Beneath the 12-Mile Reef

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef is a 1953 American Technicolor adventure film directed by Robert D. Webb. The screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides was inspired by Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The film was the third motion picture made in CinemaScope, coming after The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef
Publicity shot of Robert Wagner for film
Directed byRobert D. Webb
Produced byRobert Bassler
Written byA.I. Bezzerides
StarringRobert Wagner
Terry Moore
Gilbert Roland
Music byBernard Herrmann
CinematographyEdward Cronjager
Edited byWilliam Reynolds
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
December 2, 1953
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.56 million[1]
Box office$3.6 million (US rentals);[2][3] $3.5 million (foreign rentals) [4]


Mike (Gilbert Roland) and Tony Petrakis (Robert Wagner) are Greek American father and son sponge-diving entrepreneurs who find themselves in competition with the Rhys family, Conch fishermen who are prepared to resort to violence and murder to maintain their established fishing grounds off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Run-ins between the two clans lead to an exchange of threats and all-out brawls. Further complications ensue when Tony Petrakis meets Gwyneth Rhys (Terry Moore), and the two fall in love.



The film originally was called Twelve Mile Reef and was announced in September 1952, with the leads to be played by Robert Wagner and Kathleen Crowley.[5] By December, the female lead was going to be Debra Paget.[6]

In February 1953, Fox announced the film would be shot in CinemaScope. That month, the first CinemaScope movie, The Robe, began filming.[7] Beneath was the third film shot in that process, after How to Mary and Millionare, and the first shot underwater.[8]

Also that month, Terry Moore was given the female lead.[9]

Filming started 6 April 1953. The film was shot on location in Key West and Tarpon Springs, Florida.[10]

There were rumors during filming that Moore and Wagner had a romance. In reality, Wagner secretly was seeing Barbara Stanwyck, and Moore was seeing Howard Hughes.[11]

Wagner almost drowned during filming at Tarpon Springs when he accidentally was kicked in the stomach by another actor. He sunk to the bottom of the water and had to be rescued by a crew member.[12]

Gloria Gordon, who had a small role, was signed to a seven-year contract.[13]

Critical reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed "Another and further extension of the range of CinemaScope ... is handsomely manifested in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef ... But that, when you come right down to it, is just about the only novelty provided by this third employment of the anamorphic lens. For the scenes shot above the surface, while large and imposing, are routine, and the drama developed in the screen play is hackneyed and banal. And, unfortunately, most of the picture takes place above, not below, the reef ... There is nothing at all fascinating or edifying here."[10]

Variety wrote "[T]he squeeze-lensing gives punch in the display of underwater wonders, the seascapes and the brilliant, beautiful sunrises and sunsets of the Florida Gulf coast. In handling the young cast, Robert D. Webb's direction is less effective, particularly in the case of Robert Wagner and Terry Moore. Both are likable, so the shallowness of their performances is no serious handicap to the entertainment." [14]

Awards and nominations

Edward Cronjager was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and Robert D. Webb was nominated for the Grand Prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.[15][16]

See also


  1. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p248
  2. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p225
  3. 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  4. Daily Variety, November 9, 1955, p. 4
  5. Korea, More Movies on Rooney Itinerary Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 23 Sep 1952: B6.
  6. Bob Wagner Will Star in 'Twelve Mile Reef' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 20 Dec 1952: A2.
  7. 20th Century Has New Movie Device: All Production Being Converted to Cinemascope, Studio Reveals Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]02 Feb 1953: A1.
  8. STUDIO PLANS 20 CINEMASCOPE FILMS: 20th Century-Fox Announces It Will Release Spectacles in Fall and Continuing in 1954 CINEMASCOPE Los Angeles Times 02 Apr 1953: A1.
  9. Terry Moore to Debut in CinemaScope; Jean Hagen Headed for Stage Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 24 Feb 1953: B7.
  10. Crowther, Bosley (December 17, 1953). "Beneath the 12 Mile Reef". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  11. Looking at Hollywood: Robert Taylor to Do Western Movie with Janet Leigh as Co-Star HEDDA HOPPER'S STAFF. Chicago Daily Tribune 4 June 1953: e2.
  12. Robert Wagner Almost Drowned in Movie Scene. Los Angeles Times 19 Apr 1953: 11.
  13. Two Pedros on Stage Here Los Angeles Times 11 Oct 1953: D4.
  14. Variety review
  15. "Festival de Cannes: Beneath the 12-Mile Reef". Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  16. Nominees Listed for 'Oscar' Award: Top Performers and Films to Be Announced by Academy March 25 Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 16 Feb 1954: A1.
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