I couldn’t come up with any movie releases for today but, seventy years ago, on this date (as best as I can tell), the The Heiress was the most popular film at the box office. Directed, and produced, by William Wyler, it premiered in New York on October 6 and in Los Angeles on October 20. Based on the 1947 play of the same name by American playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz, it starred Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins and Vanessa Brown.
Catherine Sloper is a shy and backwards young woman who lives with her father, Dr. Austin Sloper, in 1849 New York. By all accounts, Catherine’s mother was a beautiful and graceful creature with the charm of queens. Catherine never knew her mother since she died while in childbirth but, her father often reminds her of all the things her mother was and that she is not. Catherine inherited a great deal of money after her mother passed and will inherit twice as much more at the passing of her father. So, when a poor but handsome and well-bred man, Morris Townsend, begins to court Catherine, her father becomes suspicious that he must be after her money. After all, Catherine is plain and boring. What could she possibly offer to this young man other than her money? When she refuses to give up her new beau, her father threatens to disinherit her. Will her father eventually convince her to give him up and wait for a suitable husband? Will Catherine and Morris elope and, live on the money left to her by her mother? Or, could it be that Catherine finally finds all the grace and charm of her mother only to use it against the men in her life?
♦ Montgomery Clift was so unhappy with his performance, he walked out of the Premiere.
♦ Cary Grant was interested in playing Morris Townsend but, William Wyler turned him down.
♦ Montgomery Clift took some piano lessons for the scene where he sings “Plaisir d’Amour” to Olivia de Havilland.
♦ William Wyler wanted Erroll Flynn for the role of Morris Townsend.
♦ This movie was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1996.
Seventy years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was A Little Bird Told Me by Evelyn Knight, backed up by the Stardusters. Written by Harvey Oliver Brooks, the song was recorded by five different artists with Knight’s version being the only number one. Harvey Brooks was the first black American to write a major motion picture’s complete score: I’m No Angel, starring Mae West.
In 1950, this particular song was the subject of a landmark court case between Supreme Records in Los Angeles and Decca Records in London, England. Supreme Records founder Albert Patrick sued Decca over copyright infringement as his company had recorded and released the song with singer Paula Watson before Decca’s version was released with Knight & The Stardusters. Patrick was furious and filed for $400,000 claiming plagiarism of the arrangement.
The court ruled in favor of the defense stating that musical arrangements were not copyrightable, as style could not be protested under the law. The case opened the door for cover versions. Supreme went bankrupt shortly afterwards and Paula Watson went to work for Decca.
Seventy years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was A Letter to Three Wives, starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas and Jeffrey Lynn. Celeste Holm provided the uncredited voice of Addie Ross. Directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, the movie was adapted by Vera Caspary from a 1945 John Klempner Cosmopolitan magazine novel titled A Letter to Five Wives. Mankiewicz also wrote the screenplay.
Just as they are leaving with a group of orphans for a Hudson River outing, three suburban housewives receive a note from Addie Ross, a friend against whom each woman measures herself. Addie claims to have run off with one of the women’s husbands. As they try to get through the day, each thinks back on her marriage, considering the likely reason her husband would have run off with the other woman. Deborah (Jeanne Crain) remembers the disappointment her husband felt when he discovered the chic WAVE he fell for during World War II was a simple farm girl who could barely keep up with the educated Addie. Radio writer Rita (Ann Sothern) thinks her career as a radio writer has led her to neglect her husband (Kirk Douglas), who may have been drawn to the more attentive Addie. Social climber Lora Mae (Linda Darnell) recalls how she trapped department store magnate Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas) into marrying her when he had hoped to wed the more socially upright Addie. As the day finally ends, each returns home to prepare for the opening of the social season, the big country club dinner at which one of their husbands will not be present.
♦ The identity of the actress Celeste Holm who did the voice-over for Addie Ross was kept secret when the film was released. The studio held a number of “Who is Addie?” contests around the country where moviegoers could guess the actress’ name.
♦ General Douglas MacArthur was so confused by the ending that he had his aide write Joseph L. Mankiewicz a letter asking with whom Addie had, in fact, run off.
♦ The film actually went into production in 1946 as “A Letter to Five Wives” from a script by Melville Baker and Dorothy Bennett. Gene Tierney, Linda Darnell, Maureen O’Hara, Dorothy McGuire and Alice Faye were all earmarked to play the wives but, this version was quickly shelved until Joseph L. Mankiewicz retooled it in 1948.
♦ Both Joan Crawford and Ida Lupino were considered for Addie’s off-screen voice before Celeste Holm was cast. When Mankiewicz offered Holm a role that would never be seen in the film, she quipped, “Oh my, that’s wonderful. My wooden leg won’t have to show.” (Holm, quoted in Geist). She consented when he told her Crawford was after the role.
♦ When Ann Sothern’s look of joyful surprise on finding her husband hadn’t run off with Addie wasn’t strong enough, Mankiewicz had Kirk Douglas jump up from behind the set’s sofa (out of camera range) in only his underwear.
♥ Best Director & Best Writing/Screenplay (Joseph L. Mankiewicz/1950 Academy Awards)
♥ Best Written American Comedy (Joseph L. Mankiewicz & Vera Caspary/1950 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award)
♥ Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Joseph L. Mankiewicz & Gaston Glass/1949 Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award)
♥ Top Ten Films (1949 National Board of Review (NBR) Award)