Flipper (1963)

3 May

“They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, No-one you see, is smarter than he, And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder, Flying there-under, under the sea!”

Synopsis: Filmed in the Florida Keys this family friendly story centers around Sandy Ricks, played by Luke Halpin, who played Sandy in the popular TV show of the same name, is a young boy living in the Florida Keys who befriends a dolphin injured by a harpoon. His father, fisherman Porter Ricks , played by Chuck Connors, TV’s Rifleman, is upset, as dolphins compete for fish, which jeopardizes the family income and is upset Sandy neglects his chores.

Sandy names his new friend Flipper, after Flipper recovers from the wound, the dolphin puts on a show to entertain the neighborhood children. Later, however, the animal devours Porter’s entire catch of pompano fish, Porter harshly berates Sandy for allowing Flipper to jump into the holding pen of valuable fish waiting to go to market, “What’s wrong with you boy? How old are you, 12, — almost in your teens, or are you five, — a child who doesn’t have the sense to know what his next meal depends on?” Reduced to tears, Sandy retreats to his bedroom as Porter’s wife Martha, played by Kathleen MaGuire defends Sandy by reminding Porter, “He is only a boy!”

Determined to make up for the loss, Sandy sets off to find more fish, and is led by Flipper to a large school of fish near a reef. Later, Sandy is rescued from a threatening shark by Flipper, and the grateful father draws closer to his son. Porter Ricks is finally convinced there are enough fish for both the local residents of the area and the dolphins.

The story was written by Richard Browning, known for his underwater work as “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.” Browning noting the success of Lassie decided to bring a story of a boy and his Dolphin to the big screen. No studio bit. He brought the idea producer Ivan Tors whom he worked for on Sea Hunt. The movie was a huge success and spawned (pardon the unintentional pun) a successful TV show with Halpin minus Connors and ran from 1964-67. Two movie sequels and a remake followed.  Flipper was portrayed by Mitzi a female trained at The Santini Training School. She lived for 13 years and died in 1972. Her grave is at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Fla.  and it is the first stop on the tour.

This was filmed for family audiences and reminds us of a much simpler time.  Flipper is an icon of American culture and has been remembered fondly by us humans of a certain age.

The film is available on DVD and Netflix and can be seen once in a while on TCM. Recommended for family viewing.

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