Plymouth Adventure (1952)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Clarence Brown.

Starring:      Spencer Tracy (Capt. Christopher Jones), Gene Tierney (Dorothy Bradford), Van Johnson (John Alden), Leo Genn (William Bradford), Barry Jones (William Brewster), Dawn Addams (Priscilla Mullins), Lloyd Bridges (Coppin), Noel Drayton (Miles Standish), John Dehner (Gilbert Winslow), Tommy Ivo (William Button), Lowell Gilmore (Edward Winslow).

 story of the voyage of the "Mayflower", 1620

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"The history of mankind is the record of those who dared to adventure into unknown realms: into the depths beyond the microscope, into the mysteries behind the stars, into the hidden areas of the mind, into the wildernesses of new continents.  This picture is dedicated to the immortal men and women who dared to undertake the Plymouth Adventure and so brought to a continent the seed that grew into the United States of America."

Southampton, England.  August 1620.  A government official asks a man is on the Mayflower?  The fellow says yes, he's the master's mate and his name is Coppin.  The official and his aide start asking the names of the people who are about to sail on the Mayflower.  They meet:  Samuel Fuller, a young lad named William Button, John Carver and his wife, Stephen Hopkins with his wife and children and his bondsman, William Bradford and his wife and Mary Brewster and her children.  The official asks where is Mary's husband, William Brewster?  The group came from Holland on the Speedwell.  Brewster left Holland months ago and he's believed to be dead.  The official asks how can Mary Brewster go to the new world without a husband?  She can go thanks to the support and aide of her neighbor, Mr. Bradford.

Bradford asks why are they being questioned?  Because they want William Brewster, their leader.  "The rest of you may go, and good riddance to you." 

The official asks another passenger for his name.  It's Gilbert Winslow.  He inquires of the official why not just let William Brewster just sink with the boat instead of throwing him in jail?  The official says Brewster is not going to prison.  He's going to hang. 

A carpenter, John Alden, asks Gilbert Winslow about where the passengers are going?  The new world.  How much does the voyage cost?  Gilbert says there's no cost for the voyage in and of itself.  It's all paid for by the investors and a Mr. Weston representing the Virginia Company.  The settlers will give their labor for five days of every week for the company.  And for the other two days of each week, the settlers can work for themselves.  They sail tomorrow.  They hope to hire two more sailors and a carpenter. 

Captain Christopher Jones arrives and tells the people to get aboard.  He tells Coppin to keep the women and children out of his way.  The Captain watches Mrs. Bradford get on board. 

The Captain goes to a tavern where he meets Mr. Weston.  Weston asks him what does he think of his passengers?  Jones says that they are a rabble of paupers.  Weston comments that they will make good settlers in the new world because they have nothing in England to come back to.  Jones thinks he's taking the passengers to Virginia, but Weston says they are going to the Cape Cod area in New England.  The Captain complains that they all agreed upon Virginia.  Weston gives him more money then agreed upon to satisfy the captain.  He also wants to make sure that the Captain does not tell the passengers about their true destination.  Their conversation is interrupted with the arrival of John Alden who asks if there's a Captain Jones here?  

The Captain says he isn't hiring people.  And he's got his same old carpenter on this voyage too.  John is disappointed, but then Weston says that the passengers do need a man to tend to their barrels and casks and help them build their houses in the new world.  He tells John to go see Mr. Martin at the old inn.  Martin will have some papers for John to sign. 

In a row boat, John goes with some sailors who tell him that Captain Jones is a hard master and he hates passengers, but he's a good seaman.  The Speedwell is going to accompany the Mayflower, but the sailors are doubtful whether or not the Speedwell will actually make it to the new world.  The smaller ship is carrying about 30 passengers. 

John goes aboard the ship.  He sits down and Coppin comes over to him and tells him to get below deck with the other passengers.  John tells him he's not a passenger and he's not a sailor.  He's a carpenter.  Coppin says he still has to go below deck and he better get to it or he'll thrown the man blow deck himself.  John doesn't like the way Coppin speaks to him and a fight breaks out.  Coppin is getting the better of John, but the Captain stops the fight.  He tells John to go below deck.  John still wants a piece of Coppin, but he reluctantly goes below deck. 

Gilbert Winslow is below deck and he tells the carpenter that he can share some of his space.  John sees a pretty young woman and he asks who's that?  She is Priscilla Mullins, the daughter of William Mullins.  Gilbert says:  "The only female aboard unmarried over the age of ten fit to look at." 

