Mystery Of The Mary Celeste (Hammer Film Production, 1935)

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British One Sheet Poster

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Released on April 27th, 1936, Mystery of the Mary Celeste was Bela Lugosi’s first British film. Offering a fictional solution to the famous real life maritime mystery, the film was the second production by Hammer Films, the studio which went on to enjoy great success from the 1950s with its series of science-fiction and horror films. The film was released in America as Phantom Ship by Guaranteed Pictures on October 15th, 1936. Only prints of the American release version, which is 18 minutes shorter than the version screened at the UK trade show on November 14th, 1935, are currently available.


Production Company: Hammer Film Production

Producer: H. Fraser Passmore

Director: Denison Clift

Screenplay: Denison Clift & Charles Lackworthy from a story by Denison Clift

Cinematography: Geoffrey Faithfull & Eric Cross

Editor: John Seabourne

Continuity: Tilly Day

Art Directior: J. Elder Wills

Musical Director: Eric Ansell. The same score was also used in Todd Slaughter’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) 

Mystery of the Mary Celeste (80 minutes)

US Title: Phantom Ship  (62 minutes)

Original length: 7,261 feet

Filmed in July and August, 1935

Trade show: November 14th, 1935

UK release: April 27th, 1936

US release: October 15th, 1936


Bela Lugosi – Anton Lorenzen

Shirley Grey – Sarah Briggs

Arthur Margetson – Captain Benjamin Briggs

Edmund Willard – Toby Bilson

Dennis Hoey – Tom Goodschard

George Mozart – Tommy Duggan

Johnny Schofield – Peter Tooley

Gunner Moir – Ponta Katz

Ben Welden – Sailor Hoffman

Clifford McLaglen – Captain Jim Morehead

Bruce Gordon – Olly Deveau

Gibson Gowland – Andy Gilling

Terence DeMarney – Charlie Kaye

J. Edward Pierce – Arian Harbens

Herbert Cameron – Volkerk Grot

The following seven cast members do not appear in the surviving 62-minute print of The Phantom Ship:

Wilfred Essex – Horatio Sprague

James Carew – James Winchester

Monti DeLyle – Portunato

Alec Fraser – Commodore Mahon

Ben Soutten – Jack Sampson

J.B. Williams – Judge

Charles Mortimer – Attorney-General

The famous ‘Q’ Ship Mary B Mitchell – Mary Celeste

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The Film Daily, June 13 1935

Coming and Going

BELA LUGOSI, HEDDA HOPPER and FRANCES MARION are booked to sail June 28 from New York for England on the Aquitania.


The Film Daily, July 2, 1935

Coming and Going

BELA LUGOSI, who co-stars with Boris Karloff in “The Raven,” which opens Thursday at the Roxy, has arrived in New York and will attend the opening of his film before sailing for Europe at the end of this week.


The New York Times, July 3, 1935

Bela Lugosi, who is co-starred with Boris Karloff in “The Raven,” which opens tomorrow at the Roxy, arrived in New York yesterday from the West Coast. He will sail for England on Friday.


The Film Daily, July 6, 1935

Coming and Going

EUGENE PALLETTE, SHIRLEY GREY and BELA LUGOSI sailed last night on the Berengaria for England.

Bat Head 3Bela Lugosi en route to England aboard the SS Berengaria

Bela aboard the Berengaria


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The Daily Renter, July 10, 1935

EXPECTED to meet Bela Lugosi and Shirley Grey at a party which Hammer Productions had arranged for tomorrow. At the last moment I received a telegram, which tells me I shall have to put off meeting the famous exponent of “Dracula” until next Monday. Well, can’t say that the interval will occasion me any great pain, and possibly a week-end’s rest will stimulate me for the occasion – although a Dracula in the flesh, I’ve a strong idea, may  not be anything like as fearsome as a Dracula in the shadow.


The Daily Renter, July 11, 1935

Another change of plans was announced yesterday by Hammer Productions in regard to when and where the Press should meet Bela Lugosi and Shirley Grey, who are, of course, appearing in the coming picture, “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste.” Originally the party was scheduled for Thursday…then they switched it over to Monday…yesterday they switched it back again to Friday…so if a few bewildered Pressmen eventually turn up expecting to see Bela Shirley and Lugosi Grey don’t blame me. It will be the result of general confusion.


Southern Echo, July 12, 1935


Unexpected Thrill for Jean Parker

Four well-known film stars had their first glimpse of England when the Cunard White Star Berengeria (sic) docked at Southampton to-day.

One was Miss Jean Parker, the 18-years-old American girl who went straight from a Pasadena schoolroom to the film studio and already has starred in three big pictures – “Rasputin,” “Little Women” and the remarkable animal film “Sequoia.”

Her thrill at her first sight of England was only equalled by her excitement when she learned for the first time at Southampton that in the film she has come over to make she is to play opposite Robert Donat.

“I have always wanted to play with him,” she said. “He has always been my hero, but little did I think when I agreed to come over that he would be in the picture.”

Mr. Eugene Pallette, who has been on the films for 25 years, and is a famous film detective, was the second of the quartet. He is to play in the same film with Miss Parker.


The other two actors, Miss Shirley Grey and Mr. Bela Lugosi are to play in a screen version of “The Mystery of the Marie Celeste,” a version that will offer a solution of the great sea mystery.

Miss Grey will take the only woman’s role in the film and Mr. Lugosi, who was Dracula in the film of that name, and plays most;y “human vampire” parts, will have the “evil spirit” part.

Although he is known to the public chiefly through his “vampire” parts, Mr. Lugosi said: ” It does not make me a vampire off the films. I am really a very jolly person, and my wife is not a bit afraid of me.”

Mr. Lugosi is a Hungarian, and when he went to America in 1920 the only words of English he knew were “yes” and “no.”

