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HISTORY

British producer-director Jack Clayton rose to prominence after his feature film debut, Room at the Top (1959), garnered critical acclaim, including two Academy Awards, and grossed eight times its production cost, as noted in a 14 Dec 1961 NYT article. Clayton subsequently demanded complete directorial control over his next picture. After two projects fell through, he became interested in adapting Henry James’s 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, which he had read as a boy, and revisited in 1959, according to a 26 Feb 1961 NYT brief. Clayton discovered that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. owned rights to the novella, and approached the studio. The deal he made with Fox ultimately entitled him to a “substantial percentage” of the film’s gross, as noted in the 8 Dec 1961 DV, which also detailed Clayton’s existing “seven-to-ten-year commitment for one picture every 18 months” with British producers Sir John Woolf and his brother, James Woolf. The flexible deal allowed Clayton to make films that did not involve the Woolfs, as long as they received a portion of the director’s salary and a “small percentage” of profits. Thus, the Woolfs were entitled to such compensation on The Innocents.
       An item in the 9 Nov 1960 Var confirmed Clayton and Fox’s collaboration on the picture, one of seven recently announced Fox productions based in England. Deborah Kerr was named as the lead actress cast in the role of “Miss Giddens.”
       An 8 Mar 1961 Var production chart stated that principal photography began 6 Feb 1961 at Shepperton Studios. Items in the 5 May 1961 LAT ... More Less

