10-15)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1.25 million[1]
Box office$1,601,000[2]

The film starred Ava Gardner and James Mason, featuring Nigel Patrick, Sheila Sim, Harold Warrender, Mario Cabré and Marius Goring. The cinematographer was Jack Cardiff. Most of the movie was shot on location in Tossa de Mar, Catalonia, Spain, where a statue of Gardner has been erected on the hill overlooking the town's main beach.

MGM delayed its release until Gardner's star-making performance in Show Boat (1951) could be seen. The tactic worked, and this film solidified her status as a rising star.


In 1930, fishermen in the small Spanish port of Esperanza make a grim discovery in their nets, the bodies of a man and a woman. The resultant ringing of church bells in the village brings the local police and the resident archaeologist, Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender), to the beach. Fielding returns to his villa, and, breaking the "fourth wall", retells the story of these two people to the audience.

Esperanza's small group of English expatriates revolves around Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner), an American nightclub singer and femme fatale. All the men love her (or believe that they do), but Pandora is unable to love anyone.

She tests her admirers by demanding they give up something they value, citing Geoffrey Fielding's quote that the "measure of love is how much you are willing to sacrifice for it." One of her admirers (Marius Goring) even commits suicide in front of Pandora and her friends by drinking wine that he has laced with poison, but Pandora apparently shows indifference.

Pandora agrees to marry a land-speed record holder, Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick), after he sends his racing car tumbling into the sea at her request. That same night, the Dutch captain Hendrick van der Zee (James Mason) arrives in Esperanza. Pandora swims out to his yacht and finds him painting a picture of her posed as her namesake, Pandora, whose actions brought an end to the earthly paradise in Greek mythology. Hendrick appears to fall in love with Pandora, and he moves into the same hotel complex as the other expatriates.

Geoffrey and Hendrick become friends, collaborating to seek background information on Geoffrey's local finds. One of these relics is a notebook written in Old Dutch, which confirms Geoffrey's suspicion that Hendrick van der Zee is the Flying Dutchman, a 16th-century ship captain who murdered his wife, believing her to be unfaithful. He blasphemed against God at his murder trial, where he was sentenced to death.

The evening before his execution, a mysterious force opened the Dutchman's prison doors and allowed him to escape to his waiting ship, where in a dream it was revealed to him that his wife was innocent and he was doomed to sail the seas for eternity unless he could find a woman who loved him enough to die for him. Every seven years, the Dutchman could go ashore for six months to search for that woman.

Despite her impending wedding to Stephen, Pandora declares her love for Hendrick, but he is unwilling to have her die for his sake, and tries to provoke her into hating him.

Pandora is also loved by Juan Montalvo (Mario Cabré), an arrogant, famous bullfighter, who murders Hendrick out of jealousy. But as soon as Montalvo leaves, Hendrick comes back to life as if nothing had happened. He attends the bullfight the next day, and when Montalvo sees him in the audience, he becomes petrified with fear and is fatally gored by the bull. Before dying, Montalvo tells Pandora about his murder of his romantic rival, leaving her confused.

On the eve of her wedding, Pandora asks Geoffrey if he knows anything about Hendrick that will clear up her confusion. Once he sees the Flying Dutchman preparing to sail away, he hands her his translation of the notebook. However, the Dutchman's yacht is becalmed. On learning the truth, Pandora swims out to Hendrick again. He shows her a small portrait of his murdered wife. She and Pandora look exactly alike. Hendrik explains they are man and wife and that through her he has been given the chance to escape his doom, but he rejected it because it would cost her death. Pandora is undaunted, however. That night, there is a fierce storm at sea. The next morning, the bodies of Pandora and the Dutchman are recovered.



According to MGM records the film earned $1,247,000 in the US and Canada and $354,000 elsewhere.[2]"

The film was one of the most popular films at the British box office in 1950.[3]

Comic book adaptationEdit


  1. ^ Thomas F. Brady (11 Feb 1951) "Hollywood Digest: Speculative Film-Making on Low Budgets Increases--Metro's Roving Directors Unusual Experiment Of 'Teresa', 'Flying Dutchman'", New York Times p. 97
  2. ^ a b The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. ^ Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 258.
  4. ^ "Movie Love #11". Grand Comics Database.

External linksEdit