John Paul Jones is a Technicolor 1959 biographical epic film in Technirama about John Paul Jones. The film, shot in Spain, was made by Samuel Bronston Productions and released by Warner Bros. It was directed by John Farrow and produced by Samuel Bronston from a screenplay by John Farrow, Ben Hecht, and Jesse Lasky Jr. from the story Nor'wester by Clements Ripley. The music score was by Max Steiner, the cinematography by Michel Kelber. It was the final film directed by Farrow.
The film starred Robert Stack in the title role, Marisa Pavan, Charles Coburn, Macdonald Carey, Jean-Pierre Aumont, David Farrar, Peter Cushing, Basil Sydney, Thomas Gomez and the director's daughter Mia Farrow in her film debut. Bette Davis made a cameo appearance as Empress Catherine the Great.
The film begins with a United States Navy officer telling sailors the story of John Paul Jones.
By age 17, John Paul (Robert Stack), a native of Scotland, is an experienced ship's navigator. In 1773, nine years later, he is master of a ship in the West Indies, but after an incident that results in the governor of Tobago advising him to leave, John Paul adds the surname Jones and goes to visit a brother who lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The brother has recently died. Jones hires his attorney, Patrick Henry (Macdonald Carey), to assist in business matters. He also takes a romantic interest in Henry's sweetheart, Dorothea Danders (Erin O'Brien).
After serving as second-in-command of a man-of-war in the Bahamas, his adopted countrymen sign the American Declaration of Independence. Jones receives his first command, sets sail towards Newfoundland and seizes eighteen enemy ships, sending their supplies to American general George Washington (John Crawford).
Washington sends the young officer to France, where he is appreciated for heroic feats at sea. Benjamin Franklin (Charles Coburn) then urges Jones to take a frigate and invade the British Isles. A new vessel is built for him at the suggestion of Marie Antoinette (Susana Canales), and the only condition of his majesty King Louis XVI (Jean-Pierre Aumont) is that Jones' ship sail under an American flag.
Jones' successes ultimately lead him to Russia in 1790 at the behest of the empress, Catherine the Great (Bette Davis). He returns to Paris ill.
A dying Jones, begins to dictate to Aimee (Marisa Pavan) the type of man required and training to be given a future United States Navy officer. The final scenes show the present day (1959) Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Admiral John Paul Jones gains acclaim as one of the bravest and most daring naval figures of his time and in the United States Navy of all time. John Paul Jones remains are located beneath in the Naval Academy Chapel rotunda in Annapolis, Maryland.
In his review of the film for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther observed: "Stack performs the knotty little Scotsman as though he were a slightly dull but talkative member of a conservative gentleman's club".
Musician John Paul Jones (born John Baldwin), best known as the bassist of English rock band Led Zeppelin, took his stage name at the suggestion of Andrew Loog Oldham, who had seen the film's poster.Dell Four Color #1007 (September 1959)