Now he speaks good English, though with a foreign accent.


The Daily Renter, July 13, 1935

BELA LUGOSI – SHIRLEY GREY reception actually took place last night. Right up until I saw the two transatlantic visitors in the flesh, I was a little doubtful as to whether they would eventuate, for as you know, it had been arranged for the Press to meet them on Thursday last, and then on Monday next! Lugosi, an extremely genial fellow, has a keen sense of humour in regard to his “eerie” characterisations. Anyone less sinister would be difficult to imagine. Shirley Grey, too, like Lugosi, is here on her first visit; hopes to do another film, in addition to the “Mary Celeste,” before returning to Hollywood. Travelled over with him on the “Berengaria,” but neither of them knew they were both to play in the same British picture.

Lester Matthews, Irene Ware and Bela Lugosi are prominent in this scene from Universal’s Edgar Allan Poe drama, “The Raven,” which is due for presentation to the trade on Tuesday next, at the Prince Edward, at 8.45


Daily Mirror, July 13, 1935



Man of 1,000 Films


Four film celebrities, who have never been to England before, arrived in London last night from Hollywood. They are:

Miss Jean Parker, who played Beth in “Little Women”;

Mr. Eugene Pallette, who is one of the most popular veterans of the film world;

Mr. Bela Lugosi, who played the title role in “Dracula”; and

Miss Shirley Grey, of “Black Street” and “The Little Giant.”

Miss Parker and Mr. Pallette are to play in “The Glourie Ghost,” which Mr. Rene Clair is to direct for London Film Productions and in which Mr. Robert Donat is also to star.

Hollywood has hitherto sent us no one like Miss Parker. When I met her at Claridge’s last night she was delighted to talk of anything but herself. She curled herself on a seat, gave me one of her best Beth smiles, and exclaimed:

“Can you imagine me in London? Can you imagine it I thought when I was old I might come to London, but here I am all in a hurry, and I wish I could stay a year.”

Miss Parker is only 19 and is utterly unspoiled. She is thrilled by the thought that but for the Olympic Games having been held in Los Angeles she might never have been a film star.

She was one of the many girls chosen from the Pasadena High School to be on a “float” in an Olympic procession. A picture of that procession was printed in a Los Angeles newspaper, and the piquant face of the smiling school girl with the wide brown eyes attracted a studio official, who went to the trouble of finding the owner of the face and inviting her to have a screen test.

“I am thrilled by playing opposite Mr. Donat, ” said Miss Parker. “I think I shall blush when I see him because I am one of his most enthusiastic fans.”

Miss Parker is no longer a school girl, but she still retains a delightful school-girl charm. Mr. Donat is the shyest of film stars. So their first meeting should be an occasion of charming embarrassment.

Mr Eugene Pallette is a very different character. He is a real and grand actor who has appeared in more than 1,000 films.

“Can you remember the first film in which you appeared?” I asked.

“That’s a hot one,” he exclaimed. No, I can’t. It was 25 years ago and in those days I was in training for Wild Westerns – and look at me now.”


To-Day’s Cinema News And Property Gazette, July 15, 1935

Prince Edward Apparition

Bela Lugosi (I refuse to write “appearance” of such a master of the macabre) is to make a personal apparition with his latest Universal production, “The Raven,” at the Prince Edward trade show on Tuesday night.

A more un-Dracula-like person in real life than Bela Lugosi it would be hard to imagine. He is a most hail-fellow-well-met chappie, whose most striking characteristics are a beaming good humour and a remarkable capacity for forgetting facts about the films he has appeared in, so that he had to check up with his wife on a good deal of the information he supplied me.

Bela is over here to make “Marie Celeste” for Hammer Productions. His last films were “Murder by Television,” a Cameo production, and Universal’s “Raven,” and he will go back in a few weeks’ time to make three more for Universal: “Invisible Ray,” “Blue Beard,” and “Dracula’s Daughter.”

Shirley Grey was also at the reception: she hopes to make another film here after “Celeste,” and among others of the cast present was Gibson Gowland, busy growing a new beard for his part of ship’s carpenter.


The Raven Trade Show Ad

Advertisement for the British Trade Show of The Raven


To-Day’s Cinema News And Property Gazette, July 18, 1935

Lugosi in Person

At the Universal trade show of “The Raven” on Tuesday evening at the Prince Edward, Bela Lugosi, a starred player, made a personal appearance. Introduced on the stage, he spoke a few words of gratitude for his reception – which was certainly hearty – and expressed a hope that the picture that followed would be enjoyed and make money.


Kinematograph Weekly, July 18, 1935

Shirley Grey for Denison Clift

Bela Lugosi and Shirley Grey (now seen everywhere as Anne of Green Gables) arrive this week to play for Denison Clift.

They are the stars of Mystery of the Marie Celeste, the Hammer Production, to be handled by C.M. Woolfe’s new renting concern, General Film Distributors. 


Kinematograph Weekly, July 18, 1935


BELA LUGOSI, over here to make “Marie Celeste” for Hammer Productions, belies (no pun) in his appearance the Dracula weirdness with which he is associated in the minds of kinema-goers. Happy looking, “the body’s habit wholly laudable,” he possibly disappointed some of the visitors to the Prince Edward on Tuesday evening by looking entirely un-macabre.

“The Raven,” in connection with the Trade show of which heappeared, is his latest picture, and he returns to Universal in a few weeks’ time to make three more, Invisible Ray,” “Bluebeard,” andDracula’s Daughter.”

In Bela Lugosi’s British film Shirley Grey, who arrived on the same boat, plays the only feminine role in the film, that of the daughter of the captain of the Marie Celeste.

Other visitors to this country from Hollywood are Jean Parker and Eugene Pallette, who are to play roles in “The laying of the Glourie Ghost,” which Rene Clair will produce. Pallette’s role is that of an American millionaire who buys the haunted castle.

