The White Tower (1950)

98 mins | Drama | 24 June 1950

Director:

Ted Tetzlaff

Writer:

Peter Achilles

Producer:

Sid Rogell

Cinematographer:

Ray Rennahan

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Ralph Berger

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: RKO purchased James Ramsey Ullman's novel in Mar 1946 for $150,000. At that time, Edward Dmytryk was assigned to be the film's director, and Ullman was to work on the script. Credited writer Paul Jarrico's first draft of the screenplay, which was completed in early Apr 1947, reportedly eliminated the "allegorical implications of the novel," because they were deemed "no longer valid." These "nationalistic allegories of the war period," however, were present in the final draft of the script. Ullman's contribution to the final screenplay has not been confirmed.
       In Jan 1947, Lilli Palmer was announced as the lead in the production, which was to begin in Switzerland in Jun 1947, following six months of research and preparation. L. P. Williams was assigned as art director at that time, William E. Watts as executive production assistant, Ruby Rosenberg as Dmytryk's assistant, and Ullman as technical advisor. By Apr 1947, however, "upset conditions in Europe" caused principal photography to be postponed, and RKO announced in mid-Apr that the picture was to be filmed in the Canadian Rockies and Hollywood. On 14 Apr 1947, RKO sent Dmytryk, art director Alfred Herman, cameraman J. Roy Hunt and location director Lou Shapiro to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies to do tests. By 21 Apr 1947, however, the studio declared that it was shelving the project for at least a year because of casting difficulties, labor problems in Switzerland and the release of Monogram's High Conquest (See Entry), another mountain climbing film. (Although both High Conquest and The White Tower predated Sir ... More Less

Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: RKO purchased James Ramsey Ullman's novel in Mar 1946 for $150,000. At that time, Edward Dmytryk was assigned to be the film's director, and Ullman was to work on the script. Credited writer Paul Jarrico's first draft of the screenplay, which was completed in early Apr 1947, reportedly eliminated the "allegorical implications of the novel," because they were deemed "no longer valid." These "nationalistic allegories of the war period," however, were present in the final draft of the script. Ullman's contribution to the final screenplay has not been confirmed.
       In Jan 1947, Lilli Palmer was announced as the lead in the production, which was to begin in Switzerland in Jun 1947, following six months of research and preparation. L. P. Williams was assigned as art director at that time, William E. Watts as executive production assistant, Ruby Rosenberg as Dmytryk's assistant, and Ullman as technical advisor. By Apr 1947, however, "upset conditions in Europe" caused principal photography to be postponed, and RKO announced in mid-Apr that the picture was to be filmed in the Canadian Rockies and Hollywood. On 14 Apr 1947, RKO sent Dmytryk, art director Alfred Herman, cameraman J. Roy Hunt and location director Lou Shapiro to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies to do tests. By 21 Apr 1947, however, the studio declared that it was shelving the project for at least a year because of casting difficulties, labor problems in Switzerland and the release of Monogram's High Conquest (See Entry), another mountain climbing film. (Although both High Conquest and The White Tower predated Sir Edmund Hilary's scaling of Mt. Everest by a few years, mountain climbing had become a very popular pursuit after the war.) Var also reported in Sep 1947 that the Canadian Rockies had been ruled out as a location because they were not "sufficiently similar" to the Alps. Paul Lukas was slated for a starring role in the picture during its 1947 production tenure. Of the above-mentioned crew members, only Ruby Rosenberg has been confirmed as contributing to the final film.
       RKO did not resurrect The White Tower until mid-1949. While the project was on the shelf, Dmytryk and his RKO collaborator Adrian Scott were indicted for contempt of Congress during the HUAC hearings and were fired by RKO. (For more information about Dmytryk and Scott's involvement with the HUAC, See Entry for Crossfire .) Irving Allen and Franchot Tone, producers of The Man on the Eiffel Tower (see above entry), a 1949 RKO release, were then set to produce the film. Rudolph Maté was to direct the picture in the southern Alps, with Tone, Glenn Ford and Oscar Holmolka in the cast. By 23 Jun 1949, however, Ted Tetzlaff had taken over as director, and M-G-M contract player Janet Leigh was announced as the film's new star. Also in late Jun 1949, photographer Richard Angst and production designer René Renoux were hired to work with credited Swiss cinematographer Tony Braun on the picture, which, at that time, was to be shot in Switzerland in Ansco Color.
       On 28 Jun 1949, John Garfield was announced as Ford's replacement and Valli, as Leigh's. Ford had reportedly accepted the part on condition that Leigh also be cast, and when Leigh's loan-out deal with M-G-M fell through, Ford backed out of the picture. Despite the loss of Leigh, Ford returned to the project the next day, but pulled out again a week later because of a salary conflict. During Ford's absence, Tone stepped down as co-producer, and Mel Ferrer was announced as Ford's possible replacement. Irving Allen was to stay on as supervising producer, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. In mid-Jul 1949, just before the film crew, led by Technicolor photographer Ray Rennahan, was to leave for France, Ford was re-signed at a salary of $125,000. Valli was to receive $75,000. In late Jun 1949, Richard Basehart was announced as a cast member, but did not appear in the completed film. Although HR stated that Valli was to be billed using her full name--Alida Valli--for the first time "in several years," her onscreen credit remained "Valli."
       Second-unit filming, which consisted of trained climbers and doubles, was done in Chamonix, just north of Mont Blanc, France, the highest peak in the Alps (15,781 feet). Principal photography was also done in the French Alps, using Eastman Mono-Pack color instead of Ansco, and at RKO-Pathé studios in Culver City, where Technicolor stock was employed. For the studio filming, a mountain set was constructed. Mountain and snow photographer Andre Roche was to do stills for the picture, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. It is not known if any of the Canadian background footage was used in the completed film. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Jun 1950.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 50
p. 4.
Film Daily
15 Jun 50
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 46
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 47
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 47
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 47
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 47
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 47
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 49
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 49
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 49
p. 1, 14
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 49
p. 1, 9
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 49
p. 1, 5
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 49
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 49
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 49
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 49
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 49
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 49
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 50
p. 3.
International Photographer
Feb 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Jun 50
p. 346.
New York Times
6 Apr 1947.
---
New York Times
3 Jul 50
p. 9.
Variety
25 Sep 1947.
---
Variety
14 Jun 50
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Assoc photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Asst cam
Asst cam
Cam tech
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The White Tower by James Ramsey Ullman (Philadelphia, 1945).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 June 1950
Production Date:
mid August--late October 1949
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 June 1950
Copyright Number:
LP211
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
98
Length(in feet):
8,804
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14115
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a Swiss Alpine village, mountain climber Carla Alten, who has just arrived from Italy, organizes a climbing party, intending to scale the nearby "White Tower" peak. Although Carla's dear friend Andreas, a veteran mountain guide, warns her that none of the local guides wants to join her party because of what happened to her and her father years before on the Tower, Carla is undaunted. Carla, whose father, a world-renowned mountaineer, died while trying to reach the top of the infamous Tower, asks American Martin Ordway to make the climb. Despite his attraction to Carla, Martin, a former bomber pilot who has been drifting since the war, declines the invitation, stating that he has no reason to go. Carla then asks English naturalist Nicholas Radcliffe, another old friend, and Paul Delambre, an alcoholic French author who has been writing a novel about the Tower, to join the group, and they both gladly accept. At Martin's urging, Carla puts aside her anti-Nazi sentiments and also asks Hein, a hearty young German, to go. That night, Paul tells his beautiful but disapproving wife Astrid that he is making the climb in order to "come alive again," but she makes no effort to understand him. Just before the group is to depart, Martin observes Carla praying fervently at her father's gravesite and, moved by the intensity of her devotion, decides to accompany her for part of the trip. Soon after starting the climb, Paul and the middle-aged Nicholas stop briefly for a rest and are criticized by Hein. Hein then dismisses Andreas' declaration that they have come to an impasse in the rock face and forges ... +


