Sinbad the Sailor (1947 film)

Sinbad the Sailor is a 1947 American Technicolor fantasy film directed by Richard Wallace and starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Maureen O'Hara, Walter Slezak, and Anthony Quinn. It tells the tale of the "eighth" voyage of Sinbad, wherein he discovers the lost treasure of Alexander the Great.

Sinbad the Sailor
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Wallace
Produced byStephen Ames
Screenplay byJohn Twist
Story byJohn Twist
George Worthing Yates
StarringDouglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Maureen O'Hara
Walter Slezak
Anthony Quinn
George Tobias
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byFrank Doyle
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • January 13, 1947 (1947-01-13) (USA)[1]
Running time
116-118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.8 million (US rentals)[3]


"O Masters, O Noble Persons, O Brothers, know you that in the time of the Caliph Harun-Al-Rashid, there lived on the golden shore of Persia a man of adventure called Sinbad the Sailor. Strange and wondrous were the tales told of him and his voyages. But who, shall we surmise, gave him his immortality? Who, more than all other sons of Allah, spread glory to the name of Sinbad? Who else, O Brother, but - Sinbad the Sailor! Know me, O Brothers, for the truth of my words, and by the ears of the Prophet, every word I have spoken is truth!"
- from the opening title card

The story begins with Sinbad (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) regaling a group of travelers around a night-time campfire. When his listeners become bored with his often repeated tales, Sinbad tells them about his "eighth" voyage.

With his friend, Abbu (George Tobias), Sinbad salvages a ship whose crew has been poisoned. On board, he finds a map to the lost treasure of Alexander the Great on the fabled island of Deryabar. However, when he sails to Basra, the ship is confiscated by the local Khan, to be sold at auction. Sinbad obtains an agreement that he may keep the ship if there are no bids. He scares away all the bidders with not-so-subtle comments about the ship being cursed. At the last moment, one bidder appears, a veiled woman borne by four servants. She is Shireen (O'Hara), part of the harem of the powerful Emir of Daibul (Anthony Quinn). Sinbad bids against her and ends up owing a huge sum he cannot pay. He steals the auctioneer's own money to pay for the ship.

Visiting Shireen that night in her garden, Sinbad learns of a mysterious and deadly person known as Jamal, who will stop at nothing to acquire the treasure. Jamal, only vaguely seen behind a curtain, makes an attempt on Sinbad's life. Sinbad escapes and steals the ship, acquiring a rough crew to man it. Strange stories of the evil Jamel circulate among the crew, but no one alive has ever seen him.

After several days, Sinbad sails to another port and goes, risking death, to visit Shireen in the harem. He is captured, but because the Emir believes him to be the Prince of Deryabar, he becomes his "guest". With his smooth words and some trickery, Sinbad once again escapes, taking Shireen with him. They set sail for Daryabar, but are overtaken and captured by the Emir. It is then revealed that Sinbad's ship's barber, Abdul Melik (Walter Slezak) is none other than Jamal, who has memorized (and then destroyed) the map to Deryabar. Forming an uneasy alliance of convenience, they sail to the treasure island.

They convince the lone resident of the ruins of Alexander's palace, the aged Aga (Alan Napier), that Sinbad is his lost son, owing to a medallion Sinbad had since childhood. When the Emir threatens to kill Sinbad, Sinbad confesses his true identity. Nevertheless, Aga capitulates and shows them the fabulous treasure's hiding place. He later informs Sinbad that he had given his son to sailors to shield him from treasure hunters; Sinbad is indeed his son and the true Prince of Daryabar.

When it is discovered that Jamal had intended to poison the Emir and his crew to have the treasure to himself, the Emir forces him to drink the deadly liquid himself. Sinbad escapes again, boards the Emir's ship and frees his crew. The Emir is killed by Greek fire catapulted at him from his own ship.

The disbelieving listeners around the campfire accuse Sinbad of telling yet another tall tale, but soon change their minds when he distributes precious jewels and gold. The beautiful Shireen appears and they board the ship for their return to Deryabar as Sinbad relates the moral of the tale, that true happiness is found in things other than material wealth.

Main cast


Film planning started in March 1944, when The Hollywood Reporter announced that it was to be produced by William Pereira, under the supervision of Jack Gross. RKO borrowed George Tobias from Warner Bros. for the production.[1] Ellis St John wrote an original screen play. [4]

In October 1945, RKO announced that Maureen O'Hara would star in the film. John Twist was already writing a new screen play, while Stephen Ames was producing the feature. The film's production budget was also set at $2,500,000.[5] By December, Walter Slezak had been cast as the villain. Both he and O'Hara had starred in RKO's popular swashbuckler, The Spanish Main (1945).[6]

RKO signed Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in December of 1945 to star as Sinbad. It was his first feature film role after his having served five years in the US Navy during World War II. [7] He convinced the studio to engage a number of supporting actors and stuntmen that had worked originally with his silent movie star father, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.[1]

Fairbanks said it was the last film he intended to make for a straight up salary. As part of his deal, he was given an office with a secretary and had input on the screen play, sets, wardrobe, etc.[8]

In January 1946, Richard Wallace agreed to direct the film.[9]

Filming began in February 1946.


RKO had originally planned to release the film for the 1946 Christmas season, but a strike at the Technicolor processing plant delayed the making of the color prints. The wide-release date was consequently moved to January 13, 1947, and RKO instead chose Frank Capra's black-and-white It's a Wonderful Life as their big 1946 Christmas movie.

Box office

The film cost $2,459,000 to make and earned a modest profit at the box office.[1]

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. later said "Errol Flynn told me I'd made a big mistake because nobody was interested in swashbuckling, and I had to agree. Receipts were thin".[8]

See also


  1. "Sinbad the Sailor: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  2. Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. p217
  3. "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  4. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Warner Bros. to Do Film of San Antonio -- 'The Fighting Seabees' Opens at Globe Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 18 Mar 1944: 18.
  5. MAUREEN 0'HARA GETS 'SINBAD' ROLE: Will Have Leading Feminine Part in RKO Technicolor Film Costing $2,000,000 Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 6 Oct 1945: 20.
  6. FILM VICTORY UNIT TO FOLD ON DEC. 31: Committee of Screen Players Gave 56,286 Free Shows-- Will Entertain Wounded New York Times (19 Dec 1945: 20.
  7. FAIRBANKS SIGNED FOR RKO'S 'SINBAD': Adventure Film Lead to Be His First Coast Role in 5 Years --10 Arrivals This Week Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES 24 Dec 1945: 19.
  8. Fairbanks, Jr., for 'Sinbad': Hollywood LetterBy Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor 8 Mar 1946: 5.
  9. MACDONALD CAREY RETURNS TO FILMS: Signed by Paramount After 3 Years in Marine Corps-- Nine Openings This Week New York Times 21 Jan 1946: 31.
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