John decides to bunk one level below the passenger deck.  He sets up his bedding and sees something moving under a tarp.  He grabs something to strike whatever lies below the tarp.  He picks up and end piece of the tarp and raised it up. There he finds an old man who had been sleeping.  The man says he came down here to have a nap away from the craziness of all the children.  He has a forbidden religious book with him.  John figures out that he's speaking to none other then the religious leader, William Brewster. 

John meets Miles Standish, who is a hired man with the job of teaching the settlers how to used firearms.  They go up on deck to listen to what Mr. Weston is saying to the pilgrims.   Weston wants them all to sign a contract with harsher terms than what was promised to the settlers.  A number of people, including William Bradford, protest against this old switcheroo.  The new terms says that they are to work seven days a week all for the company and none for the settlers.  In other words, they would be made virtual slaves.  Weston says they will sign the document, or they will go without his aide.  He starts leaving the ship, but he stops briefly to tell the Captain now he may sail. 

The Captain has Coppin accompany him to his cabin.  There he explains to Coppin what just happened.  Breaking ties with the settlers will make it that much easier to land them in New England and not Virginia as they were told.  The New England company is in the process of going bankrupt because they were never able to get enough settlers to go to New England.  So, Weston plans to but up the New England Company soon, before any in the Virginia Company learns that the settlers settled on Cape Cod and not in Virginia.  That will make the New England Company rich and Weston will become a wealthy man. 

The Captain goes back to the town.  When he returns, Mrs. Dorothy Bradford hears him and a bar maid drunkenly singing away at the top of their lungs as they are rowed out to the ship.  The Captain has a hard time climbing up the rope ladder to board the ship.  There he finds Mrs. Bradford hiding in the shadows.  He grabs her and she begs him to let her go.  Mr. Bradford come up on deck and shoves the Captain down on the deck.  He takes Dorothy down below with him. 

In the morning, the Captain yells:  "Make ready to sail!"  He tells all the passengers to get below deck.  The ship starts moving. 

Gilbert Winslow is keeping a journal of his trip.  He writes that the Captain is very surly to the passengers.  He takes everything any of the passengers says as an insult or worse.

Brewster comes up on deck finally.  He is now being called John Williamson of Surrey.

The ships have been at sea for ten days now.  The Speedwell has caused several delays.  Captain Jones refers to the ship as a slop bucket.

The Speedwell is leaking like a sieve and Captain Jones says they are turning around and heading back home to England with the Speedwell

Back in England the Captain says that Captain Reynolds of the Speedwell got most of his money in advance.  He was to stay with the settlers in the new world for a year.  So, he broke the Speedwell's hull.  The ship was oversparred and he knew that.  And yet he sailed the ship with too much canvas and with her rigging too slack.  This put too much stress on the hull.  The leaders tell Jones that they feel they must sail again and at once.  They will transfer those settlers on the Speedwell to the Mayflower and those on the Mayflower will share their food and supplies with the others.  The captain agrees to go even though without a backup ship, the voyage will be much more dangerous. 

The Captain says he will hold William Brewster as a hostage, just in case on any trouble with the settlers.

On board the ship now are 102 people:  50 men, 20 women and 32 children. 

John has to fight off a rival to help Priscilla get some sea water using a bucket and a rope.  He asks what she is going to use the sea water for and she says to wash her hands and face.  John tells her that seawater should not be used on the hands and feet because it will crack the skin.  He then takes her down to where he stays and gets her more proper relatively fresh water.  He talks about his duties taking care of the contents of the huge barrels.  Then he points to a printing press, but he doesn't know anything about it.  So Priscilla says this printing press was brought from Holland.  On this very press, they printed out their religious works which got them banned in the first place. 

John shows her the place where he sleeps:  the rope locker.  He then says that he doesn't like the way the sailors look.  She says she doesn't like it either.  He moves closer to her and she tells him that he's acting like all the other men now.  John says there's one important difference.  He knows that Priscilla likes him too.  He gives her a peck on the cheek and she scurries out of there. 

The women use the drinking water to gives themselves sponge baths.  Mrs. Bradford throws the soapy water over the side of the ship.  Coppin catches her and brings her to the Captain for using the sailors' water.  The Captain takes advantage of the situation to play cat and mouse with the poor woman.  Mrs. Bradford just can't stand him and tells him:  "What a foul man you are!" 

September 15th.  Miles Standish teaches the men how to use firearms.  The men have a laugh when the black powder explodes in Standish's face. 

As the autumn grows colder, the ship hits into some nasty storms.  Young Mr. Button has been taken with lung fever.  The ship really starts being tossed around and the children start crying.  Water starts leaking from the deck onto the deck below.  A broken spar falls onto the deck. 

