Paramount Years (1951-1955)


French poster

When Worlds Collide (1951)

While waiting for Destination Moon to finish the special effects sequences, Pal acquired the rights to When Worlds Collide from Paramount and was trying to convince studios to film it. No one was interested as it was thought that Destination Moon would be a flop. Paramount executives had turned down Pal's Destination Moon project, but when they saw the lines going around the block when it opened they realized their error and immediately negotiated a deal with Pal for When Worlds Collide.

When Worlds Collide was a fun film for George. Filming was smooth and the effects crew produced incredible shots depicting the destruction of the Earth. With the announcement of George receiving an Oscar for effects on Destination Moon, Paramount was anxious for Pal to finish When Worlds Collide. Script changes were made and the ending was altered.

Chesley Bonestell, who had been doing production drawings for the film had created a painting which was to be used to build a miniature set for the final scenes, Paramount pushed for the completion of the film and the painting was cut into the film for a preview audience. The audience was enthusiastic at the screening so the print remained as it was.

War of the Worlds (1953)


1953 Paperback
After the success of When Worlds Collide and Pal's second Oscar, Pal considered filming the sequel, After Worlds Collide, and even got Paramount to purchase the rights. Paramount eventually shelved the project in favor of War of the Worlds. Paramount had originally purchased the rights from H.G. Wells in 1925 in hopes of having it done by Cecil B. DeMille.

"Without a doubt The War of the Worlds is one of the most exciting, inventive, and downright terrifying motion pictures ever made. More than twenty-five years after its initial release, it continues to hold audiences spellbound."
— Gail Morgan Hickman

War of the Worlds won George Pal another Oscar for Best Special Effects.

Houdini (1953)

Pal's next film, Houdini, departed from science fiction. Magic had interested Pal since his early days in Budapest. A script had been written by Dore Schary but Pal wasn't impress by it and had another written. He suggested Paramount should buy the Schary script to avoid any complications later. Paramount refused to pay the asking price of $5000.00. Later, Paramount found themselves paying out $17,000.00 to stave off a threatened lawsuit for infringement of the Schary script.

Pal wanted all the magic in the film to be 'real', no camera tricks were t be used, Tony Curtis spent two months prior to filming learning and practicing magic to ensure the realism for the film.

"While not one of Pal's best films, Houdini is still an entertaining motion picture, primarily due to good performances by Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Torin Thacher. One of the problems with the film is that it is at its core a realistic story. Although Pal and writer Philip Yordan have taken liberties with Houdini's biography, it is still essentially about an actual person. Pal's particular genius has always been with fantastic subjects, and the life story of Harry Houdini is simply too restrictive for his imagination."
— Gail Morgan Hickman


Naked Jungle (1954)

 

Houdini was the first time Pal worked with screenwriter Philip Yordan. While working on Houdini, Pal asked Yordan if he had a favorite story he would like to see filmed. Yordan suggested Leinigen vs the Ants by Carl Sephenson which had appeared in Esquire magazine. After an intensive search for the author, the rights were obtained. The title was changed to The Naked Jungle and Charleton Heston was hired to play the lead. Heston would play a plantation owner in South America fighting an invasion of army ants intent on destroying anything or anyone in their path.

Paramount was less than enthusiastic about the project and continually meddled with the production. Pal originally wanted Leslie Caron to play the female lead but Paramount insisted on Eleanor Parker which lead to dramatic changes to the script. In spite of the studio interference, the film was a success.

Conquest of Space (1955)

With Pal's next film, Conquest of Space, the studio interfered even more. The story was cut back dramatically and reworked till it barely resembled the original concept Pal had in mind. Pal got Philip Yordan, Barre Lyndon (War of the Worlds) along with Worthington Yates to write the script. Chesley Bonestell was also brought in as consultant.


"When I first began making pictures, the studio left me alone, but after awhile the front office, which is the greatest nemesis of the filmmaker, began to think up ways in which they could improve my pictures. When they got around to Conquest of Space, they succeeded in ruining it."
— George Pal

Paramount decided that science fiction/ fantasy films no longer fit into their economic scheme. So Pal left Paramount and took his family on a well deserved 31 day vacation to South America.

War of the Worlds
available on DVD

 

 

 

 

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