LUGOSI says that women are the main stay of “horror” films. “Women are interested in terror for the sake of terror. For generations they have been the subject sex. This seems to have bred a masochistic instinct – an enjoyment of, or at least a keen interest in, suffering experience vicariously through the screen,” which answers Mr. Shortt.


The Daily Film Renter, July 18, 1935

Wardour Street Gossip



FILM salesmen apart, one rarely sees persons with uncanny powers at trade shows, so Universal can claim something of an achievement in the personal appearance of Bela Lugosi at “The Raven” screening at the Prince Edward, Tuesday evening. Lugosi, of course, has made our blood curdle on frequent occasions in previous thrillers. A generous “hand” as he came on testified to his popularity with exhibitors, and he said his piece very nicely before withdrawing behind the tabs.


Film Weekly, July 19, 1935

Film Weekly, July 19

Shirley Grey – who is among the latest arrivals from Hollywood –

“is one of those actresses you must have seen lots of times on the

screen, but have probably heard comparatively little about.”


THE transatlantic liners have brought four more players to British studios – Jean Parker and Eugene Pallette for The Laying of the Glourie Ghost (London Films), and Shirley Grey and Bela Lugosi for The Mystery of the Marie Celeste” (Hammer Productions). All these players are in England for the first time in their lives – which just goes to show what a big place the world is, or something.

Jean Parker had never even been out of America, but she was not slow to seize her opportunity when it came. A cable arrived from Alexander Korda, Jean hopped on to an aeroplane bound for New York, and here she is, eighteen and sweetly simple, to provide Robert Donat with a heart-interest in his new picture. Eugene Pallette plays her father, the wealthy American millionaire who buys a Scottish castle and transports it wholesale to his native soil – complete with the resident ghost. Rene Clair has already started directing.

Bela Lugosi is over on a more sinister errand – the clearing up of the old mystery of what really happened on the “Marie Celeste.” Nobody knows. The ship was found entirely deserted in mid-ocean, with not even the smell of a clue. Hammer Productions got Dennison (sic) Clift to write his own idea of the affair. Not only does it involve such tough and sinister characters as Lugosi, Dennis Hoey and Clifford McLaglen, but it also introduces Beauty in the shape of Shirley Grey, who has a simply awful time, I’m told.

Lugosi himself quite belies his screen reputation – these actors always are so disappointing in real life. His Hungarian accent remains, but his fingers aren’t at all crooked, there was nobody to flash menacing spotlights into his eyes, and his manners are just too perfect. He even clicks his heels and bows when small boys ask him for his autograph. From now on, he’ll just be a very pleasant, middle-aged gentleman to me – even if he is Dracula to you!

Shirley Grey is one of those actresses you must have seen lots of times on the screen, but have probably heard comparatively little about. That is because she has always preferred to free-lance rather than tie herself up with any one studio in particular. Publicity departments don’t trouble themselves about players who are only going to be with them for one picture.

She is almost twenty-eight, and looks a little like Constance Cummings, though her blonde hair suggests her Swedish origin. Her father, a Mr. Zetterstrand, was a Swedish Lutheran minister who migrated to America before Shirley’s birth. She went on the stage as soon as she had left school, and, within two years, was playing leading roles on Broadway. Then she had a shot at films, opposite Richard Dix in The Public Defender, and has stuck to pictures ever since.

She hopes to return to the stage while she is over here. She has no need to go back to America until she wants to. First comes The Mystery of the “Marie Celeste.” Then a trip around the English countryside (on the strict instructions of her friend, Carl Brisson). Then perhaps a play, or perhaps another movie.

Miss Grey has done some good work on the screen, but has still to get her big “break.” It might be an idea to take a leaf out of Hollywood’s book – adopt her as our own and “build her up.” that is, of course, provided she is willing to stay long enough.


Film Pictorial, July 20, 1935


Our camerman caught these two napping – Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, appearing together in “The Raven,” just completed at Universal. Lugosi recently arrived in England to star in “The Mystery of the Marie Celeste” for Hammer Productions. (Personally, we prefer our villains like this, they’re safe this way!) Also in the “Marie Celeste,” which is being made at Ealing, is the lovely Shirley Grey, one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood, who is paying her first visit to England. She is the only woman in the cast.


Film Weekly, July 25, 1935




Portrait which accompanied I Like Horror Parts

 The screen “Dracula,” who has come to England to play in “The Mystery of the Marie Celeste” and “Dr. Nikola,” explains in this exclusive article why he not only likes but actually prefers horror parts to all others.

I like playing “horror” parts on the screen. This may surprise you, but let me explain my point of view. There is a popular idea that portraying a monster of the Dracula type requires no acting ability. People are apt to think that anyone who likes to put on a grotesque make-up can be a fiend. That is wrong.

A monster, to be convincing, must have a character and a brain.

The screen monster produced by mere tricks of make-up and lighting will never thrill an audience. It will make them laugh! It is just a machine which does not understand what it is doing.

Now, imagine this creature with a character, with reasoning power and certain human mental facilities. It is no longer a machine. It can think.

Such a monster is able to thrill an audience. It can plot against the hero and heroine. It is a menace which must be combated by brains, not by running away.

We are all more afraid of cunning than brute force. Therefore, the monster must have cunning to trap his victims – physical strength is not enough to convince an audience.

Now, perhaps, you begin to see why I find the playing of fiends interesting!

When I am given a new role in a horror film, I have a character to create just as much as if I were playing a straight part.

Whether one thinks of films like Dracula as “hokum” or not does not alter the fact; the horror actor must believe in his part. The player who portrays a film monster with his tongue in his cheek is doomed to failure.

An example of this occurred not very long ago. An actor, whose name I will not mention, played the part of a sinister foreign villain. He had been used to straight parts, and he went into this film laughing at himself. He did the correct villainous actions, but he had his tongue in his cheek all the time.

