Bon Voyage! (1962 film)

Bon Voyage! is a 1962 Walt Disney film directed by James Neilson and released by Buena Vista Distribution Company. Following their practice of the time, it was also issued as a comic book[3] and an adaptation appeared in the comic strip Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales. It stars Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corcoran as the Willard family on a European holiday. The family crossed the Atlantic Ocean on SS United States which survives today, stripped and moored at Pier 82 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bon Voyage!
1962 Theatrical Poster
Directed byJames Neilson
Produced byWalt Disney
Written byJames A. Herne
Charles Kenyon
Based onnovel by Joseph & Merrjane Hayes
StarringFred MacMurray
Jane Wyman
Deborah Walley
Tommy Kirk
Kevin Corcoran
Music byPaul Smith
CinematographyWilliam E. Snyder
Edited byCotton Warburton
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • May 17, 1962 (1962-05-17)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$5.5 million (rentals)[2]

The character actor James Millhollin appears in the film as the ship's librarian.[4]



The film was based on a 1956 novel by Joseph and Merrijane Hayes. Joseph Hayes had written The Desperate Hours and Bon Voyage was his second book; he and his wife wrote it after taking a trip across the Atlantic.[5]

Film rights were bought by Universal before the book had even been published for $125,000 and it was announced the film would be produced by Ross Hunter and written by the Hayes'.[6] Esther Williams was originally announced as star.[7] Then James Cagney was going to play the lead.[8] Filming dates were pushed back then Bing Crosby was linked to the project.[9]

In early 1960, it was announced Disney had optioned the novel. Disney said it was likely Ken Annakin would direct with Karl Malden, James MacArthur and Janet Munro to star.[10] Later Robert Stevenson was announced as director.[11][12]

"It's far out for us," said Disney, "but still Disney. I'm really a gag man and missed the kind of pictures Frank Capra and Harold Lloyd used to make. Since nobody else wanted to do them, I decided to make them myself."[13]

Eventually Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman and Tommy Kirk firmed as the three leads.[14] However casting the daughter proved more difficult. "You must build a picture," said Walt Disney. "You don't write it all - only part of it. And it's the light and comic picture that's toughest of all to build."[15]

Michael Callan was cast from the play of West Side Story.[16] Deborah Walley was cast on the basis of her performance in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.[17]

Filming began on 15 August 1961.[18] It took place partly on location on a genuine ocean cruiser travelling across the Atlantic and in France. Walt Disney accompanied the film on location.[1]

Tommy Kirk did not get along with Jane Wyman:

I thought Jane Wyman was a hard, cold woman and I got to hate her by the time I was through with Bon Voyage. Of course, she didn't like me either, so I guess it came natural. I think she had some suspicion that I was gay and all I can say is that, if she didn't like me for that, she doesn't like a lot of people.[19]

The title song was written by Disney staff songwriters, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.


Box Office

Bon Voyage! was the tenth most popular film of 1962 in the US and Canada, grossing $11,000,000.


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Everything possibly unearthable in the way of an obvious cliché involving the hick behavior of American tourists abroad seems to have been dug out from somewhere by the screen-playwright, Bill Walsh, and made to fit into this enactment of a family's vacation odyssey."[20]

Variety stated, "Walt Disney dishes up another comedy blockbuster in this rollicking tour de force of an American family seeing Europe for the first time."[21] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times declared it "the half-year's funniest farce."[22]

Brendan Gill of The New Yorker wrote that Disney "always manages to put a pleasing, no-expense-spared shine on his goods, but in this case the goods go back at least as far as Mark Twain and his 'Innocents Abroad,' and maybe to Sterne and his 'Sentimental Journey.'"[23]

The Monthly Film Bulletin stated, "The film, though unmistakably from the Disney stable, has little of the affectionately zany humor that so unexpectedly enlivened The Parent Trap and The Absent-Minded Professor."[24]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.[25]


  1. DISNEY & FAMILY ROLL ON THE HIGH SEAS By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Aug 1961: X5.
  2. "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964, pg 69.
  3. Movie Classic #068
  4. "James Millhollin". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
  5. Writing Demon, Deep in a Flood Story, Then Along Came Diane to Upset His Plans Hansen, Harry. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 02 Oct 1955: c9.
  6. 'Bon Voyage' Announced as Major Buy; 'Holiday in Monaco' Wald Film, Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times9 Oct 1956: C11.
  7. Looking at Hollywood: Esther Williams Gets Role of Mother of 5 in Next Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 18 Jan 1957: a7.
  8. CAGNEY TO HEAD 'BON VOYAGE' CAST: Actor Signs for Third Film at Universal--Columbia Plans 'Wackiest Ship' Ladd Firm Buys Story By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 15 July 1957: 15
  9. STRANGE VICORY' BROUGHT BY LLESSER: Story by Rose Franken and Husband to Be Filmed -- Kovacs Signs Contract By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times 22 Oct 1958: 40.
  10. BY WAY OF REPORT: Disney Plans 'Voyage' -- Other Movie Items By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 10 Jan 1960: X7.
  11. VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT: On the Harvey, Disney Production Schedule -- Freedom Subject By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 5 Mar 1961: X7.
  12. GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Or, the Annual Survey of a Few Fine Plans That Failed to Materialize By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 25 Dec 1960: X9.
  13. Looking at Hollywood: Disney Out of Step? Not at Box Office Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 20 Apr 1962: b14.
  14. Vagg, Stephen (9 September 2019). "The Cinema of Tommy Kirk". Diabolique Magazine.
  15. A Legendary Tale Spinner Looks Ahead--British TV Adjusts a Balance: Disney Boosting Live-Action Films By John C. Waugh. The Christian Science Monitor 14 Mar 1961: 6.
  16. Looking at Hollywood: Hedda Has High Praise for 'Guns of Navarone' Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 19 June 1961: b2.
  17. 'Gidgets' Deborah Signed by Disney: Oboler Adding Two to Five; 'World by Night' Fascinating Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 10 Aug 1961: B13.
  18. Looking at Hollywood: Disney Film of Sea Chase to Start Soon HEDDA HOPPER'S STAFF. Chicago Daily Tribune 29 Apr 1961: 15.
  19. Minton, Kevin, "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt’s Fallen Star", Filmfax Issue 38, April 1993 p 71
  20. Crowther, Bosley (May 18, 1962). "Screen: 'Bon Voyage!' at Music Hall". The New York Times. 34.
  21. "Film Reviews: Bon Voyage". Variety. May 9, 1962. 6.
  22. Scheuer, Philip K. (June 24, 1962). "Frontrunners in '62 Movie Sweepstakes". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 7.
  23. Gill, Brendan (May 26, 1962). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 133-134.
  24. "Bon Voyage". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 29 (343): 111. August 1962.
  25. "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
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