One of the women thinks her son went up on deck in storm and she starts screaming about it.  Bradford goes on deck to look for the boy.  The storm knocks Bradford over the side of the boat.  The Captain saves his life by throwing him a rope and pulling him in with the help of others. 

The passengers below deck are being literally thrown around below deck.  A huge wave lands right on top of the ship and the deck cracks pouring even more water on the passengers.  The try to shore up the deck with pieces of wood.  John has the printing press brought up and used to shore up the deck.  With the printing press holding up the main support beam, the men get long pieces of wood to hold the beam in place.  Then they relax the pressure on the press. 

Many of the passengers are sick and many have been injured by the storm.  Mrs. Bradford goes to the Captain and thanks him for saving her husband's life. 

October 2.  The days go by so slowly for the passengers.  Sometimes they feel they have not move at all.  A son is born to the wife of Stephen Hopkins.  They name him Oceanus Hopkins.

With the passage of time the food gets more and more scarce.  People start stealing food from the storage supplies.  It turns out to be Coppin.  John calls out that Coppin is stealing food and the passengers stop Coppin and a fight begins.  Jones breaks up the fight. 

Scurvy starts to show itself among the passengers.  Their wood for fires is used up.  They only have water for a few more days now. 

November 6.  The lamps in the captain's cabin burn late. He is a lonely man keeping himself apart from others.  Mrs. Bradford comes up on deck to talk to the Captain, but he starts talking a lot.  He is very pessimistic about whether they will make it land.  Then she tells him to stop thinking that he's all alone going through this.  Everyone else is suffering too.  She adds that it's not anger and loathing he feels, but despair, because the ship and all it contains is about to be lost.  The Captain leaves her to go to his cabin.

November 8.  It's been 64 days since leaving Plymouth.  The dog on the voyage found a dead bird.  That gives the people some hope.  They take the bird to show it to the Button boy who is still sickly.  Later the boy goes up on deck and collapses.  He is buried at sea.

The call goes out:  "Land, ahoy."  All the passengers come up on deck.  The Pilgrims start singing a hymn. 

The Pilgrims finally find out from people who know the area that they are at Cape Cod.  Coppin runs to the Captain to tell him that the Pilgrims know that they are in New England.  The Captain and some of his men arm themselves with pistols in case of a mutiny.  The three Pilgrim leaders confront the Captain about this not being Virginia.  They want to know why the Captain is dropping them here rather than in Virginia?  The Captain says this is Cape Cod and this is where they are going to settle.  Jones, however, doesn't say why they are dropping the settlers here.  Bradford takes some of the wind out of the Captain's sails, when he tells them that the settlers already decided to stay here before the leaders came to the Captain, but if they had wanted to go to Virginia, there would be nothing the Captain could do to stop them from taking over the ship.  It's just that they wanted to try to find out why the Captain is dropping them here and not in Virginia?  And the Captain is now through with holding Brewster hostage.  Brewster goes with them.  The leaders leave. 

Now the passengers meet to consider what kind of government they want to have.  They sign what they call the Mayflower Compact. 

A group goes ashore to spot out a good place to built the settlement.  They land on the beach. 

Mrs. Bradford hears that the Captain is going to take the ship back to England.  She goes to the Captain and asks him to stay.  He asks her to go back with him to England.  The two of them hug and kiss.  Then she tells the Captain that this is wrong.  She can't leave her husband.  The woman tells him to let her go now.  The Captain is despondent over his loss of the woman he loved. 

The long boat returns and Bradford raves about the place they have selected.  Then he notices that everyone is silent around him.  He wants to know what's going on.  A man takes him away from the crowd to speak to him in private.  He tells Bradford that the night of the day they left on the long boat, Mrs. Bradford must have fallen overboard when no one was about.  Bradford is very upset. And, so too, is the Captain. 

Coppin threatens mutiny if the ship does not now sail back for England. The Captain clobbers Coppin over and over again.  He then asks the other men, now who threatens mutiny? 

April 4.  The winter is over and the land is abloom.  Now the settlement is down to only 56 people.  Most of them were taken by a combination of scurvy and lung fever.  And all this time Captain Jones stayed with his ship in the harbor.  They would have perished if the ship had gone back to England.  

Now the Captain is going back.  The Pilgrims hold a ceremony honoring the Captain for saving them.  He seems to be a better man now after his experiences with the Pilgrims and their religious faith.  He says:  "I wish you all good fortune. And I want to thank you for what you have taught me. The growth of the human spirit brings it closer to all living beings.  I was alone.  Now I am with my fellows."

After the ceremony the Captain tells Bradford that he loved Dorothy.  He says she loved Bradford in a way that he, the Captain, could not understand  And she never betrayed her husband. 

 

 

 

 

 

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