The Deep Blue Sea
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnatole Litvak
Written byTerence Rattigan
Produced byAlexander Korda
StarringVivien Leigh
Kenneth More
Eric Portman
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Edited byBert Bates
Music byMalcolm Arnold
Distributed byTwentieth Century Fox
Release date
  • 23 August 1955 (1955-08-23)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Deep Blue Sea is a 1955 British drama film directed by Anatole Litvak, starring Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More, and produced by London Films and released by Twentieth Century Fox. The picture was based on the 1952 play of the same name by Terence Rattigan.

Currently unavailable on DVD, the film was given a rare screening as part of the BFI Vivien Leigh Season in 2013, introduced by Sean O'Connor, producer of the 2011 version of the film by Terence Davies.[2]


The movie tells the story of a woman unhappy in her passionless marriage leaving her husband for a younger and more ardent lover.



The play had been very successful and a number of companies expressed interest in obtaining the film rights. Alexander Korda offered £40,000 plus £10,000 to write the screenplay. He intended for Anatole Litvak to direct and Olivia de Havilland to star as Hesther. However negotiations stalled when 20th Century Fox refused to let Litvak direct the film.[3]

Some time later Korda approached Rattigan and again and he bought the screen rights for £7,500 plus £4,000 to Rattigan to write the script. Korda wanted Vivien Leigh to play Hesther, Kenneth More to play Freddie, and Charles Boyer to play Mr Miller, but said Leigh would not accept Rattigan's preferred director, Anthony Asquith. Rattigan started working on the script after the premiere of Separate Tables. Korda sold the project on to 20th Century Fox, which made him an instant profit. Fox insisted the film be directed by Anatole Litvak, and that it be in colour and CinemaScope. Boyer turned down the part of Mr Miller so Eric Portman was cast. Litvak's influence meant Rattigan "opened up" the story incorporating scenes such as Freddie and Hesther in a ski resort, and Freddie testing planes.[4]

Kenneth More was the only key member of the original cast (who had also appeared in a BBC Television version in 1954) to be hired for the film, as Alexander Korda wanted to use names that were more recognisable to movie goers. (More had just been put under contract to Korda.)[5] More always felt this was a mistake, particularly the casting of Vivien Leigh rather than Peggy Ashcroft. He later wrote:

The casting of the beautiful Vivien Leigh was absurd. She was supposed to be an outwardly ordinary but secretly highly-sexed woman who meets a young pilot on the golf course and falls for him. My first lines on meeting her were to say: ‘My God, Hes, you’re beautiful.’ She had never been told this before —- and understandably it had a remarkable effect on her. But when the part is played by a woman generally held to be one of the most beautiful in the world, the whole meaning is lost.[6]


More did not enjoy filming, feeling that the use of CinemaScope and changes made to the original play detracted from the intimacy of the story. He also felt he had poor chemistry with Leigh.[7] "We were never in complete accord," wrote More. "I thought her interpretation was wrong, and so when we played a scene together we had the wrong chemistry between us."[8]


The film was a box office disappointment in the US. "It was a tricky subject for American audiences", said More.[9]

More later said the film "just didn't come off".[10]


See also


  1. ^ Wansell, Geoffrey (1995). Terence Rattigan. p. 260.
  2. ^ "Vivien Leigh adrift: The Deep Blue Sea". British Film Institute.
  3. ^ Wansell p 239
  4. ^ Wansell p 259-262
  5. ^ Vagg, Stephen (16 April 2023). "Surviving Cold Streaks: Kenneth More". Filmink.
  6. ^ Kenneth More, More or Less, Hodder & Staughton, 1978 p 163
  7. ^ Kenneth More, More or Less, Hodder & Staughton, 1978 p 163–167
  8. ^ More p 166
  9. ^ Schallert, E. (18 August 1957). "English star amazes in chaneylike portrayal". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ More, Kenneth (29 October 1959). "Stormy Deep Blue Sea". Liverpool Echo. p. 4.