In Search of the Castaways (film)

In Search of the Castaways is a 1962 Walt Disney Productions feature film starring Hayley Mills and Maurice Chevalier in a tale about a worldwide search for a shipwrecked sea captain. The film was directed by Robert Stevenson from a screenplay by Lowell S. Hawley freely based upon Jules Verne's 1868 adventure novel Captain Grant's Children. The film was Mills' third of six for the Disney Studios.[2]

In Search of the Castaways
Film poster
Directed byRobert Stevenson
Produced byAssociate Producer:
Hugh Attwooll
Written byLowell S. Hawley
Based onnovel In Search of the Castaways by Jules Verne
StarringHayley Mills
Maurice Chevalier
George Sanders
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Keith Hamshere
Jack Gwillim
Wilfrid Brambell
Music byMusic Composed by:
William Alwyn
Musical Director:
Muir Mathieson
Richard Sherman
Robert Sherman
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Edited byGordon Stone
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
December 21, 1962 (1962-12-21)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$21,745,500[1]


In England in the 19th century, Professor Paganel (Maurice Chevalier), a whimsical French geography professor, finds a bottle containing a note which he believes to have been written by the missing Captain John Grant (Jack Gwillim). Paganel and Grant's two teenaged children, Mary (Hayley Mills) and Robert (Keith Hamshere), approach John Glenarvan (Michael Anderson, Jr.) and his father, the wealthy shipping magnate Lord Glenarvan (Wilfrid Hyde-White), the owner of Captain Grant's ship, and persuade them to finance a search expedition. The expedition sets sail and ventures halfway around the world to South America.

In the Andes an earthquake sends them down a mountain on a glacier. A giant condor snatches up Robert but Thalcave (Antonio Cifariello), an Indian chief, rescues him. He later claims to know the whereabouts of Captain Grant. After surviving a tidal wave and a lightning storm, the group discovers that the well-meaning Thalcave was mistaken. Meanwhile, a budding romance develops between young Mary Grant and Lord Glenarvan's son John.

They then depart for Australia, where Paganel feels sure they will find Captain Grant. In Melbourne they meet a treacherous gunrunner, Thomas Ayerton (George Sanders), who produces evidence that Captain Grant is in New Zealand. Unaware that Ayerton is the third mate who caused a mutiny on Grant's ship, the search party once more sets sail. Ayerton causes another mutiny and sets the group adrift. They are captured by Maori cannibals, and are imprisoned along with Captain Grant’s shipmate, Bill Gaye (Wilfrid Brambell), who helps them escape to a volcano. They evade their pursuers by starting an avalanche which triggers off an eruption.

They finally find Captain Grant, overcome Ayerton and his mutineers, and sail for home. As they all sit around talking, the note that Professor Paganel initially found (and that was supposedly in Captain Grant’s handwriting) is brought up. Captain Grant states that he never wrote any note, to which Bill says: “The voice be the voice of a God-fearing man. But the hands are the hands of a forger”, implying that he imitated Captain Grant’s handwriting and wrote the note himself.

Cast and characters


The film was originally called The Castaways. It was devised by Disney specifically as a vehicle for Hayley Mills, who was under contract to the studio to make a film a year for five years. Disney wanted to age her gradually on screen and she would have her first case of "puppy love" in the film.[3] Disney wanted Mills' brother Jonathan to play her brother on screen but his school teachers turned it down.[4]

In April 1961 Disney announced they would make the films with Mills and Charles Laughton with Hugh Attool to produce and Robert Stevenson to direct.[5] Maurice Chevalier then came on board with production to begin in June.[6] The role of Mills' brother went to Keith Hampshire, who played Oliver on stage.[7]

Laughton ended up dropping out of the film. (He would be diagnosed with cancer in January 1962 which would kill him by December.[8]

Filming took place in England at Pinewood Studios. Disney said this was done because Mills' contract "calls for alternating her pictures here and there each year."[9]

Musical numbers

Songs composed by the Sherman Brothers include "Castaway", "Merci Beaucoup", "Let's Climb (Grimpons)", and "Enjoy It", with an orchestral arrangement of "Castaway" serving as the film's overture.


Box Office

In Search of the Castaways was a commercial hit. It grossed $18,415,385 domestically,[10] earning $5 million in US theatrical rentals.[11] At the worldwide box office, the film earned $21,745,500.[1]

In the US, it was the 3rd highest-grossing film of 1962. It was one of the 12 most popular movies at the British box office in 1963.[12]


The New York Times declared, "It is, as we say, a whopping fable, more gimmicky than imaginative, but it doesn't lack for lively melodrama that is more innocent and wholesome than much of the stuff the children see these days on television."[13]

A review in Variety said, "Walt Disney has come up with another splendid piece of spectacular hokum, lavishly colored and packed with incident and special effects. It can hardly fail to appeal to all types of audience, though apparently aimed mainly at the moppets."[14]

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Well-timed for Christmas, this film is designed to keep the family wide-awake after the plum-pudding, when the critical faculties are not too sharp. Attention is discreetly drawn away from the rather cardboard characters, and the Fauntleroy smile of Michael Anderson, by a kaleidoscope of colour and movement."[15]

Awards and nominations

The film placed third in the 1963 Golden Laurel Top Male Musical Performance (Chevalier) and was nominated for the Golden Laurel Top Action Drama.

Other adaptations of Verne's novel

Verne's tale has seen two Russian film adaptations (1936, 1985) and a Spanish operetta.

See also


  1. Box Office Information for In Search of the Castaways. Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 29, Iss. 336, (Jan 1, 1962): 171.
  3. 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.
  4. Looking at Hollywood: Wayne and Stewart to Co-Star in Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 10 Apr 1961: b11
  5. Looking at Hollywood: Disney Film of Sea Chase to Start Soon HEDDA HOPPER'S STAFF. Chicago Daily Tribune 29 Apr 1961: 15.
  6. Disney Film Leads Signed Special to The New York Times 1 June 1961: 30.
  7. BY WAY OF REPORT: Marlon Brando's 'Life' -- Other Film Items By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 18 June 1961: X9.
  8. Actor Charles Laughton Dies of Cancer at 63 Los Angeles Times 16 Dec 1962: D1.
  9. DISNEY MAPS NEW FRONTIER Williams, Dick. Los Angeles Times 10 Dec 1961: Q5.
  10. Box Office Information for In Search of the Castaways. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  11. "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 pg 69
  12. "Most Popular Films Of 1963." Times [London, England] 3 Jan. 1964: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  13. "Wild and Woolly Disney Version of Verne Fable". The New York Times. December 22, 1962. 5.
  14. "Film Reviews: In Search Of The Castaways". Variety. November 21, 1962. 6.
  15. "In Search of the Castaways". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 29 (347): 124. December 1962.
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