The Genoese explorer persuades Queen Isabel of Spain to finance his voyage to the west, and they find new lands with friendly people.
Christopher Columbus (Fredric March) visits a monastery and leaves his son there. Father Perez (Felix Aylmer) is the Queen's confessor and gives Columbus a contact at court. Columbus wants to sail west to get to India, but King Ferdinand (Francis Lister) says he is crazy. Queen Isabella (Florence Eldridge) invites Columbus to her room, and he says he sees a new empire. The Queen appoints a commission. Columbus presents his case to the commission, but Francisco de Bobadilla (Francis L. Sullivan) opposes him.
Three years later Columbus is still waiting at court for an answer. He is impoverished, but Diego de Arana (Derek Bond) gives him a place to live. Pretty Beatriz (Kathleen Ryan) offers to help Columbus. Bobadilla suggests that his cousin Beatriz marry Columbus to discourage his project and protect their interests. Columbus pulls King Ferdinand off Beatriz. The Queen orders Bobadilla to send Beatriz back to the Canary Islands, and Bobadilla tells Columbus to leave. Queen Isabella offers her jewels to finance the voyage of Columbus, and he is called back.
Columbus sails with three ships from Palos. In September 1492 the crew becomes worried they will not be able to sail back. Columbus confides in Diego that he is keeping two logs so that the crew will not think they have gone so far. Martin Pinzon (James Robertson Justice) and his brothers Francisco and Vicente consult with Columbus. After thirty days at sea the crew plots a mutiny, and Juan de la Cosa (Niall MacGinnis) warns Columbus. He and his officers are armed. Columbus refuses to turn back, and fighting begins; but land is seen. Columbus pardons them. Juan de la Cosa tells Columbus that it was not land. Columbus announces that he will turn back in three days if they don't see land. On the third night Columbus sees a light.
On the beach Columbus prays and claims San Salvador for Spain. The natives are friendly, and they trade for their gold. Columbus explores the islands, but Martin Pinzon does not obey him and goes off on his own. While Columbus and other officers are sleeping, the Santa Maria is shipwrecked on Christmas Eve 1492. Columbus asks Diego to stay as governor with forty men. Columbus is welcomed back to court as a hero with a few natives.
Six years later Columbus is ill in the jungle and writes to the Queen. At court Bobadilla complains the slaves Columbus sent are poor, and Queen Isabella wants the slaves sent back. King Ferdinand sends Bobadilla with authority, and he puts Columbus in chains. On the ship Columbus refuses to have the chains removed until the Queen orders it. At court Columbus asks to be reinstated as viceroy, but King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella refuse to do so. Columbus wants to sail again and says he will be remembered.
This biographical drama of one of history's most audacious
adventures is fairly accurate as far as it goes while emphasizing
the explorer's frustration at government resistance to his plans.