It was a year of heavyweight historical dramas at the Globes, and The Guns of Navarone, by J. Lee Thompson, prevailed over El Cid and Judgment at Nuremberg (Fanny and Splendor in the Grass completed the list of nominees). Navarone's Golden Globe for Best Drama was reinforced by the award for Best Score (to Dimitri Tiomkin). Director J. Lee Thompson was nominated but lost to Stanley Kramer (Nuremberg). A month later Navarone won the Oscar for Best Special Effects. British director Thompson would later become famous for directing the two popular sequels of The Planet of the Apes saga, in 1972 and 1974.
The 19th Golden Globe Awards were held on March 5, 1962, at the Ambassador Hotel (Cocoanut Grove Club), and was attended by the complete star-studded cast of Navarone, including David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle and Irene Papas. For the Mexican born Quinn it was the first Greek role in two years (in 1964 he would be the seminal Zorba the Greek), and the following year he would triumph in Lawrence of Arabia: it was a spectacular moment for Quinn.
The story revolved around the covert attack by the British over two powerful German guns controlling the seas of the Greek island of Navarone, making the evacuation of endangered British troops on a neighboring island possible. With a budget of $6 million, Navarone was shot in Rhodes (Greece), Dakar, Senegal, at Shepperton Studios in the UK, and Zacatecas Mexico. As all the other big Hollywood epics at that time, the production didn't hesitate to go around the globe.
Some explosions in the film were so real that David Niven got injured to the face, mouth, and nose, and had to leave the set bleeding: he was furious at director Thompson for wanting to implement “an excess of realism”. Indeed there were no holds barred in the action scenes, and the stunts were amazing: it's the first movie showing both cliff climbing and cliff diving in dizzy fashion.
The Guns of Navarone was a major box office hit and the top grossing film of 1961. It earned a net profit of over $20 million (out of over $60 million gross in the U.S. alone). It was such a success that a sequel was written, Force 10 from Navarone, and eventually filmed many years later (in 1978) with Harrison Ford, directed by Guy Hamilton: it turned out to be a major critical and commercial failure.