The villain was completely unconvincing and as a result the film was a flop at the box office. Later, an almost exactly similar character was played by another actor. He took it seriously. Audiences believed tin the villain and the film was a success.

I am not saying that I personally take seriously these vampires and monsters as such. I am saying that one must take them seriously when one is portraying them.

In playing Dracula, I have to work myself up into believing that he is real, to ascribe to myself the motives and emotions that such a character would feel. For a time, I become Dracula — not merely an actor playing at being a vampire.

A good actor will “make” a horror part. He will build up the character until it convinces him and he is carried away by it.

There are, of course, plenty of tricks of the trade to be employed, such as effective make-up, clever photography, a threatening voice and claw-like gestures with the hands. These are important in the “hokum” film and must be used. But even they must be employed with intelligence or they will fail to thrill.

To leave the theoretical discussion of so-called monsters, there is another reason why I do not mind being “typed” in eerie thrillers.

With few exceptions, there are, among actors, only two types who matter at the box office. They are heroes and villains. The men who play these parts are the only ones whose names you will see in electric lights outside the theater.

Obviously, I cannot play a juvenile part — you will not find me competing with Clark Gable or Robert Montgomery! Therefore, I have gone to the other extreme in my search for success and public acclaim.

Every year a number of films with fantastic or supernatural characters are made, and will, it seems, continue to be made, whatever may happen to the horror “cycle” of pictures. I have deliberately specialized in such characters — and I firmly believe there will be suitable roles for me for a long time to come!


Kinematograph Weekly, August 1, 1935

Sea Mystery Unit Now at Walton

Hammer Productions’s unit, which is making The Marie Celeste, is now back from Falmouth where they finished shooting well up to schedule.

They are now safely ensconced at Walton-on-Thames.


The Daily Film Renter, August 1, 1935



Down at the Walton-on-Thames studios, Hammer are busy on “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste,” the company having returned from Falmouth where sea locations were shot. Feverish activity was the order of the night recently when Bela Lugosi, Arthur Margetson, Shirley Grey and other members of the cast played on a large set in a field adjoining the studio. Representing part of the hulk of the “Mary Celeste,” the erection included a picturesque quayside building.


The Film Daily, August 2, 1935


Back to Fogland…… inhale all this foggy news from dear ole Lunnon……..Bela Lugosi is one of the few Hollywood gents the autograph hounds left alone – they were that scared to go near “Dracula”……..


Film Weekly August 16, 1935

Mystery of the Marie Celeste Film Weekly August 16th, 1935

Main photo caption: “A dramatic scene between Bela Lugosi (right) and Edmund Willard. Lugosi was brought from Hollywood specially to play in the film. Right: Shirley Grey plays the only woman’s part in the picture.”

Article: “The Hammer production, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste, is based on one of the sea’s most baffling problems. The ship, Mary Celeste, was found in 1872 drifting with all sails set but not a soul on board and nothing to indicate where or why they had gone. The solution suggested in the present story is being kept a close secret. The film is said to be notable for its fine character studies of seamen, some of which are illustrated below.”

Photos (L-R): Clifford McLaglen, Gibson Gowland, George Mozart and Gunner Moir


The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, August 12, 1935

Britain On The Screen

Unsolved Mystery

Bela Lugosi, of “Dracula” fame, has come to England to play the lead in a version, to be made by Hammer Productions Ltd., of “The Myatery of the Marie Celeste,” the famous American brig which sailed from New York in 1872 and was found in mid-ocean with all sails set, still on her course, with not a soul on board.

The mystery has never been solved, but the director, Denison Clift, has written a film solution from data supplied him by Lloyd’s and the American Mercantile Marine authorities.

Shirley Grey will play the only woman’s part.


Kine Weekly

Mystery of the Mary Celeste UK Kine Weekly Trade Ad

Courtesy of D’Arcy More 


Film Star Weekly, August 17, 1935

Bayla Lu-go-she is Here 

BELA LUGOSI is in London. That uncanny monster of horror pictures, whom we were first introduced to as Count Dracula, with his frightening, death-like pallor, piercing eyes, and his altogether Mesphisto-like appearance. Without his “war paint,” as he calls it, you don’t recognise the horrific creature you’ve seen on the screen; you see instead an engaging aristocrat; with the European courtesy  of his native Hungary, from which he fled as a political refugee to America.

It was noticing how women pack court-rooms at murder trials that gave him the idea that horror films would have the same appeal.

“I suppose it’s because a woman, being psychologically high-strung, likes shocks to the nervous system, as a counter irritant to her nervous tension,” he said when I saw him after making a personal appearance after the press show of “The Raven.”

When Bela Lugosi arrived here – by the way, his name is pronounced Bayla Lu-go-she – he started straight away on his first British picture, which is Dennison (sic) Clift’s “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste.”

When he was approached to play the part of Anton Lorenzen in this film, he said: “Are there any bats in it? I hate them, but invariably have at least one in my films.”

So if you meet Bela Lugosi here, don’t mention bats!


The Strait Times (Singapore), August 20, 1935


Bela Lugosi, accompanied by his wife, and Shirley Grey, the film stars, arrived in London by the Berengaria boat train from America. They are to appear in the new film the “Return of the Marie Celeste.”


Associated Press photograph, August 27, 1935

Bela Lugosi With His Wife On Board Ship

New York – Bela Lugosi, one of the several Horror men of Hollywood, pictured with his wife on the S.S. Majestic today August 27th when they returned from a trip to Europe


The Film Daily, August 27, 1935

Coming and Going

Bela Lugosi arrives in New York today on the Majestic.


New York World Telegram, August 28, 1935



Scaring folks allows him to buy drinks for the boys


Asa Bordages

Bela Lugosi, the Dracula of the movies, let his pretty wife put a red carnation in his buttonhole as he had his say about moviemaking in England and Hollywood. For one thing, he found the English courteous.

