Botany Bay (film)

Botany Bay is a 1953 American drama film directed by John Farrow and starring Alan Ladd, James Mason and Patricia Medina. It was based on a novel of the same name by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.[2]

Botany Bay
Directed byJohn Farrow
Produced byJoseph Sistrom
Written byJonathan Latimer
Based onnovel by Charles Nordhoff
James Norman Hall
StarringAlan Ladd
James Mason
Patricia Medina
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyJohn F. Seitz
Edited byAlma Macrorie
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
October 28, 1953
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.9 million (US)[1]


In 1787 prisoners are shipped from Newgate Jail on Charlotte to found a new penal colony in Botany Bay, New South Wales. Amongst them is Hugh Tallant (Ladd) an American medical student who had been wrongly imprisoned. During the journey he begins to clash with the villainous Captain Gilbert (Mason), and is soon plotting a full-scale mutiny against him.[3]



There was film interest in the book even before its publication because of the success of Mutiny on the Bounty, also from a novel by Nordhoff and Hall. The film rights were sold in July 1940 for a reported $50,000 and was intended to be a vehicle for Joel McCrea.[4][5]

In 1941 Joel McCrea expressed interest in playing the lead.[6] The film was originally planned to be made in 1946, starring Ray Milland with location shooting in Australia.[7] However these plans were delayed when Paramount became concerned about the cost.[8]

The project was re-activated in 1951 as a vehicle for Alan Ladd.[9]

Four koalas and two kangaroos were flown from Australia to appear in the film.[10][11] The koalas were the first to be exported from Australia in 25 years and were later transferred to San Diego Zoo.[12]

The only Australian born members of the cast were Murray Matheson and Brendan Toomey. Aboriginal characters were played by African-American actors.[13] (Peter Pagan was reported as going to feature in the film[14] but this did not seem to eventuate.)

Historical Basis

The ship Charlotte, under the command of Captain Gilbert, sailed with the First Fleet.


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  2. "Botany Bay". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  3. "FILMS". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 27 March 1953. p. 16. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  4. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times 26 July 1940: 12.
  5. JAMES MASON DEAL SET AT PARAMOUNT: Will Co-Star With Alan Ladd in 'Botany Bay' for Studio-- Farrow Directing Film Guarding Cowboy Actors Of Local Origin By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 16 Nov 1951: 22.
  6. "JOEL McCREA IN BOTANY BAY?"". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 12 June 1941. p. 19. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  7. "Ray Milland to Make Film at Botany Bay". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 19 March 1946. p. 11 Supplement: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  8. "Hollywood Goes All Australian". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 11 September 1946. p. 13 Supplement: Woman's Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  9. FOX WILL REMAKE 'DADDY LONG-LEGS': Studio Plans Musical Version of Romantic Story Already Twice Filmed on Coast Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 June 1951: 25.
  10. "Koalas To Go To U.S. For Film". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 4 January 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  11. "Kangaroos, Koalas Go To U.S." The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 7 January 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  12. "Our Koalas Draw Big Crowds To U.S. Zoo". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 10 January 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  13. "Early adventure in "Botany Bay"". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 18 June 1952. p. 31. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  14. "Drama: 'Mr. Congressman' Cast Well Set Up; Martin Promotes Discoveries" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 21 Dec 1951: B7.
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