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.
Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.
Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.