Mr. Lugosi, a No. 1 creeps and shiver man in Hollywood, profitably hated by film fans everywhere, confided happily that in a picture he has just finished making in England, he at least had a chance to be seen as a nice man. The only people he has to scare are the villains, which is a great relief.

“I am just the opposite to all the roles I ever played before,” he said, and his gesture of enthusiasm brushed the red carnation almost from his buttonhole. Mrs Lugosi quietly straightened the flower as Dracula gayly added that he plays a kindly derelict. And he is the most loveable fellow, too. In fact he exclaimed in triumph –

“Why, I’m killing about seven people, and everybody will love me!”

The film is a version of “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste,” a mystery never solved in the long years since the brig Mary Celeste (some call her the Marie Celeste) was found at sea with all sails set, a meal on the table, everything shipshape — and no trace of the master, his wife, his child or the crew.

It is, said Mr. Lugosi, a “wonderful story.” but now he must quit being loveable for a while. For Mr. Lugosi, who arrived with his wife on the Majestic yesterday, has only one week of grace before returning to Hollywood to start frightening little children again.

There is, however, consolation for being horrible. As Mr. Lugosi explained while his wife tried again to fix the red carnation more firmly in his buttonhole: – –

“It’s a good business, so I can buy steamship tickets, give tips and invite the boys for a drink. If I wouldn’t make such pictures – maybe trash – I couldn’t do it.”

It is not, however, money which brings Mr. Lugosi back to Hollywood. For he said:–

“They pay all the money in the world in London. I don’t get half as much in Hollywood.”

The single reason, he said, is that he wants to live here. If he hadn’t he never would have given up his native Hungary to become an  American citizen.

“The idea,” he said, “is that I myself feel the most loyal to America you can imagine. But I feel that way if somebody does something I do not think is right, I am like a mother going to spank.”

And some of the things he saw making movies in England made him feel that way about the home folks. Or some of them, at least.

“I think England, if they would have the sense to buy the technicians of Hollywood, they would be very, very keen competition to Hollywood on account Hollywood doesn’t let authors, writers exploit and deliver their talents and imaginations. It has to go through the mill, not be passed by one individual talent, right or wrong.”

“There is something in England we do not have in the matter of courtesy. Whether they like you or not, they feel if they would not be kind, courteous, they would offend themselves.”

“I observed a lot in England in the way of courtesy I would like to spread here. They don’t curtail authors so much. They work more at leisure. They are rested people working. That is why they sometimes get the results they do.”

And just then his wife once again straightened the red carnation, and gave it a little pat. Mr. Lugosi said:–

“As far as I can think now with my paralyzed brain, that is all I have to say.”


The Film Daily, August 29, 1935

Coming and Going

Bela Lugosi, who has arrived in New York from London, will remain East a week before going to the Coast to resume his Universal contract.


The New York Times, Aug 29 1935

Bela Lugosi, recently returned from London, where he was working in “Mystery of the Mary Celeste” for Hammer Productions, will leave for the Coast next week to resume work with Universal. His first assignment will be in “The Invisible Ray,” which will start production next month.


San Antonio, September 8, 1935

Mystery of the Mary Celeste, Prensa - San Antonio, September 8, 1935 2

Mystery of the Mary Celeste, Prensa - San Antonio, September 8, 1935


Picture Show, September 21 1935

Picture Show, September 21st, 1935


The Film Fiend Who Is Loved By Children

by O. Bristol

Hush! Hush! Hush! Here comes Bela Lugosi.

Hollywood’s most famous Bogy Man has come to England to appear in his first British picture, The Mystery of the Marie Celeste, which is based on the now almost forgotten but once celebrated mystery of the sea.

Dracula was the actor’s first great success in horror films and since then he has always appeared as a fiend in American pictures. Chandu the Magician, White Zombie, The Death Kiss, International House, Mark of the Vampire, and The Raven, his latest picture, are among the sensational thrillers in which he has played, and parents, instead of saying “If you’re not a good boy I’ll set the Bogy Man after you,” might now threaten their children with “Do as you’re told or I’ll fetch Bela Lugosi.”

But the children, more often than not, would cry excitedly, “Where is he? Where is he? Do let us see Lugosi!”

Here, unquestionably, is the most popular Bogy Man of all times.

While I was interviewing him at his hotel a few hours after his arrival in London, a page-boy at the hotel approached Mr. Lugosi for his autograph.

“Sure! Yes. Come over here,” cried the actor heartily, patting the delighted boy playfully on the head as he returned the album. “I hope I see a lot more of you, son, during my stay here.”

The he turned towards me again.

“How I love these kids! They are my real audience,” he said proudly, “and how loyal they are to their favorites! That’s the type of little fellow who really likes me. They’re not frightened by my pictures—not really. They love every bit of them. And when they recognize me in America the children cluster around me in the street and shout, ‘Make funny faces, Lugosi! Make funny faces!’”

He is genuinely fond of children, and there is certainly nothing about his appearance in private life to suggest that he is the world’s most celebrated monster. True, he is over six feet tall, and he has the most expressive eyes I have ever seen. But his manner is almost gentle and his smile is friendly and completely free from the evil which his screen smile always suggests.

Hollywood Insists That He Shall Be A Fiend

“I was for 20 years as actor before I tool the unpleasant part,” he told me, “but since I make money playing pictures like Dracula Hollywood says why not let him continue to be a fiend, and I heartily agree with Hollywood.”

“But, as a matter of fact,” he added with a delightful smile, “I’m really a very nice chap! And I don’t want always to play this sort of part.”

Hollywood, however, says that he is a fiend and Hollywood should know best. When he returns to America I understand he is booked to appear in three more hair-raisers. These are The Invisible Ray, Bluebeard, and Dracula’s Daughter.

