Mayflower:  The Pilgrims' Adventure (1979)




Director:     .

Starring:      Anthony Hopkins (Captain Jones), Richard Crenna (William Brewster), Jenny Agutter (Priscilla Mullins), Michael Beck (John Alden), David Dukes (Captain Myles Standish), Trish Van Devere (Rose Standish), John Heffernan (Christopher Martin), Paul Sparer (The Sheriff), Frank Hamilton (William Mullins), W.B. Brydon (Robert Cushman), William Converse-Roberts (Stephen Hopkins), Nicolas Surovy (George Bennett), Guy Sorel (Captain Reynolds), Karen Sunde (Mary Brewster), George Taylor (Dr. Giles Heale).

voyage of the Mayflower



Spoiler Warning:

England, 1620.  A Pilgrim's choir sings a hymn.  The minister has good news for them.  They have finally found another ship to go with the ship Speedwell on their voyage to America.  The name of the ship is the Mayflower and it's out of London.  The man leading the voyage is Captain Christopher Jones.  The man sponsoring the voyage is a Mr. Martin, who represents 70 investors in the project.  A man speaks up to say that Martin is a hog-jowled pirate.  Nevertheless, they will sail in three days.  Another man asks what protection do they have against the savages of America?  The minister says they have weapons and they have hired a man named Captain Myles Standish to teach the men how to use the firearms. 

The religious group has a lookout.  He sees angry men headed over to the meeting place and so he closes the door and puts a piece of wood across the door.  He comes running up the stairs to say the King's soldiers are here.  The people file out via a back door.  The soldiers break through the front door.  The lookout pretends he has liquor and is dead drunk and sleeping. 

Before the soldiers can reach the religious people, the minister tells one of the men to do him a big favor.  The soldiers will be looking all over for him.  So, the minister tells him if the soldiers demand that the Mayflower not sail before the minister is turned over to them, then go ahead and turn him in.  The man says he can't do that, because it would mean the minister would be hanged.  They leave. 

To talk to the crew, the Captain comes on deck and gives his name.  The boatswain is Benjamin White.  Then there's the ship's doctor, Giles Heale.  Someone asks what's the cargo and where are they going?  The cargo are the Pilgrims.  Yes, church people.  The destination is America.  The man who asked the question says he took up being a sailor to get away from the church people.  The sailor says he's leaving and starts walking away.  White comes up behind the sailor and knocks him out with a small piece of iron.  The Captain says that he will give the orders and the men will obey. The Pilgrims will becoming tomorrow unless His Majesty grabs them first. 

The pilgrims gather at the dock.  They have goats and sheep. When the pilgrims come on board, the crew is hostile and non-cooperative with them.  Myles Standish ask John Alden, the cooper, to help him with his things.  Standish is with his wife Rose, who is sick.  John Alden is bringing a piece of furniture onboard when he sees a pretty girl, named Priscilla Mullins, and becomes a little dumbfounded. In one of the pieces of furniture there must be a stow-away because one of the men taps out a signal on the piece of furniture.  

Captain Reynolds of the Speedwell pays a visit to Captain Jones.  They talk about the route of the voyage. 

On board ship Priscilla, approaches John and starts talking to him.  She says when she first saw John he had such a strange look on his face that she thought he might have some terrible affliction.  But now she's knows that he's alright and she's glad to know that.  He tells her he was only afflicted by Priscilla's grace and beauty.  John is called away to move some more furniture on board ship. 

Mr. Mullins tells the captain that there are 92 passengers on the ship.  Moreover, two of the married women are pregnant.  Mullins wants to know if there is a doctor onboard.   The Captain says the doctor doesn't deliver babies, so Mullins should look for a mid-wife to birth the babies.  Mullins has more questions to ask, but the rude Captain says that his only job is to deliver the passengers to their destination.   Frankly, he doesn't care about the passengers and does not want to be bothered by them. 

