Christopher Columbus (1949 film)

Christopher Columbus
Directed by David MacDonald
Produced by Sydney Box
A. Frank Bundy
Written by Muriel Box
Sydney Box
Cyril Roberts
Based on novel Columbus by Rafael Sabatini
Starring Fredric March
Florence Eldridge
Francis L. Sullivan
Kathleen Ryan
Narrated by Valentine Dyall
Music by Arthur Bliss
Cinematography Stephen Dade
Edited by Vladimir Sagovsky
Distributed by GFD (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Gaumont (France)
Release dates
12 October 1949
Running time
104 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget ₤200,000[2] or £500,000[3]
Box office £121,000 (by 1953)[3]

Christopher Columbus is a 1949 British biographical film starring Fredric March as Christopher Columbus and Florence Eldridge as Queen Isabella. It is loosely based on the novel Christopher Columbus by Rafael Sabatini with much of the screenplay rewritten by Sydney and Muriel Box.[4]


Christopher Columbus overcomes intrigue at the Castillan court and convinces Queen Isabella that his plan to reach the East by sailing west is practical.



The film was part of a deliberate attempt by the Rank Organisation to break into the American market, following the path blazed with films like Henry V (1944) and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). John Woolf, head of international distribution for Rank, said in 1946 that:

Before we smacked Henry V and Caesar and Cleopatra into the American Markets, we were getting a poor showing in the United States. Although the most optimistic figures have been put out in London about the achievements of Henry and Caesar, in fact they have had to fight hard to make their way. The important thing to remember is this— that these big films enabled us to break through the highly controlled theatre circuits in America. We are using them as a spearhead to get a showing of British films.[5]

Stewart Granger was originally announced as the star. For a time it seemed there would be a rival movie on the same subject produced by Edward Small from a biography by David Lawrence.[6]

The Francoist Spanish government considered the portrait of Columbus to be unflattering. In response the leading Spanish studio CIFESA produced Dawn of America (1951), which portrayed Columbus as a more daring figure.


  1. Some versions of the film were cut to 95 minutes. Spicer p.128
  2. Geoffrey Macnab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, Routledge (1993) p183
  3. 1 2 Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box Manchester Uni Press 2006 p 211
  4. Spicer p.127-128
  5. "COLUMBUS IN A NEW BATTLE OF BRITAIN.". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 7 October 1946. p. 6. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  6. RANDOM NOTES ABOUT FILMS: Hollywood and England Discover Columbus--New Theatre--Code Revised New Show House Ban Eased Professional Opinion But He Doesn't Sing By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 Sep 1946: X3.


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