The great Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who shared with the world his passion for the sea and all forms of aquatic life, would have been 100 years old this month. Author, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, inventor, photographer, poet, researcher and scientist, “Captain Cousteau” was perhaps the world’s best-known and most beloved marine conservationist. Born in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France, Cousteau died in 1997, leaving a legacy of more than 120 television documentaries and 50 books in addition to his innovations in marine science and deep-sea diving, including the development of the aqualung. His television work was particularly significant in that it enlightened worldwide audiences about the treasures of the ocean and the devastating effects of pollution.
The Cousteau birthday itself, June 11, includes a twenty-hour marathon of documentaries in which he participated. All are TCM premieres, including six episodes of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau dating from 1968 to 1974, and twelve episodes of The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey, an Emmy-nominated 1977 television series featuring the research adventures of the man called “the public conscience of mankind’s stewardship of our oceans.”
Also premiering is an award-winning documentary about Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years (1986), directed by John Soh and narrated by Jose Ferrer, documents the explorer's life from birth and childhood to his 75th birthday.
The remainder of the TCM tribute is composed of sea-themed movies from other directors, ranging from Lucien Hubbard’s The Mysterious Island (1929), adapted from a Jules Verne story, to the TCM premiere of Peter Yates’ The Deep (1977), adapted by Peter Benchley from his novel. The latter film, starring Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset as scuba divers who find buried treasure off the Bermuda coast, has gorgeous underwater cinematography by Christopher Challis — worthy of Cousteau himself — that features a variety of exotic aquatic life including moray eels, puffer fish and tiger sharks.
Other deep-sea adventures include Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), filmed in CinemaScope off the coast of Florida by Edward Cronjager, who earned an Oscar® nomination for his beautiful and innovative underwater photography, and two more Verne adventures, Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and MGM’s Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969). Also included is the original Flipper (1963), which brought wide public interest to the dolphin, a marine mammal that Cousteau championed in his writings and photography.
Under the Sea: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's Birth