Smugglers Island – Jeff Chandler 1951

Jeff Chandler stars in the Universal actioner Smuggler’s Island released in on 18th May 1951 in the USA- and it was in Technicolor. Smugglers Island 1951 2Jeff Chandler plays ex-Navy frogman Steve Kent, now employed as a diver for hire in Macao. On the verge of bankruptcy, Kent is bailed out by mystery woman Vivian Craig (Evelyn Keyes), who wants him to locate a stolen cache of gold. Other interested parties include Vivian’s shifty husband (Philip Friend) and ruthless pirate Bok-Ying (Marvin Miller). Plenty of double-crosses and triple-crosses  before the film closes and  the climax is a Technicolorful fireworks display aboard Kent’s sloop, wherein all the loose plot strands are neatly tied up. Smugglers Island 1951   Smuggler’s Island doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this fact does not lessen its entertainment value at all Director: Edward Ludwig Writers: Leonard Lee (screenplay), Herbert H. Margolis (adaptation) Stars: Jeff Chandler, Evelyn Keyes, Philip Friend, Marvin Miller, Ducky Louie, David Wolfe. Jeff Chandler called the film one of his favourites because “I played myself”. Around this time Chandler typically had played characters of varying nationalities from different historical periods; this was a rare opportunity for him to play a contemporary American. The original cast announced for the film was Märta Torén, Dick Powell and Robert Douglas. Evelyn Keyes had just signed a contract with Universal to make nine films over seven years of which this was the first. Evelyn Keyes Smugglers Island 1951 3   Smugglers Island 1951 4 The film begins with a voice-over narration describing the Portuguese colony of Macao, off the coast of China, which serves as a haven for smugglers, gamblers and pirates. Location shooting was done in Macao. Jeff Chandler was born in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus High School. After high school, he took a drama course and worked in stock companies for two years. His next role would be that of an officer in World War II. After he was discharged from the service, he became busy acting in radio drama’s and comedies until he was signed by Universal. It would be in the fifties that Jeff would become a star making westerns and action pictures. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950). He would follow this by playing the role of Cochise in two sequels: The Battle at Apache Pass (1952) and Taza, Son of Cochise (1954). While his premature grey hair and tanned features served him well in his westerns and action pictures, the studio would put him into soaps and costume dramas. In his films, his leading ladies would include Maureen O’Hara, Rhonda Fleming, Jane Russell, Joan Crawford, and June Allyson. Shortly after his last film Merrill’s Marauders (1962). Jeff Chandler died, at 42, from blood poisoning after an operation for a slipped disc. His death  following surgery was deemed malpractice and resulted in a large lawsuit and settlement for his children. Smugglers Island 1951 5 He had concurrent success as a recording artist, wrote music, played violin, and owned Chandler Music, a publishing company. Possessed of a fine singing voice, at the height of his film fame, he recorded several successful albums for Liberty Records. His former lover Esther Williams, in her tell-all 1999 biography, put Chandler back in the headlines after asserting that he was a cross-dresser. She told him, “Jeff, you’re too big for polka dots.”. I always thought that the claims Esther Williams made about Jeff Chandler and her former husband and Johnny Weissmuller and Victor Mature were a load of rubbish designed to sell her book. By the time this book and its claims came out all of the men mentioned had died and so were unable to answer back. Jeff Chandler stood 6′ 4″ by the time he was fifteen, and started to grey when he was eighteen.

The Johnny Quest character “Race Bannon” was modelled on Jeff Chandler.

Smugglers Island 1951 6

The film took over 1 million dollars in the USA – so pretty good.

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