Two years before the mast. 951026. pic shows – Alan Ladd stars in film ‘Two Years Before The Mast’, a pirate film.***FDCTRANSFER***
He won an Oscar for writing the David Niven movie Around The World In 80 Days and was also nominated for the acclaimed war film Wake Island.
He directed almost 50 Hollywood movies including John Wayne in the western Hondo, Ray Milland in the noir hit The Big Clock and Alan Ladd in seafaring adventure Two Years Before The Mast.
After working as a script doctor on a Tarzan movie, he married Hollywood star Maureen O’Sullivan, who played Jane, and they had seven children including actress Mia Farrow. The Beatles wrote Dear Prudence about another of their daughters.
John Farrow, who died in Los Angeles aged 58 in 1963, had a colourful life that included sailing around the Pacific as a teenager, compiling an English-French-Tahitian dictionary, being arrested as an illegal alien in San Francisco while trying to pass as a Romanian consular official and serving as a commander in the Canadian Navy during World War II.
He tried acting; wrote eight books including two novels, a history of the Popes and a collection of poetry; had affairs with stars Dolores del R??o and Ava Gardner; and was honoured with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, a CBE and a Papal knighthood.
Yet few people who have even heard of Farrow know that he was n.
Filmmakers Claude Gonzalez and Frans Vandenburg are planning to change that with a feature documentary on a forgotten filmmaker.
Critic Margaret Pomeranz is launching a private screening of The Big Clock for potential investors on Sunday.
Over more than a decade of research, Gonzalez and Vandenburg have discovered Farrow was as mysterious as he was charismatic.
“We’re both very interested in films of that period but we’d never heard of this guy before,” Vandenburg says. “And once we started looking into it, the more we became incredibly intrigued.”
“We only found a handful of things because there were no interviews done with him, no archival footage, no biographies at all,” says Gonzalez: “We kept thinking ‘how is this possible?’
“This filmmaker has made 50 or so films. He seems to be one of those directors who has slipped through the cracks of film history.”
They found out that Farrow grew up in Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, and was raised by an aunt after his mother died at a psychiatric hospital when he was a child.
Aged 14, he went to sea on a merchant ship and apparently never returned to .
After jumping ship in San Francisco at 18 and avoiding deportation after being arrested, Farrow worked as an actor and portrait painter before starting in Hollywood writing title cards for silent movies in 1927.
Prudence Farrow has told the filmmakers her father’s entree to Hollywood was meeting noted filmmaker John Huston at a play one night.
When a small theatre was about to cancel a performance of Hamlet because the star was sick, Farrow jumped up in the audience and offered to play the role.
Huston was reputedly so entertained by Hamlet with an n accent – recited from memory – that he invited him to Hollywood.
After beginning as a script consultant and technical advisor, Farrow began selling his sea-faring and adventure tales to the studios as he moved into writing and directing.
He converted to Catholicism – receiving a Papal dispensation as a divorcee – to marry O’Sullivan in 1936.
For three decades, Farrow, Errol Flynn and costume designer Orry-Kelly were among the few high-profile ns in Hollywood.
But the filmmakers say he never made a fuss about being n. In fact, many people thought he was English, and he became a US citizen in 1947.
As a larrikin and storyteller he invented tales about his past, once claiming to be descended from English royalty to impress O’Sullivan’s family.
Gonzalez believes Farrow deserves to be remembered as an A-list director within the Hollywood studio system – a workaholic who put his stamp across just about every genre, including war films, dramas, adventure pics, film noir, action movies, comedies and westerns.
“You could look at his ’40s period and see how powerful and confident he was as a director,” he says.
But while Farrow had many successes, he was also replaced as director on two big hits – Around The World In Eighty Days and King of Kings.
Two of his Hollywood movies featured .
The 1953 drama Botany Bay had Alan Ladd and James Mason on a prison ship headed for Sydney, with four koalas and two kangaroos reputedly flown to the US set and Aboriginal characters played by African-American actors.
And the 1955 drama The Sea Chase had John Wayne as the captain of a German freighter which leaves Sydney at the outbreak of World War II and is pursued across the seas by n and British naval ships.
The filmmakers are planning to head to the States soon to interview Mia Farrow and her three surviving siblings.
“Our film is describing who he was and why he was forgotten,” Gonzalez says. “He deserves some sort of recognition not only for his contribution as a stylist and a formidable and prolific director but he was also an n who was a trailblazer.
“He went out and created a career for himself, made his mark on Hollywood then just disappeared.”