British producer-director Jack Clayton rose to prominence after his feature film debut, Room at the Top (1959), garnered critical acclaim, including two Academy Awards, and grossed eight times its production cost, as noted in a 14 Dec 1961 NYT article. Clayton subsequently demanded complete directorial control over his next picture. After two projects fell through, he became interested in adapting Henry James’s 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, which he had read as a boy, and revisited in 1959, according to a 26 Feb 1961 NYT brief. Clayton discovered that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. owned rights to the novella, and approached the studio. The deal he made with Fox ultimately entitled him to a “substantial percentage” of the film’s gross, as noted in the 8 Dec 1961 DV, which also detailed Clayton’s existing “seven-to-ten-year commitment for one picture every 18 months” with British producers Sir John Woolf and his brother, James Woolf. The flexible deal allowed Clayton to make films that did not involve the Woolfs, as long as they received a portion of the director’s salary and a “small percentage” of profits. Thus, the Woolfs were entitled to such compensation on The Innocents.
       An item in the 9 Nov 1960 Var confirmed Clayton and Fox’s collaboration on the picture, one of seven recently announced Fox productions based in England. Deborah Kerr was named as the lead actress cast in the role of “Miss Giddens.”
       An 8 Mar 1961 Var production chart stated that principal photography began 6 Feb 1961 at Shepperton Studios. Items in the 5 May 1961 LAT and 24 May 1961 Var indicated that filming was still underway.
       The Innocents opened on 23 Nov 1961 in London, England, according to an 8 Dec 1961 DV item. Members-only screenings followed on 10 Dec 1961 at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and 15 Dec 1961 at the Directors Guild of America (DGA), both in Los Angeles, CA, as stated in the 13 Dec 1961 DV. U.S. theatrical release began 15 Dec 1961 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, where the film had an exclusive first-run, according to the 1 Dec 1961 DV. Ten days later, it opened in New York City at the Criterion Theatre and 72nd Street Playhouse.
       Critical reception was largely positive. As announced in the 20 Dec 1961 DV, the National Board of Review named Jack Clayton best director of the year, and chose the film as third runner-up for best picture of 1961. Truman Capote and William Archibald received an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery screenplay, according to the 16 Apr 1962 DV, and the picture was chosen to represent Great Britain at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, as stated a 20 Feb 1962 DV news brief.
       The 3 Jan 1962 DV included an “SR Goes to the Movies” review which praised The Innocents and addressed the adaptation approach taken by Capote and Archibald, whose stage play of the same name was also based on James’s novella and served as source material. According to the review, James’s original work left readers to decide whether “the children of Bly House [were] actually bewitched” or if their governess, Miss Giddens, “forced upon them the terrors that ended in tragedy,” based on her own fearful delusions; meanwhile, the screenplay was said to indicate strongly that Giddens was, in fact, delusional.
       Many other works have been based on The Turn of the Screw. Among them are the 1972 film The Nightcomers (see entry); the Benjamin Britten opera presented in Venice Italy on 14 Sep 1954; a 20 Oct 1959 National Broadcasting Company (NBC) television production directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Ingrid Bergman and Isobel Elsom; and a 2003 Desperado Films production directed by Nick Millard and starring Elaine Corral Kendall and Priscilla Alden (see entry). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
8 Dec 1961
p. 15.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1961
p. 12.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1962
p. 5.
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1962
p. 1.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Apr 1962
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
5 May 1961
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
26 Feb 1961.
---
New York Times
14 Dec 1961
p. 55.
New York Times
24 Dec 1961.
---
New York Times
25 Dec 1961
p. 28.
New York Times
26 Dec 1961
p. 15.
Variety
9 Nov 1960
p. 13.
Variety
8 Mar 1961
p. 15.
Variety
24 May 1961
p. 18.
Variety
6 Dec 1961
p. 6.
Variety
13 Dec 1961
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jack Clayton Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam focus
Cam focus
Cam grip
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Scenic artist
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Mus comp
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Prod secy
Supervisorfloor elec
Constr mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Innocents by William Archibald (New York, 1 Feb 1950), which was based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James in his The Two Magics. The Turn of the Screw and Covering End (London, 1898).
SONGS
"O Willow Waly," words and music by Georges Auric and Paul Dehn.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 December 1961
Premiere Information:
London opening: 23 November 1961
Los Angeles opening: 15 December 1961 at the El Rey Theatre
New York opening: 25 December 1961
Production Date:
6 February--late spring/early summer 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
15 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP21039
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
99
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Miss Giddens, a minister's daughter, is engaged in London, England, by the master of Bly House as governess for his niece, Flora, and his nephew, Miles. She is greeted by Flora, a seemingly adorable child, and Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. The first ominous indication that all is not as it seems is a letter from Miles's school explaining that he is being expelled for attempting to corrupt his fellow students. But when Miss Giddens meets the apparently angelic, well-mannered little boy, her anxiety disappears. As the days pass, Miss Giddens discovers that "others" are prowling about the estate--first a man, then a woman. When she describes the two people to the housekeeper, Miss Giddens is horrified to hear that she has identified a former manager, Quint, and a governess, Miss Jessel, both now deceased. Furthermore, she learns that the two "intangibles" not only had licentious relations with each other but in some horrible way perverted the children. She then realizes, or thinks she realizes, that they have returned to take possession of the children's souls. Convinced that Flora and Miles also see the haunting visions, Miss Giddens attempts to make them admit it. The employment of shock treatment for Flora only results in an hysterical outburst, and Mrs. Grose takes the child away from Bly House. Consoling herself with the thought that she has saved little Flora's soul, Miss Giddens embarks upon saving Miles. When she sees the face of Quint in the garden, Miss Giddens demands that Miles say the name of the man she is confident they both can see. The child finally screams "Quint," and then falls lifeless to the ground. Shattered, she takes the dead ... +


Miss Giddens, a minister's daughter, is engaged in London, England, by the master of Bly House as governess for his niece, Flora, and his nephew, Miles. She is greeted by Flora, a seemingly adorable child, and Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. The first ominous indication that all is not as it seems is a letter from Miles's school explaining that he is being expelled for attempting to corrupt his fellow students. But when Miss Giddens meets the apparently angelic, well-mannered little boy, her anxiety disappears. As the days pass, Miss Giddens discovers that "others" are prowling about the estate--first a man, then a woman. When she describes the two people to the housekeeper, Miss Giddens is horrified to hear that she has identified a former manager, Quint, and a governess, Miss Jessel, both now deceased. Furthermore, she learns that the two "intangibles" not only had licentious relations with each other but in some horrible way perverted the children. She then realizes, or thinks she realizes, that they have returned to take possession of the children's souls. Convinced that Flora and Miles also see the haunting visions, Miss Giddens attempts to make them admit it. The employment of shock treatment for Flora only results in an hysterical outburst, and Mrs. Grose takes the child away from Bly House. Consoling herself with the thought that she has saved little Flora's soul, Miss Giddens embarks upon saving Miles. When she sees the face of Quint in the garden, Miss Giddens demands that Miles say the name of the man she is confident they both can see. The child finally screams "Quint," and then falls lifeless to the ground. Shattered, she takes the dead child in her arms and kisses him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.