Stephen Hopkins and his wife Elizabeth register that they have come onboard.  They have a little girl with them.  Christopher Martin and his wife Marie come on board.  The Captain tells them that they are assigned to the hold.  Martin objects to having to stay in the hold.  He says he's to be governor of the colony and without him there there would never have been this venture to the new world.  The registrar, Mr. White, tells Martin that he will go to the hold or he will get off the ship.  Martin registers.  Registering now is Myles Standish and his wife.  They are sent to the hold.  The Captain tells the doctor to follow Myles Standish and find out the nature of the cough that is afflicting his wife.  If she is contagious, the Captain wants her off the ship.  The doctor checks the woman and finds out that what ails her is not contagious.

The sheriff shows up and tells his men to search the vessel for one William Brewster.  The Captain asks him by what right does the sheriff board the vessel?  The sheriff has a document signed by King James I himself.  He asks the Captain for the passenger list.  There is no name of William Brewster, but the man's wife, Mary Brewster's name's on the list.  He calls out for Mary Brewster.  She does not answer. So he goes searching for her.  He has seen her before and finds her.  He demands to know where's her husband.  She says he's dead and she has buried his body.  The sheriff says she lies.  He gets the key to her large furniture piece and opens it.  There's nothing but clothes inside.  The sheriff says to search the entire ship.  The search begins again.

Mary Brewster then admits that she lied.  She now says that her husband was always cruel to her and she left him back in Holland.  The sheriff says she lies again.  He goes on deck and denounces the religion of the Pilgrims.  He says they are all liars and hypocrites and the King is well rid of people like them.  The sheriff adds that the ship will not sail until they have William Brewster in their custody.  (William is well-hidden below the deck boards.)

The ship sails.  To get the Pilgrims' goat, the sailors start singing a dirty little ditty about sailors and bar maids.   It does offend the passengers.

The two ships sail close to each other.  Soon the passengers become very sea sick. 

When the ship is well on its way, William Brewster goes to see the Captain and tells him who he is.  The Captain is angry, saying that Brewster has now put him in danger by his very being on his ship.  He tells Brewster to get out.

Mullins comes to complain to Brewster that Martin treats everyone with contempt and he's taken twice the space that he needs.  So Brewster speaks to Martin and his wife about giving up some of their space, but the future governor absolutely refuses to do so.  So Brewster turns to Mrs. Brewster for help, but all she says is that she and her husband are of one mind.  And they never argue.  Brewster goes back in defeat. 

The men hold musket practice.  The sailors laugh at the men learning to fire muskets.  After musket practice Myles has John introduce him formally to Priscilla.  He tells Priscilla that his wife is sick.  Priscilla surmises that the man is asking her to attend to his wife.  So she says, without being asked, that she will attend to his wife: "How can I say no?  Helping others is Jesus's own example."

John has the task of rationing the water.  Martin comes over and starts filling up his water container again.  John tells him that the man has already had his share.  Martin pushes John away, so John grabs Martin and roughly handles him, repeating that the rule must be obeyed, if their rationing of water is going to work.  Myles Standish comes to support John in the enforcement of the rule.  Martin goes away. 

Captain Reynolds comes over to the Mayflower and tells the Captain and William Brewster that the mast it too heavy for the ship and the Speedwell is taking on water.  The men at the pump are barely able to keep up with the inflow of water. 

Brewster talks to the passengers and wants to know what they say.  Shall they go on still with the return of the Speedwell to England?  The Pilgrims sing a hymn.  They will continue on.  Some on the Speedwell come over to the Mayflower and some passengers on the Mayflower go over to the Speedwell to return to England.  The Mayflower picks up a net gain of ten passengers.  That gives a total of 103 Pilgrims on the Mayflower

Brewster asks the Captain to tell his soldiers to watch their profane language around them.  The Captain says he will not do that because profane is part the way of life of the sailor and he will not restrict it. 