The son of a banker, he made his stage debut when he was 19 with a stock company which visited his home town in Hungary. After many years in the theatre he first appeared on the screen in silent German films and then went to America, where he made his Hollywood screen debut in The Silent Command.

This is his first visit to this country and with him is his beautiful wife, to whom he has been married for two and a half years.

“I think she is the grandest wife in the world; I wish all men had a wife like mine,” he exclaimed with obvious sincerity. “She was my book-keeper and secretary for two years before we eloped to get married. She had youth and beauty and was so loyal and good that I couldn’t help marrying her!”

These two obviously understand each other thoroughly, and although they had only been in England a few hours they were both obviously in love with this country—and with each other. Lugosi was in splendid form, answering our questions with the greatest good humour.

His Trade Secret

Having read some extraordinary publicity stories about this genius of uncanny films, I asked him if it were true that he had once been bitten by a vampire.

I had saved this question for the last.

Just a moment his film personality seemed to leap into existence. His eyebrows arched and a magnetic gleam came into his dark eyes.

“That,” he said solemnly as he gripped my hand, “that is m trade secret!”


Unknown British Publication, c. November, 1935

Mystery of the Marie Celeste Trade Show Ad


To-Day’s Cinema, November 16, 1935

The Cinema, November 20, 1935

Full marks may be awarded this Hammer production in respect of its realistic settings, faithful maritime atmosphere and resourceful blend of thrill, mystery and sensation with effective comic relief. It is, in a word, a picture which the popular patron should enjoy, for the will not be concerned so much with narrative drawbacks as with colourful surface incident.

The drama deals with the gradual decimation of the crew of the “Mary Celeste,” a veritable ship of death manned in the main by shanghaied desperadoes. Most of these would cheerfully slit the throats of the others, and it is the problem of spotting the mysterious murderer which so closely holds the onlooker’s interest. First a hurricane shatters the doomed ship, and a painter is killed by a boom; then a hand casts covetous eyes on the captain’s bride, and is struck down by an apparently meek-and-mild Anton, while in turn a prize-fighter is found murdered at the wheel; a sailor is killed by the cook while saving the captain’s life; the latter himself meets his death in his galley; his pal hurls himself from a yard; and the captain and his bride just disappear.

Finally, but three men are left, including the impeccable Anton, and the other two, each feeling assured that the other is the murderer, fight until one more is removed from the scheme of things. Anton now reveals himself as the age-old enemy of the sole survivor, and following on another scrap flings him to the sharks, throwing himself into the sea realising his utter loneliness on the ship of death. Thus it is that the “Mary Celeste” has been found derelict, keeping her grim secrets until the end of time, despite enquiries by an Admiralty Court.

The series of baffling crimes are put over in a series of episodes which each pay their quota of thrill, not least in the headlong dive of a demented seaman from a lofty yard-arm. Fortunately, the horror of the succession of murders is suggested rather than clearly demonstrated, but for all that we are appreciative of the Cockney comedy relief so cleverly registered by George Mozart in the role of the cook. Thus in clear-cut sequences of sensation, humour and spectacle – the storm scenes are realistically handled – the drama moves to its suspenseful end, and it is only the baffling disappearance of the captain and his bride which may not be appreciated by the appropriate surveyor.

On the portrayal side, the narrative is strong, presenting Bela Lugosi as the mysterious Anton, Arthur Margetson as the captain, Shirley Grey as his horrified bride, Edmund Willard as the tough first mate, and Ben Weldon, Dennis Hoey, Gibson Gowland, Herbert Cameron, Terence de Marnay, Johnny Schofield and Edgar Pierce in the well-played parts of members of the crew, with Clifford McLaglen and Bruce Gordon effective as officers of a salvage vessel.


The daily Film Renter, November 16, 1935

This is a kinematic attempt to solve the mystery of the ill-fated “Mary Celeste,” a windjammer found derelict in mid-Atlantic in 1872. Brought in to Gibraltar by Captain Morehead (who claims salvage money), the vessel is the subject of an inquiry by an Admiralty Court.

The development then switches to a flashback, in which the tragedy is unfolded, it being revealed the crew perished in a welter of accidents and murders, most of the trouble being engineered by Anton Lorenzen, a half-crazed bosun, out for revenge on the brutal first mate, Bilson, who shanghaied him in his youth.

It is pretty grim fare, akin to a Grand Guignol performance, with sudden deaths and disaster galore. In fact, slaughter becomes so commonplace it ceases to have more than a passing significance. A realistically staged hurricane finds a human parallel in the attempted seduction of the captain’s bride. Humour is mainly supplied by the clowning of a cockney cook.

Most of the action is staged on board the “Mary Celeste,” a picturesque windjammer of great beauty, while the Admiralty Court of Inquiry is a novel background for the early part of the development. Direction is adequate, although it is a moot point whether the maximum dramatic effect is obtained, or the narrative entirely without angles of obscurity.

Bela Lugosi has a part after his own heart as the bleary-eyed, one-armed Lorenzen, who stalks the decks like a sinister portent. He becomes almost awe-inspiring in the climax, when he throws Bilson to the sharks, following the victim a few minutes later, leaving the ship of death without a human soul on board. Arthur Margetson’s skipper is a virile piece of acting, if a trifle well-bred for an oilskinned husky of the deep. Shirley Grey registers appropriate terror as his doomed bride.

Cliff McLaglen plays Morehead competently, neatly suggesting the conflicting emotions of a man who sees his best friend snatch his girl just as he is about to propose himself. Supporting players include such “he-men” as Edmund Willard (a vicious Bilson), Dennis Hoey, Gibson Gowland and Gunner Moir


Kinematograph Weekly, November 21, 1935

New Films at a Glance

TITLE AND RENTER. Mystery of Mary Celeste, The (General F.D.) – British


REMARKS. Period Mystery drama set in a nautical atmosphere. Story vague, but acting sound; technical treatment effective.

