The Day of the Dolphin

The Day of the Dolphin Information

The Day of the Dolphin is a 1973 American science-fiction thriller film directed by Mike Nichols and starring George C. Scott. Loosely based on the 1967 novel, Un animal doué de raison (A Sentient Animal), by French writer Robert Merle, the screenplay was written by Buck Henry.


A brilliant and driven scientist, Jake Terrell, and his young and beautiful wife, Maggie, train dolphins to communicate with humans. This is done by teaching the dolphins to speak English in dolphin-like voices. Two of his dolphins, Alpha ("Fa") and Beta ("Bea"), are stolen by officials of the shadowy Franklin Foundation headed by Harold DeMilo (Fritz Weaver), the supportive backer of the Terrells' research. After the dolphins are kidnapped, an investigation by an undercover government agent for hire, Curtis Mahoney (Paul Sorvino), reveals that the Institute is planning to further train the dolphins to carry out a political assassination by having them place a limpet mine on the hull of the yacht of the President of the United States.


  • George C. Scott as Dr Jake Terrell
  • Trish Van Devere as Maggie Terrell
  • Paul Sorvino as Curtis Mahoney
  • Fritz Weaver as Harold DeMilo
  • Jon Korkes as David
  • Edward Herrmann as Mike
  • Leslie Charleson as Maryanne
  • John David Carson as Larry
  • Victoria Racimo as Lana
  • John Dehner as Wallingford
  • Severn Darden as Schwinn
  • William Roerick as Dunhill
  • Elizabeth Wilson as Mrs Rome
  • Dolphin voices Elliot Peterson and Elliot Fink


The novel was published in the US in 1969 and was retitled The Day of the Dolphin.

The film version was originally going to be directed by Roman Polanski for United Artists in 1969, with Polanski writing the script. However, while Polanski was in London, England, looking for filming locations in August 1969, his pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was murdered in their Beverly Hills home by disciples of Charles Manson. Polanski returned to the United States and abandoned the project.

The following year it was announced Franklin Schaffner would make the movie for the Mirisch Corporation. These plans were frustrated and Joseph Levine ended up buying the project off United Artists for Mike Nichols.


The film was mostly shot in the Bahamas. Production was extremely difficult with Nichols later describing it as the toughest shoot he had done to date.


The film received mixed reviews when released in 1973. Pauline Kael, the film critic for The New Yorker, suggested that if the best subject that Nichols and Henry could think of was talking dolphins, then they should quit making movies altogether.

The film was not successful commercially, though it was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Original Score (Georges Delerue) and Best Sound (Richard Portman and Larry Jost). Levine also claimed the movie had guaranteed pre-sales of $8,450,000 million to cover costs, including a sale to NBC who had expressed interest into turning the story into a TV series.

Alpha the dolphin was named best animal actor in the 24th Patsy Awards.

Differences from the novel and other sources of inspiration

Merle's novel, a satire of the Cold War, is supposedly the basis for this film, but the film's plot was substantially different from that of the novel. The movie is instead inspired in part from the scientist John C. Lilly's life. A physician, biophysicist, neuroscientist, and inventor, Lilly specialized in the study of consciousness. In 1959, he founded the Communications Research Institute at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and served as its director until 1968. There he worked with dolphins exploring dolphin intelligence and human-dolphin communication.

See also Bottlenose dolphin communication and John Lilly and cetacean communication.

Cultural references

  • On June 25, 2007, Stephen Colbert recommended his The Colbert Report viewers rent this film after making an allusion to it that received little reaction from the studio audience.
  • In the 1999 James Toback film Black and White the characters played by Robert Downey Jr. and Brooke Shields share a rambling, improvised discussion about the movie and the meanings of the dolphin's relationships to the film's humans specifically as a touchstone for their own relationship.
  • A reference to the film appears in the episode "Six Feet Under the Sea" on the television series Psych.
  • The third segment of The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror XI, called Night of the Dolphin, is a comical homage to this film. The world's dolphins organize into an army to destroy humanity starting with Springfield.
  • The Day of the Dolphin is the seventh level of The Simpsons Game. Bart and Lisa try to stop the dolphin invasion in Springfield caused by Kang and Kodos.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Day_of_the_Dolphin" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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