“Plymouth Adventure” (1952) is based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Gebler. The film stars Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson and Gene Tierney in director Clarence Brown’s last film about the pilgrims on the voyage to the New World.
Everyone knows the gist of the story – religiously persecuted pilgrims make their way to the New World for hope. However, the man captaining the ship, Captain William Jones (Spencer Tracy) and his foul crew (includes a young Lloyd Bridges as shipmate “Collins”) agree to take the pilgrims under one condition – to disrupt the original plans of landing in Virginia and settle in New Plymouth for their payment. Captain Jones is cynical towards the pilgrims and their views but during the voyage, “Dorothy Bradford” (Gene Tierney)m the Puritanical wife of William Bradford, tries to change his mind. It is not to be left unnoticed that the role of “John Alden” (Van Johnson), represents the men who left England, not because of religion, but for the promise of free-trade.
While at large, “Plymouth Adventure” has been proven not to be historically accurate, though it does feature elements that make the film a decent historical adventure. The film features actual characters who did sail the “Mayflower” – Leo Glenn plays the role of “William Bradford,” Barry Jones plays “William Brewster,” and Lowell Gilmore plays “Edward Winslow” — to name a few. The combination of the subtle direction and the use of a life-sized model of the original “Mayflower” allows the audience to experience the voyage with the characters. Suffering from scurvy and other sea born illnesses as well as fighting fierce storms, there is not a lot to do onboard besides wait. It’s impressive that the production shoot lasted only three months. For the team’s efforts, the film received an Academy award for Special Effects.
Modern film reviewers have described this film as being “too melo-dramatic.” However, I would disagree. I found “Plymouth Adventure” to be well-acted, well-written for the time period from which it was made and is an enjoyable film to watch around the time of Thanksgiving.