Bon Voyage!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Neilson
Screenplay byBill Walsh
Based onBon Voyage!
by Joseph & Merrjane Hayes
Produced byWalt Disney
CinematographyWilliam Snyder
Edited byCotton Warburton
Music byPaul Smith
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • May 17, 1962 (1962-05-17)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$5 million (rentals)[2]

Bon Voyage! is a 1962 American comedy film directed by James Neilson and produced by Walt Disney Productions. It stars Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corcoran as the Willard family on a European holiday.

The character actor James Millhollin appears in the film as the ship's librarian.[3]


Harry Willard finally makes good his promise to take his bride of 20 years on a long-delayed trip by ship to Europe. They are accompanied by their 19-year-old son (Elliott), 18-year-old daughter (Amy), and 11-year-old son (Skipper). From the time they arrive at the dock, an unending series of comedy adventures and romantic encounters ensue until, exhausted but happy, they leave with memories that will stay with them all for years to come.



The film was based on a 1956 novel by Joseph and Merrijane Hayes. Joseph Hayes had written The Desperate Hours and Bon Voyage was his second book; he and his wife wrote it after taking a trip across the Atlantic.[4]

Film rights were bought by Universal before the book had even been published for $125,000 and it was announced the film would be produced by Ross Hunter and written by the Hayes'.[5] Esther Williams was originally announced as star.[6] Then, James Cagney was going to play the lead.[7] Filming dates were pushed back when Bing Crosby was linked to the project.[8]

In early 1960, it was announced Disney had optioned the novel. Disney said it was likely Ken Annakin would direct with Karl Malden, James MacArthur and Janet Munro to star.[9] Later, Robert Stevenson was announced as director.[10][11]

"It's far out for us", said Disney, "but still Disney. I'm really a gag man and missed the kind of pictures Frank Capra and Harold Lloyd used to make. Since nobody else wanted to do them, I decided to make them myself."[12]

Eventually, Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, and Tommy Kirk were confirmed as the three leads.[13] However, casting the daughter proved more difficult. "You must build a picture", said Walt Disney. "You don't write it all – only part of it. And it's the light and comic picture that's toughest of all to build."[14]

Michael Callan was cast from the play of West Side Story.[15] Deborah Walley was cast on the basis of her performance in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.[16]

Filming began on 15 August 1961.[17] It took place partly on location on a genuine ocean cruiser travelling across the Atlantic and in France. Walt Disney accompanied the film on location.[1]

Tommy Kirk did not get along with Jane Wyman:

I thought Jane Wyman was a hard, cold woman and I got to hate her by the time I was through with Bon Voyage. Of course, she didn't like me either, so I guess it came natural. I think she had some suspicion that I was gay and all I can say is that, if she didn't like me for that, she doesn't like a lot of people.[18]

The title song was written by Disney staff songwriters, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.


Box office

Bon Voyage! grossed $9,082,042 in the United States[19] and earned $5 million in theatrical rentals.[2] According to Kinematograph Weekly the film was considered a "money maker" at the British box office in 1962.[20]


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Everything possibly unearthable in the way of an obvious cliché involving the hick behavior of American tourists abroad seems to have been dug out from somewhere by the screen-playwright, Bill Walsh, and made to fit into this enactment of a family's vacation odyssey."[21]

Variety stated, "Walt Disney dishes up another comedy blockbuster in this rollicking tour de force of an American family seeing Europe for the first time."[22] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times declared it "the half-year's funniest farce."[23]

Brendan Gill of The New Yorker wrote that Disney "always manages to put a pleasing, no-expense-spared shine on his goods, but in this case the goods go back at least as far as Mark Twain and his 'Innocents Abroad,' and maybe to Sterne and his 'Sentimental Journey.'"[24]

The Monthly Film Bulletin stated, "The film, though unmistakably from the Disney stable, has little of the affectionately zany humor that so unexpectedly enlivened The Parent Trap and The Absent-Minded Professor."[25]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.[26]


  1. ^ a b EUGENE ARCHER (Aug 20, 1961). "DISNEY & FAMILY ROLL ON THE HIGH SEAS". New York Times. p. X5.
  2. ^ a b Top 20 Films of 1962 by Domestic Revenue
  3. ^ "James Millhollin". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
  4. ^ Hansen, Harry (Oct 2, 1955). "Writing Demon, Deep in a Flood Story, Then Along Came Diane to Upset His Plans". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. c9.
  5. ^ 'Bon Voyage' Announced as Major Buy; 'Holiday in Monaco' Wald Film, Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times9 Oct 1956: C11.
  6. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Jan 18, 1957). "Looking at Hollywood: Esther Williams Gets Role of Mother of 5 in Next Film". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. a7.
  7. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (July 15, 1957). "CAGNEY TO HEAD 'BON VOYAGE' CAST: Actor Signs for Third Film at Universal--Columbia Plans 'Wackiest Ship' Ladd Firm Buys Story". New York Times. p. 15.
  8. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The (Oct 22, 1958). "STRANGE VICORY' [sic] BROUGHT BY LLESSER: Story by Rose Franken and Husband to Be Filmed -- Kovacs Signs Contract". New York Times. p. 40.
  9. ^ A.H. WEILER. (Jan 10, 1960). "BY WAY OF REPORT: Disney Plans 'Voyage' -- Other Movie Items". New York Times. p. X7.
  10. ^ A.H. WEILER. (Mar 5, 1961). "VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT: On the Harvey, Disney Production Schedule -- Freedom Subject". New York Times. p. X7.
  11. ^ A.H. WEILER. (Dec 25, 1960). "GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Or, the Annual Survey of a Few Fine Plans That Failed to Materialize". New York Times. p. X9.
  12. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Apr 20, 1962). "Looking at Hollywood: Disney Out of Step? Not at Box Office". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. b14.
  13. ^ Vagg, Stephen (9 September 2019). "The Cinema of Tommy Kirk". Diabolique Magazine.
  14. ^ John C. Waugh. The (Mar 14, 1961). "A Legendary Tale Spinner Looks Ahead--British TV Adjusts a Balance: Disney Boosting Live-Action Films". Christian Science Monitor. p. 6.
  15. ^ Hopper, Hedda (June 19, 1961). "Looking at Hollywood: Hedda Has High Praise for 'Guns of Navarone'". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. b2.
  16. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Aug 10, 1961). "'Gidgets' Deborah Signed by Disney: Oboler Adding Two to Five; 'World by Night' Fascinating". Los Angeles Times. p. B13.
  17. ^ HEDDA HOPPER'S STAFF (Apr 29, 1961). "Looking at Hollywood: Disney Film of Sea Chase to Start Soon". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 15.
  18. ^ Minton, Kevin, "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt's Fallen Star", Filmfax Issue 38, April 1993 p 71
  19. ^ Box Office Information for Bon Voyage! The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  20. ^ Billings, Josh (13 December 1962). "Three British Films Head the General Releases". Kinematograph Weekly. p. 7. Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  21. ^ Crowther, Bosley (May 18, 1962). "Screen: 'Bon Voyage!' at Music Hall". The New York Times. 34.
  22. ^ "Film Reviews: Bon Voyage". Variety. May 9, 1962. 6.
  23. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (June 24, 1962). "Frontrunners in '62 Movie Sweepstakes". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 7.
  24. ^ Gill, Brendan (May 26, 1962). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 133-134.
  25. ^ "Bon Voyage". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 29 (343): 111. August 1962.
  26. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-23.