Myles thrills the unmarried women with his tales of war and bravery.  John is afraid that Myles is too interested in Priscilla, so he watches the two of them like a hawk.  He comes over and tells Myles that he is needed aft.  Myles tells John to wait a moment, but John says the matter is urgent, so Myles has to say goodbye to the unmarried ones.  Then John and Myles have a little argument over Myles always showing off before the young ladies with tales of his own heroism.  Myles says he has a girl in every port in several counties and if he wanted Priscilla, he would . . .  He decides it's better not to finish his sentence.  Myles goes to see Brewster.  Brewster tells the lady's man to keep his powder dry. 

Some of the passengers are not through with Myles.  His wife Rose talks with him about his roving eyes. 

The Captain prepares for a rough storm.  The rains start up and water starts flowing onto the passenger deck.  Stephen Hopkins' wife is having a baby.  Stephen tries to go get the doctor, but the Captain refuses to allow him on deck during a storm.  He pushes Stephen back down the steps.  Needless, to say Stephen is very angry at the Captain. 

The baby is born and is healthy.  It's a boy and he's quickly named Oceanus Hopkins. 

While the storm still rages, John reports to Brewster that they are getting low on many items already at five weeks into the voyage.  And there are many types of bugs in the supplies and the people start removing the insects from the supplies. 

The governor wants the Captain to turn around and go back to England, but Brewster tells the captain to sail on.  One of the sailors dies, causes unknown. 

Priscilla tells John that Mrs. Standish told her that, upon her death, she wants Priscilla to be with her husband.  John asks Priscilla why did she not tell the woman about her own relationship with John?  He becomes very angry and concludes from Priscilla's not saying anything encouraging to him that she has been leading him on.  Now Priscilla gets very defensive and she tells John that she will do whatever she has a mind to do. 

A main beam holding up the deck floor breaks and lots of water starts pouring onto the passenger deck.  The men get their jack they are going to use to raise their houses in the new world to push the two parts of the broken beam together. The operation is a success and the men give out with cheers for the accomplishment.  Priscilla now tells Myles what his wife told her.  He is a little shocked at his wife's idea. 

John confronts Myles accusing him of trying to seduce Priscilla, while his wife is ill.  Myles tells John that his wife is dying.  John says that everyone has known that from the virtual start of this journey. He asks Myles:  "What kind of a man are you?"  Myles is about to strike John, but he stops himself and says that he is a weak man.  Yes, he knew she was dying, but he couldn't deal with that, but now he is forced to admit that his wife is really and truly dying.  He starts crying and saying that Rose was and is his only true love.

The storm is finally over but the Pilgrims have lost all the animals that they had brought with them on the voyage.  Now there really is very little for them to eat. 

Then land is sighted.  Everyone is elated.   

John talks with Priscilla.  He starts talking about Myles Standish, but she says is that all he wants to talk about?  John asks her what does she want him to talk about?  She says she wants for John to speak for himself.  "And, in so doing, give thought to the two of us." 

Myles tells Rose that he loves her and cherishes her. 

The Captain tells Brewster how difficult the winter is going to be for them  He says 1,000 people died from the Jamestown Colony, suggesting that many of the Pilgrims will also die.  Brewster says they will keep their trust in God and He will see them through the winter.  Brewster gets in the row boat and is rowed to the shore. 

"Of the 103 men, women and children who sailed for 66 days aboard the Mayflower, 51 died during the first winter in the New World.  John Aden and Priscilla Mullins married, and had eleven children  Captain Myles Standish was instrumental in establishing friendly relations with the native Americans. Rose Standish died shortly after arrival.  William Brewster continued to provide inspired spiritual leadership to the people of Plymouth Colony.  And Captain Christopher Jones stayed on in the New World for six months before sailing back to England and retiring. The Plymouth Colony flourished . .  perhaps no other group would ever completely epitomize the courage, hopes and dreams of what would become America."    


This movie is very much like the Plymouth Adventure (1952) with a few changes.  They both are good at showing the hardships the Pilgrims had to endure on the more than two months journey.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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