Carib’s Gold

Release Date:  9/30/1956
Black & White
Genre:  Drama
Director:  Harold Young
Studio(s):  Splendora International, Onyx Pictures
Running Time:  71 mins./62 mins.

Cast/Role: 
Ethel Waters as “Mom” Ryan: Ryan’s mother, owner of Duffy’s bar and restaurant.
Coley Wallace as Ryan: a diver who discovers sunken treasure.
Peter Dawson as Neely: skipper of the shrimping boat, the Capt. Geech.
Richard Ward as Lechock: a diver hired to help salvage the shipwreck, but who steals some of the treasure and murders Barb.
Cecil Cunningham as Barb: Mate/deckhand on the Capt. Geech.
William T. Hill as Cap: Owner & manager of the Capt. Geech.
Cicely Tyson as Dottie: Barb’s wife.
George Renna as Bartender.
Diana Sands as Bar Girl.
Henry Hayward as Willie: a deckhand on the Capt. Geech.
Ruth Sawyer as Baby: Ryan’s wife.
Geoffrey Holder as Voodoo Dancer.

Synopsis:  When Ryan, a sailor on a shrimp boat fishing off the Florida Keys, finds a sunken treasure of gold while diving to repair some nets, the demeanor of the boat’s crew changes. A diver hired to help salvage the wreck kills a crew member, then escapes with part of the treasure and is pursued through the Keys by the harbor police. After hijacking a car, the killer continues his escape, but when he hears a radio news broadcast report that a roadblock has been set up to prevent his going to the mainland, he returns to Key West. Ryan tracks the killer by searching the local bars. He  eventually finds the killer and turns him over to the police.

Notes:  Carib Gold was filmed almost entirely in Key West, Florida, with locally-cast musicians and extras. It is most notable for its largely African-American cast headlined by Ethel Waters, and was the feature-film debut of actresses Cicely Tyson and Diana Sands. It also marked the debut of dancer-actor Geoffrey Holder.  According to the LA Mirror-News review, Holder performed a voodoo dance in the film.

The film premiered on Sunday, September 30, 1956, exclusively at the Strand and Monroe Theaters on Duval Street in Key West. The film’s premiere was segregated, with the Strand screening the film for whites and the Monroe screening it for blacks. Following its premiere, the film had a very short run, being shown in both theaters for only two more days.  No national release date for the picture has been located.

According to documents in the Department of Defense [DOD] Collection the footage was shot for the Navy Diving School in Washington, D.C. for “a series of navy productions concerning diving equipment and procedures.”  Permission was granted to the production company to look at the requested footage and copy portions of it at the company’s expense. Although reviews of the film mention the inclusion of extensive underwater footage, it has not been determined if those sequences consisted partially or exclusively of the Navy footage.  Modern sources state that the underwater sequences, were shot at the then newly constructed Miami Seaquarium.

Thought lost for decades, the film is now in the public domain and was digitized in early 2012 and released online for free public viewing by Southern Methodist University.  Sources: tcm.com; Wikipedia; youtube.com.  Photo Sources:  moma.org; youtube.

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