BOX-OFFICE ANGLE. Adequate serious entertainment. Unsuitable for youngsters. 



The Mystery of the Mary Celeste

General F.D.  British (A).   Directed by Denison Clift.

Featuring Bela Lugosi, Shirley Grey and Arthur Margetson.

7,261 feet.   Release date not fixed.

PERIOD mystery drama set in a nautical atmosphere and portrayed by players who are not lacking in essential virility. Neither the staging nor the story is too convincing – each savours strongly of the theatre – but there nevertheless rests on the grim eeriness of the play and its chilly message of foreboding, heartily delivered by the strong cast, a succession of thrills that should not fail to excite and intrigue the not too sophisticated. The picture is sound entertainment of its type, a good mass booking.

Story. –  In the latter half of the year 1872 there is discovered in mid-Atlantic by Captain Morehead a large sailing craft. the Mary Celeste. The ship is fully rigged, but there is not a soul aboard. An admiralty inquiry is instituted, but it is adjourned for lack of evidence. The facts, hidden from the court by the complete disappearance of the Mary Celeste’s captain and crew, however, are these.

Anton Lorenzen, a bo’sun, shanghaied some six years before by Toby Bilson, the brutal first mate of the Mary Celeste, partly loses his reason through ill-treatment, and signs up again unrecognised for the purpose of revenge. During the voyage he sees either by accident or his own design, the captain, Briggs, Sahar (sic), Briggs’ wife; the entire crew, Bilson and finally himself, enter Davy Jones’ locker, to build up the most famous mystery of the sea.

Acting. – Bela Lugosi does not succeed in making the purpose of Anton Lorenzen too clear. His indistinct speaking voice is a handicap, but the uncanniness of the character remains to accentuate the thrills.

Edmund Willard contributes a vigorous and aggressive performance as Bilson. Gunner Moir also impresses with his virility as an important member of the crew, and Arthur Margetson and Shirley Grey are adequate as Captain and Sarah Briggs respectively. Interesting and entertaining supporting cameos come from George Mozart, Ben Weldon, Dennis Hoey, Cliff Maclaglen and Terrence de Marney.

Production. – The character of the play is such that it cannot fail entirely to impress, but it would have been much more effective dramatically had it been told with greater imagination. The retrospective treatment creates unnecessary complications, while the complete process of elimination, upon which the plot is based, soon becomes obvious at the cost of much valuable suspense.

Still, the inherent eeriness of the drama, its effective nautical atmosphere and vigorous physical interpretation manage to account for a satisfactory quota of popular thrills.

Setting and Photography. – The admiralty court sequences are staged with dignity, the waterfront scenes are true to period, while the action on the Mary Celeste is accompanied by good seascape thrills, which include realistic storm sequences. Lighting and photography are satisfactory.

Points of Appeal. – Unusual story, good dramatic sequences, vigorous team work and accurate character-drawing, compelling thrills, and realistic atmosphere.


Film Weekly, November 23, 1935

Mystery of the Mary Celeste FILM WEEKLY for Saturday Nov 23rd 1935


Unknown American Newspaper


Bela Lugosi in town, raving about London, and enthusiastic over “The Mystery of the Marie Celeste,” which he filmed there. He goes coastward after Labor Day to do “The Invisible Ray” for Universal.

Courtesy of  Vintage Cinema Ads

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Mystery of the Marie Celeste American screen title

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Variety, December 11, 1935

Only one woman in the cast, with a bunch of well selected two-fisted men.

Story is laid in 1872, when crews were shanghaied. Sailing ship Mary Celeste is floating in the vicinity of Gibraltar with not a soul on board. Captain Morehead, of another vessel, boards her, tows her into port, and claims salvage. Picture opens with Morehead’s suit before the Admiralty court for salvage money, then switches to the events preceding the legal action, and finishing with a return to the court.

Central portion of the film shows every one of the members of the crew, including the captain’s wife, meeting with violent death, until only one member is left. He goes crazy and flings himself into the sea.

It is all the result of Captain Morehead’s machinations, who salvages the ship. He and the Celeste captain had been friends, but when the other man wins the girl and marries her, Morehead plots dire vengeance.

Shirley Grey does all that is expected in the role of the wife. A virile hefty bunch of men have been chosen for the crew, with the exception of George Mozart for comedy relief. He is a little chap, shanghaied as a cook, and knowing absolutely nothing about culinary art.

Outstanding role is played by Bela Lugosi as a seaman who had sailed in the boat six years previously and had been thrashed until he is a mental and physical wreck. When the opportunity arises for him to ship once more with the vessel under the same first mate who maltreated him he accepts the job. He has altered so thoroughly that he isn’t recognized, and signs on bent on revenge.

Another vaudevillian is Edgar Pierce, of Pierce and Roslyn. All the men are sufficiently forceful, with the possible exception of Arthur Margetson, as the captain of the Celeste. Ship is an American one and Margetson speaks with an accent bordering on the Oxonian.

Illusion of the vessel at sea is excellent, barring the cabin scenes. Despite terrific storms, the cabin does not sway one bit. Good direction throughout, but morbid and unsatisfactory story.

Very strong stuff for those who like tragic entertainment.


Sydney Morning Herald, March 18, 1936


Townsville Daily Bulletin (Australia) July 18, 1936


A Touch of White is preferred



featured in “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste”

White is always chic as a finish to a winter costume, and here we see Shirley Grey, the star of “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste” suiting her blonde charm to perfection with a Puritan collar of fine white pique, which is finished with a tailored bow and small white buttons fashioned also of pique. The simple coiffure is also in good taste with the Puritan effect and it features the long bob softly waved from the face.

