Monday, November 15, 2010

Filming 20000 Leagues under the Sea - A 1954 LIFE Magazine Special Report

Back in 1954 the great LIFE magazine photographers were everywhere, even under water as you will see with this rare LIFE special report on the filming of 20000 Leagues under the Sea in the Bahamas.

Above, the great February 22, 1954 LIFE issue cover. Below Director Richard Fleischer poses in one of the famous Nautilus crewmen diving suits.

This next pictures shows the shooting of the underwater funeral procession while a scene coordinator hovers above them. The actors had to wait four weeks to shoot the scene because bad weather made the depths too murky.

Below, propmen drag a 400 pound net of Bahama Crayfish for one of the movie's sequence.

On the picture below a scene coordinator writes instructions to one of the actors using a grease crayon.

On the next picture the propmen releases off-camera off-camera groupers purchased at a fish market - note on the left Captain Nemo's crewmen.

Below, another propmen waits for the proper moment in the scene to release two more crayfish into view of the camera.

On the picture below, cameramen use an underwater camera scatfold to shoot a scene from afar while a safety coordinator watches for emergency hand signals from the actor-divers.

Below, actors playing Captain Nemo's crewmen use four-pronged pitchforks to "harvest seaweed" as a propman passes them a net they need for the scene.

On the next picture former Navy master diver Fred Zendar, the underwater coordinator, directs 20000 Leagues cameraman - note how big were underwater cameras in those days.

Below, an underwater propman carries a 9-foot wooden wrench which will be used in the scene where the Nautilus crewmen leave the submarine to repair a crippled propeller.

Salvage man Frank Higgins takes an underwater nap. As the only member of the team whose suit had surface air-lines and a built-in telephone Higgins was underwater for most of the day and had to grab rest whenever he could.

Director Richard Fleisher, coordinator Zendar and chief cameraman Till Gabani hold a meeting above water to discuss changes in the shooting plans.

On this last picture LIFE movie editor Mary Leatherbee covering the story in scuba gear.

Pictures and captions: copyright LIFE magazine.


Marco Antonio Garcia said...

This is amazing! Nice to see how they shot the best Disney movie of all times...

Thanks for posting it!

DisWedWay said...

Loved the shot of Frank Higgins taking a nap and knowing they had phone and air lines to him back then. Wonder if Harper Goff was there for this shooting? "PD"

Capt. Richard said...

Fantastic,, a great contribution to seafaring and cinematic history,,I would love to know how to get a hold of some of those inspirational UW shots!

Alain Littaye said...

Richard, Go here :
Type: 20000 Leagues under the sea in the search box, and then click on each picture to get them in big size. If you want a print i think that LIFE is proposing it.