Film Review of The Wreck of the Mary Deare: Thrilling Adaptation by Eric Ambler, Hammond Innes

by DerdriuMarriner

Thrilling books and films bring readers and viewers to the edges of their seats. The book “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” gets very suspenseful. The same holds for the film version.

Not all films appear under the same title as the book or movie upon which they are based. The disconnect generally arises when books or films get remade in another language. But it sometimes comes from the marketing and revenue concerns of:
• Directors;
• Producers;
• Screenwriters.

The essential message also emerges in film-making huddles over:
• Intended audiences;
• Profit margins.

All three factors undoubtedly explain the film-adapted, replacement titles to two mystery thrillers by Ralph Hammond Innes:
• The Lonely Skier of 1947 adapting into Snowbound in 1948;
• The White South of 1949 reconfiguring into Hell Below Zero in 1954.

Everybody then and now knows of no more compelling title for sea tragedies than “The Wreck of the Mary Deare.”

Does what happens in Rangoon (Yangon) stay in Rangoon? Does Gideon Patch (Gary Cooper) need to find out about happenings during Mary Deare's 4-day stopover for cargo in Rangoon Harbor?

Cargo ships in Yangon Harbor
Yangon (Rangoon) River at Yangon Harbor, Myanmar
Yangon (Rangoon) River at Yangon Harbor, Myanmar


The Wreck of the Mary Deare was adapted as a popular, respected novel into a thriller film. It was filmed in:

  • England (Elstree Studios, London, Regent’s Park, Waterloo Station);
  • United States of America (Long Beach, California).

It was realized by:

  • Eric Clifford Ambler (June 28, 1909 – October 22, 1998) as screenplay writer;
  • Michael Joseph Anderson, Sr. (born January 30, 1920) as director;
  • Julian Blaustein (May 30, 1913 – June 20, 1995) as producer;
  • George Duning (February 25, 1908 – February 27, 2000) as music director;
  • Joseph Ruttenberg (July 4, 1889 – May 1, 1983) as cinematographer;
  • Eda Warren (October 17, 1903 – July 15, 1980) as editor.

It was released with:

  • MGM as the distributor;
  • 105 minutes as the running time.


Amazon Video Shorts: Trailer for "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" (2:37 minutes) ~ Click "View on Amazon" button below to watch trailer.

Click "View on Amazon" button below to watch Mary Deare trailer.


John Sands (Charlton Heston) boards Mary Deare during wind-ravaged rainstorms. He comes across:

  • Airplane engine, cotton, tea cargo manifests;
  • Course-plotted map.

First officer Gideon Patch (Gary Cooper) describes Captain Taggart’s death four days previously. John gets Sea Witch salvage boat co-partner Mike Duncan (Ben Wright) to sail on. Gideon unexpectedly grounds Mary Deare on the Minkies after John re-stokes boiler room fires and starts up engines. They leave for St. Malo by:

  • Lifeboat;
  • Rescue plane.

With Mike, they meet:

  • First mate Higgins (Richard Harris);
  • Petrie (Alexander Knox), ship owner Gunderson’s (Peter Illing) representative.  

Janet Taggart (Virginia McKenna) reveals her father’s:

  • Meeting a Gunderson ship captain from China;
  • Replacing a sick officer during Mary Deare’s four-day Rangoon stop.


After grounding Mary Deare in the Minkies (Les Minquiers), a group of islands and rocks in the English Channel near France's northern coast, Gideon Patch (Gary Cooper) and John Sands (Charlton Heston) journey to nearby St. Malo:

Beach at low tide: English Channel at St. Malo, Bretagne, northwestern coast of France
Saint-Malo, Bretagne, northwestern France
Saint-Malo, Bretagne, northwestern France

Interview with Gary Cooper after he resurfaces from underwater scenes in "The Wreck of the Mary Deare."


Gary Cooper discusses scuba diving and "The Wreck of the Mary Deare."

Click on link to listen to interview (5:33 minutes):




The action in The Wreck of the Mary Deare centers upon three suspenseful activities:

  • Mysteries concerning Gideon’s strange behavior culminating in the revelation of a previous shipwreck and suspension;
  • Proceedings involving French salvage company captain (George Dee), hostile crew, insurance company underwriter, inquiry court lawyers (Alexander Archdale, John LeMesurier);
  • Vindication resulting from access of stone-filled -- not engine-containing -- boxes and struggles with harpoon-wielding Higgins.

It draws upon first-rate inputs from cast and crew, with particularly effective conjuring of atmosphere and mood through:

  • Set decoration by Henry Grace, Hugh Hunt;
  • Special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie, Doug Hubbard, Lee LeBlanc.

The film generates high praise from critics and is worth viewing again and again in DVD format.


The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) ~ 4:44 minute clip ~ Richard Harris espies Gary Cooper and Charleston Heston dive to bottom of "Mary Deare" to investigate crippling hole.

Published on YouTube on March 29, 2013 by Megaman514 ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


The Wreck of the Mary Deare ~ Amazon Instant Video: Rent or Buy with 1-Click®

The Wreck of the Mary Deare

Sources Consulted


Innes, Hammond. 1956. The Wreck of the Mary Deare. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.  

Innes, Hammond; and Ambler, Eric. 1959. The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Blaustein Baroda Production Company.  

Warner Brothers. 2006. Gary Cooper -- The Signature Collection: Sergeant York, The Fountainhead, Dallas, Springfield Rifle, The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Warner DVD.


Shipwreck of Mary Deare ~ 3D of Mary Deare (1:23 minutes)

Uploaded to YouTube on October 31, 2011 by Paul van Dinther ~ URL:
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/13/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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