There’s no mystery about the popularity of Highfield Tea. The one and only reason for its success is its consistently good and delightfully refreshing Ceylon flavour. Highfield Tea, whether Red Label or Green Label will appeal to you no matter which other tea you’ve previously used. Ask for –



The Mercury (Australia), October 8, 1936


Examiner (Australia), October 15, 1936

Princess Cinema


Townsville Daily Bulletin (Australia), June 23, 1937


Townsville Daily Bulletin, September 27, 1937


Torrance Herald (California), March 9, 1939

Midnight Horror Show at Gadena

At the hour when all unearthly things have their fling, the bewitching hour of midnight, Saturday, the new Gardena theatre will present its special showing of Boris Karloff in “Son of Frankenstein” and Bela Lugosi in “The Phantom Ship.”

One of the most horrorific combinations to hit local screens is this spine-tingling, hair-raising pair of gripping melodramas. To make the special show more effective, the management of the Gardena theatre plans to open the box-office at 11p.m., Saturday night so that the ghosts may walk promptly at midnight.


The Daily Times, February 4, 1946

Majestic Theatre

Until you have sat and shivered in delightful terror through the fascinating, blood-chilling reels of “Phantom Ship,” you can’t realize to what heights of trgic intensity a marine adventure yarn with a background of terrific mystery can rise. The picture opens tonight at the Majestic. Founded on the historically famous episode of the brigantine “Mary Celeste,” picked up derelict in 1872 in mid-Atlantic, the story gives a solution of this weird ocean problem of over half a century ago, that for hair-trigger suspense, crashing action, morbid thrills and pathetic romance has seldom been equalled, and never excelled on the screen,.

The cast is headed by Bela Lugosi, that master of horror-art, who, as a half-crazed sailor with a homicidal complex, gives a performance that sheds a compelling spell of nerve-straining suspense upon the spectators. Those who know what Lugosi can do with a role of this kind, and who among the far-flung army of movie-fans does not know, may rest assured, if they have not already seen the film, that his portrayal of the madman, Anton Lorenzen, is destined to resiger as one of his greatest contributions to motion-picture entertainment.

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Mystery of the Marie Celeste US One Sheet

American One Sheet

Mystery of the Marie Celeste US One Sheet

American One Sheet

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Lobby Cards

American Lobby Cards

Mystery of the Marie Celeste US lobby card

Mystery of the Marie Celeste US Lobby Card 2

Mystery of the Marie Celeste US lobby card

Mexican Lobby Cards

Phantom Ship

Mystery of the Marie Celeste Mexican Lobby Card 2

Mystery of the Marie Celeste Mexican Lobby Card 1

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American Pressbook

Courtesy of D’Arcy More 

Phantom Ship Press Book Front

Phantom Ship Press Book Page 1

Phantom Ship Press Book Inside Front Cover

Phantom Ship Press Book Centre Pages

Phantom Ship Press Book Page 4

Phantom Ship Press Book Page 5

Phantom Ship Press Book Back Cover


Ad Mats

Phantom Ship Press Book Centre Pages

Phantom Ship Ad Mat 2

Phantom Ship Ad Mat 1

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Denison Clift’s typewritten synopsis

Denison Clift's Synopsis for Mystery of the Marie Celeste

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Lillian and Bela Lugosi greeted by the press and fans in England during August, 1935

Bela & Lillian in England in August, 1935 1

Bela & Lillian in England in August, 1935 3

Bela & Lillian in England in August, 1935 2

Bela & Lillian in England in August, 1935 4b


Bela as Anton Lorenzen in Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Bela Lugosi as Anton Lorenzen

Bela  in Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Bela Lugosi  as Anton Lorenzen

(Courtesy of

Mystery of the Mary Celeste

Mystery Of The Mary Celeste

Bela Lugosi

Mystery of the Marie Celeste (PS)

Edmund Willard and Bela Lugosi

(Courtesy of Paul Seiler)

Mystery of the Mary Celeste

Edmund Willard and Bela Lugosi

Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Edmund Willard, Bela Lugosi, Gunner Moir, Gibson Gowland, unidentified and Arthur Margetson

Mystery of the Marie Celeste: Burial At Sea

Foreground: Bela Lugosi, Shirley Grey, Edmund Willard, Arthur Margetson, George Mozart

Coffin bearers: Ben Walden (back to camera), Edgar Pierce, Gibson Gowland, Johnnie Schofield (Back to camera)

Mystery of the Marie Celeste Bela Lugosi and the ship's cat

Bela Lugosi and the ship’s cat

Mystery of the Marie Celeste: Bela Lugosi & Wife

Lillian and Bela Lugosi aboard the Mary B Mitchell

Mystery of the Marie Celeste: Bela Lillian and Denison Clift

Bela and  Lillian Lugosi with Denison Clift aboard the Mary B Mitchell

Mystery of the Marie Celeste: Bela and Dennison Clift

Bela Lugosi aboard the Mary B Mitchell. Director Dennison Clift can be glimpsed standing in the background

Bela Lugosi abord the Mary B. Mitchell

Bela Lugosi aboard the Mary B Mitchell

Bela Lugosi during filming of Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Bela Lugosi aboard the Mary B. Mitchell

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Watch the American release print here

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Mary Celeste

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Related Pages

Behind the scenes photographs taken by Continuity Girl Tilly Day

Behind The Scenes Of Mystery Of The Mary Celeste With Tilly Day


Actor George Mozart recalls life on and off the set

Mystery Of The Mary Celeste Recalled By George Mozar

6 responses to “Mystery Of The Mary Celeste (Hammer Film Production, 1935)

    • Do you know if one was produced? The Australian newspaper ads I’ve seen are quite basic, as was the original UK trade ad. Artefacts relating to this film seem to be few and far between. Maybe the advertising budget wasn’t so big?


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