Seagulls Over Sorrento

Seagulls Over Sorrento, released as Crest of the Wave in the United States and Canada, is a 1954 British drama film made by the Boulting brothers based on the play of the same name by Hugh Hastings. The film stars Gene Kelly and was one of three made by Kelly in Europe over an 18-month period to make use of frozen MGM funds. The cast features John Justin, Bernard Lee and Jeff Richards. Although the film finished shooting in July 1953, MGM could not release it in the UK until the play finished its London run, which delayed the film's release for almost a year.

Seagulls Over Sorrento
Crest of the Wave
US poster
Directed byJohn Boulting
Roy Boulting
Produced byJohn Boulting
Roy Boulting
Screenplay byFrank Harvey
Roy Boulting
Based onHugh Hastings (play)
StarringGene Kelly
Music byMiklós Rózsa
Ernesto de Curtis (song)
CinematographyGilbert Taylor
Edited byMax Benedict
Distributed byMGM
Release date
13 July 1954 (London)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$939,000[1]


A small group of British sailors stationed on a Scottish island engaged in top-secret research on a new and dangerous torpedo are joined by a US Navy scientist, Lt. Brad Bradville (Gene Kelly), and his assistants. When several tests of the weapon fail, and men are killed, tensions within the group mount. Bradville must prove that the torpedo can work and win over the British, especially Lt. Rogert Wharton (John Justin), before the Admiralty pulls the plug on the project.


Original play

The original stage play was written by Australian playwright Hugh Hastings and was based on his experiences in World War II.[2][3] It opened in London's West End on 14 June 1950,[4] and was a hit there,[5] but played for only two weeks on Broadway in New York City.[6] Bernard Lee played the same role in the London stage production.[5]

The play ran for over 1,600 performances in London.[7][8] Film rights were sold to the Boulting Brothers for £10,000.[9][10]


Because the play in which all the characters were British, and the emphasis was more on the enlisted men than in the film was a hit, MGM retained the title for the film everywhere except in the US and Canada, where the title Crest of the Wave was used.[5]

Although set on a Scottish island, the movie was filmed in Jersey and at Fort Clonque on Alderney in the Channel Islands, with interiors filmed at MGM's British studios at Borehamwood, Elstree.[5] Production took place between 4 May and late July 1953. The corvette monitoring the tests was HMS Hedingham Castle (pennant F386).

Ernesto de Curtis's song "Torna a Sorrento"[11] ("Come Back to Sorrento"), is performed on the concertina by David Orr, and was also used as background music throughout the film.

MGM was contractually obligated not to release the film until Seagulls Over Sorrento finished its West End run, which delayed the film's release until 13 July 1954, almost a year after filming had completed. The film then premiered in New York City on 10 November of that year, and went into general American release on 6 December.[12]


According to MGM records the film earned $349,000 in the US and Canada and $59,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $58,000.[1]

1960 Australian TV Adaptation

Seagulls Over Sorrento
Directed byAlf Potter
StarringBrian James
Distributed byHSV-7 (Melbourne)
TCN-9 (Sydney)
Release date
1 May 1960 (Melbourne)
12 June 1960[13]
Running time
90 mins

An Australian television production of the stage play was produced by Crawford Productions for Melbourne's HSV-7, airing on 1 May 1960.[14] It screened on TCN-9 in Sydney on Sunday 12 June.[15]

It was the first full length TV play made by an independent production company in Australia, in his case Crawfords.[16]

A kinescope recording of the production exists.[17]


  • Bill Hodge as Badger
  • Brian James as Petty Officer
  • Stuart Wagstaff
  • Frank Taylor
  • Peter Anderson as Lofty
  • Carl Bleazby
  • Don Crosby as Hudson
  • Mark Kelly
  • John Norman


Hodge, James, Taylor and Bleazby had appeared in the 1952 J.C Williamson production of the play.[18] Hodge came out of semi retirement to star. It was reportedly the 594th time he had played the part.[15]


A critic from the Sydney Morning Herald "thought it came off pretty well as a TV show" with an "excellent cast".[19]

The critic from The Age said "it was adequately presented but lacked atmosophere. The players were scared of the TV cameras for the first half hour.


Hastings later did a musical version of his play called Scapa which debuted in London in 1962. It received terrible reviews.[20]



  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Johnson and Smiedt 1999, p. 130.
  3. "Australian makes grade in London." The Sunday Herald, 20 November 1949, p. 6. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  4. TCM "Screenplay info: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  5. TCM "Notes: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  6. Seagulls Over Sorrento at the Internet Broadway Database
  7. " Australian wrtiter' big success in U.K." The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1952, p. 3. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  8. "People in the news." The Sunday Times, Perth, 5 December 1954, p. 2. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  9. "£10,000 for play by Austn." The Mail, 12 August 1950, p. 9. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  10. "Australian's play is big hit in West End." The Australian Women's Weekly, 24 February 1951, p. 15. Retrieved: 10 January 2014.
  11. TCM Music: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  12. IMDB Release dates: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." IMDb. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  13. "TV guide". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 June 1960. p. 75.
  14. "Green Guide: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento". The Age. 5 May 1960. p. 3.
  15. "Channel Spot". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 June 1960. p. 25.
  16. "IT'S A FAMILY VERDICT". The Australian Women's Weekly. 30, (5). Australia, Australia. 4 July 1962. p. 2 (Television). Retrieved 19 February 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  17. "Title No: 19490, Title: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." National Film and Sound Archives. Retrieved: 21 April 2016.
  18. "Advertisement: 'Seagulls Over Sorrento'." The Age', 18 June 1952, p. 20.
  19. "TV Merry Go Round". Sydney Morning Herald. 19 June 1960. p. 87.
  20. "Aust Show Under Fire". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 March 1962. p. 5.


  • Johnson, Rob and David Smiedt. Boom-Boom: A Century of Australian Comedy. Sydney, Australia: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999. ISBN 978-0-7336-0938-1.
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