Flipper (1963 film)

Flipper is an American feature film released on August 14, 1963 written by Arthur Weiss[2] based upon a story by Ricou Browning and Jack Cowden. Produced by Ivan Tors and directed by James B. Clark, it portrays a 12-year-old boy living with his parents in the Florida Keys, who befriends an injured wild dolphin. The lad and his pet become inseparable, eventually overcoming the misgivings of his fisherman father.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames B. Clark
Produced byIvan Tors
Screenplay byArthur Weiss
Story byRicou Browning
Jack Cowden
StarringChuck Connors
Luke Halpin
Joe Higgins
Kathleen Maguire
Music byHenry Vars
CinematographyLamar Boren
Joseph Brun
Edited byWarren Brown
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
August 14, 1963
Running time
87 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,500,000 (rentals)[1]

The film introduced the popular song Flipper, by Dunham and Henry Vars and inspired the subsequent television series of the same name (19641967) and film sequels.[3]


Sandy Ricks (Luke Halpin) is a young boy living in the Florida Keys who rescues and befriends a dolphin injured by a harpoon. His father, fisherman Porter Ricks (Chuck Connors) disapproves, as dolphins compete for fish, which jeopardizes the family income. He is also upset that, after befriending the dolphin, Sandy neglects his chores - especially those assigned by his Dad, repairing various items damaged by a dangerous hurricane, from which Sandy and Porter escape at the beginning of the movie.

After "Flipper" (as Sandy names his new friend) recovers from the wound, the dolphin puts on a show to entertain the neighborhood children. Porter, seeing Flipper as both a threat to his nets and fish and a distraction to Sandy's assigned post-hurricane clean-up chores, lets the recovered Flipper swim out of the pen to the open sea, despite Sandy's tearful pleadings to keep the pet he has come to love.

However, later, Flipper returns to the Ricks' pen, much to Sandy's delight, but devours Porter's entire catch of pompano, which were caught only thanks to Flipper guiding Sandy to the fish. The loss is keenly felt due to a red plague killing local fish in large numbers. Porter harshly berates Sandy for allowing Flipper to jump into the holding pen of valuable fish waiting to go to market, "What's wrong with you boy? How old are you, 12, almost in your teens? Or are you a child who doesn't have the sense to know what his next meal depends on?" Reduced to tears, Sandy retreats to his bedroom as Porter's wife Martha (Kathleen Maguire) remonstrates that "he's only a boy".

Determined to make up for the loss, Sandy sets off to find more fish, and is led by Flipper to a large school of fish near a reef. Later, Sandy is rescued from a threatening shark by Flipper, and the grateful father draws closer to his son. Porter Ricks is finally convinced that Flipper did indeed help Sandy find fish and that there are enough fish for both the local residents of the area and the dolphins.



Co-creator Ricou Browning said that he originally conceived the story after seeing his children intently watching the TV series Lassie, which inspired Browning to create a similar story with a dolphin in place of the dog. After he sent the story to his friend, producer Ivan Tors, Tors expressed interest in making it into a movie.[4][5]

Filmed in color in 1962 and released in 1963, Flipper has several underwater sequences, along with scenes of the trained dolphin performing stunts. Flipper the dolphin was played by "Mitzie" (1958–1972), a female trained at the Santini Porpoise School (later the Dolphin Research Center), by Milton and Virginia Santini, who are credited in the film. Mitzie died in 1972 at age fourteen. She is buried at the Dolphin Research Center, where her grave is the first stop on the center's public tours.

In addition to Mitzie, four other dolphins were filmed for the production of the movie. Two of the dolphins, Little Bit, a female, and Mr. Gipper, a male, reproduced at the Dolphin Research Center. The calf was named Tursi, and she still lives at Dolphin Research Center as of 2011. Tursi has four offspring also living at Dolphin Research Center: Talon, Pax, Gypsi and Gambit.

In his 1974 book Friendly Porpoises William B. Grey, Animal Collection Manager for the Miami Seaquarium, has a photograph of dolphin trainer Jim Kline training a dolphin for a hurdle jump stunt for the film in the Seaquarium's main dolphin tank.[6]


A film sequel, Flipper's New Adventure, was filmed in late 1963 and released in June 1964. That same year, a television series inspired by the movie, Flipper, began and ran until 1967. A 1990s television revival featured Jessica Alba. In 1996, a movie remake was released, Flipper, starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood.

See also


  1. "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety, 8 January 1964, pg 71.
  2. "Flipper 1963 IMDd". Retrieved 2012-08-14.
  3. "Flipper - The Original Series: Season One". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  4. Cardinal, Scott (Producer and Director) (October 24, 2011). The Legend of Ivan Tors (Documentary film). United States: Campfire Network Productions.
  5. Gonzalez, Gaspar. "The House That Flipper Built," Biscayne Times, March 2012, available online at Biscaynetimes.com, accessed May 23, 2015.
  6. Gray, William B. Friendly Porpoises. A.S. Barnes and Co. New Jersey. ISBN 0-498-01452-5
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