Bedlam (1946)

78-80 mins | Drama | 10 May 1946

Director:

Mark Robson

Producer:

Val Lewton

Cinematographer:

Nicholas Musuraca

Editor:

Lyle Boyer

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Chamber of Horrors and A Tale of Bedlam . St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum was built around 1400 and, as depicted in the film, was a corrupt, inhumane institution where public tours were conducted for two cents. In a closing written statement, the film notes that "reforms [at Bedlam] were begun in 1773" and that a new, exemplary hospital was erected "shortly afterward." An article in Life claims that producer Val Lewton used a church set from RKO's 1945 picture The Bells of St. Mary's in the production, and that Nell Bowen's "prettiest dress" was first worn by Vivien Leigh in M-G-M's 1939 epic Gone With the Wind . According to HR news items, Tanis Chandler and Emory Parnell were to appear in the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Bedlam was Lewton's last RKO production. Modern sources note that William Hogarth's paintings were used as transitional devices throughout the picture, but that these devices were cut from prints of the film when broadcast on television. The viewed print did not include these transitional ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Chamber of Horrors and A Tale of Bedlam . St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum was built around 1400 and, as depicted in the film, was a corrupt, inhumane institution where public tours were conducted for two cents. In a closing written statement, the film notes that "reforms [at Bedlam] were begun in 1773" and that a new, exemplary hospital was erected "shortly afterward." An article in Life claims that producer Val Lewton used a church set from RKO's 1945 picture The Bells of St. Mary's in the production, and that Nell Bowen's "prettiest dress" was first worn by Vivien Leigh in M-G-M's 1939 epic Gone With the Wind . According to HR news items, Tanis Chandler and Emory Parnell were to appear in the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Bedlam was Lewton's last RKO production. Modern sources note that William Hogarth's paintings were used as transitional devices throughout the picture, but that these devices were cut from prints of the film when broadcast on television. The viewed print did not include these transitional paintings. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Apr 1946.
---
Daily Variety
19 Apr 46
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 May 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 45
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 46
3, 14
Life
25 Feb 1946.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Apr 46
p. 2951.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Apr 46
p. 2962.
New York Times
20 Apr 46
p. 16.
Variety
24 Apr 46
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus
SOUND
Mus mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Matte paintings
Opt eff
Transparency projection shots
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the painting Bedlam , Plate #8, "The Rake's Progress" by William Hogarth (begun 1732).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Chamber of Horrors
A Tale of Bedlam
Release Date:
10 May 1946
Production Date:
late July--late August 1945
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 April 1946
Copyright Number:
LP367
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
78-80
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11077
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1761, while driving through London, Lord Mortimer and his mistress, actress Nell Bowen, are stopped outside St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum, a notorious mental institution known as "Bedlam." Earlier, a poet named Colby was shoved from Bedlam's roof while trying to escape, and Lord Mortimer, his patron, is notified of his death. Curious, Lord Mortimer questions Bedlam's head warden, George Sims, about Colby's fall. After insisting that Colby's demise was an accident, the smooth-talking, sadistic Sims convinces Mortimer to use some of Bedlam's inmates to replace the poet as the entertainment at his upcoming banquet. Disgusted by Sim's suggestion that his "Bedlamites" will make a fine amusement, Nell decides to visit the asylum before the fete . Nell is horrified by the suffering and depravation she sees in Bedlam and hits Sims in anger. The blow is witnessed by William Hannah, a Quaker stonemason, whom Sims had previously tried to engage in fraud. Although the peace-loving William applauds Nell for her compassion, the actress coldly insists that she struck Sims out of annoyance, not pity. At the banquet, Sims forces his frightened wards to perform for Mortimer's guests, and one young patient dies as a result of the gilding that Sims has painted on his skin. Once again, Nell's ire is provoked, and she later accepts William's advice to use her influence with Mortimer to improve conditions at Bedlam. Although the slow-witted Mortimer at first agrees to Nell's suggestions, Sims changes his mind by reminding him that the reforms will cost him £500 in taxes. After Nell breaks with Mortimer, he evicts her from her home and confiscates most of ... +


In 1761, while driving through London, Lord Mortimer and his mistress, actress Nell Bowen, are stopped outside St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum, a notorious mental institution known as "Bedlam." Earlier, a poet named Colby was shoved from Bedlam's roof while trying to escape, and Lord Mortimer, his patron, is notified of his death. Curious, Lord Mortimer questions Bedlam's head warden, George Sims, about Colby's fall. After insisting that Colby's demise was an accident, the smooth-talking, sadistic Sims convinces Mortimer to use some of Bedlam's inmates to replace the poet as the entertainment at his upcoming banquet. Disgusted by Sim's suggestion that his "Bedlamites" will make a fine amusement, Nell decides to visit the asylum before the fete . Nell is horrified by the suffering and depravation she sees in Bedlam and hits Sims in anger. The blow is witnessed by William Hannah, a Quaker stonemason, whom Sims had previously tried to engage in fraud. Although the peace-loving William applauds Nell for her compassion, the actress coldly insists that she struck Sims out of annoyance, not pity. At the banquet, Sims forces his frightened wards to perform for Mortimer's guests, and one young patient dies as a result of the gilding that Sims has painted on his skin. Once again, Nell's ire is provoked, and she later accepts William's advice to use her influence with Mortimer to improve conditions at Bedlam. Although the slow-witted Mortimer at first agrees to Nell's suggestions, Sims changes his mind by reminding him that the reforms will cost him £500 in taxes. After Nell breaks with Mortimer, he evicts her from her home and confiscates most of her belongings. Nell counters by placing her parrot, who loves to recite an unflattering poem about Mortimer, for sale in a public market. When Nell refuses to sell the parrot to Mortimer for a reasonable sum, he follows Sims's advice to place a writ of seizure against the bird. Backed by William, Nell rejects Mortimer's writ and then goes to see Mortimer's political opponent, "That Devil" John Wilkes, about the situation. Worried about Wilkes's potential involvement, Sims and Mortimer try to bribe Nell, but she laughingly eats their proffered bill. Sims and Mortimer then force Nell to appear before the Commission of Lunacy, of which Mortimer is a member, and she is found insane and thrown into Bedlam. William eventually discovers her whereabouts and sneaks into the asylum to see her. Nell tells William to find Wilkes and begs him to give her his masonry trowel as a means of protection. While William tracks down Wilkes, Nell is befriended by Bedlam's "pillar," a trio of educated inmates. After she is mocked by Sims for associating with Bedlam's "aristocracy," Nell determines to help all of the asylum's afflicted through simple kindnesses. Sims punishes Nell's deeds by throwing her in a cell with a large, violent inmate known as "Tom, the Tiger," but Nell's belief in Tom's goodness saves her from attack. William and Wilkes, meanwhile, arrange a new hearing for Nell. The day before the Commission is to reconsider her case, however, Sims declares that Nell must be given his "cure." Sure that Sims intends to kill Nell, the other inmates attack him, and Nell escapes with Tom's help. Sims is then "tried" by his charges, but is eventually found sane. As he is about to be released, however, a beautiful mute stabs him with Nell's trowel, and the inmates cover the attack by enclosing him in a wall while still alive. William and Nell return to Bedlam with the Commission, and although they both deduce Sims's fate, they choose to remain silent. +

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.