In a Swiss Alpine village, mountain climber Carla Alten, who has just arrived from Italy, organizes a climbing party, intending to scale the nearby "White Tower" peak. Although Carla's dear friend Andreas, a veteran mountain guide, warns her that none of the local guides wants to join her party because of what happened to her and her father years before on the Tower, Carla is undaunted. Carla, whose father, a world-renowned mountaineer, died while trying to reach the top of the infamous Tower, asks American Martin Ordway to make the climb. Despite his attraction to Carla, Martin, a former bomber pilot who has been drifting since the war, declines the invitation, stating that he has no reason to go. Carla then asks English naturalist Nicholas Radcliffe, another old friend, and Paul Delambre, an alcoholic French author who has been writing a novel about the Tower, to join the group, and they both gladly accept. At Martin's urging, Carla puts aside her anti-Nazi sentiments and also asks Hein, a hearty young German, to go. That night, Paul tells his beautiful but disapproving wife Astrid that he is making the climb in order to "come alive again," but she makes no effort to understand him. Just before the group is to depart, Martin observes Carla praying fervently at her father's gravesite and, moved by the intensity of her devotion, decides to accompany her for part of the trip. Soon after starting the climb, Paul and the middle-aged Nicholas stop briefly for a rest and are criticized by Hein. Hein then dismisses Andreas' declaration that they have come to an impasse in the rock face and forges ahead to the next level. While trying to climb the same difficult stretch, Nicholas almost falls, but is saved by Hein. Despite protests from Carla, who feels strongly that the group should remain together, Nicholas announces that he is turning back. Andreas insists on accompanying Nicholas for part of the way down, but Hein, who compares mountain climbing to war, refuses to wait for the guide and pushes on with Paul. Once alone with Carla, Martin confesses his love and proposes, but Carla turns him down. After Andreas finally returns, he, Carla and Martin brave a blizzard to catch up to Hein and Paul. Exhausted by the day's climb, Paul starts to drink and announces he is quitting. Hein argues with Carla about Paul, stating that he would rather go on alone than be saddled with a weakling. The next morning, Martin, disturbed by Hein's fascistic selfishness, tells Carla that he has decided to climb to the top. The group is snow and fogbound, however, and Paul is dazed and drunk. When the sky clears, Paul chooses to remain behind, but tells Carla that she must continue in order to vanquish the demons of her father's death. He then advises Martin to go with her, as the journey will help redefine his life. After Andreas instructs Paul to stay in his tent until the group returns in two days, he leaves with the others. That night, however, during another blizzard, a drunken Paul, having finally finished his novel, knocks over his tent stove and wanders into the storm, unaware that his tent has caught on fire. The next morning, Andreas leaves to check on Paul, promising to return as soon as possible. Calling the peasant guide "superstitious," Hein predicts that Andreas will not return the following day, as it is a Sunday. When Martin angrily denounces Hein as a relentless Nazi, Carla tries to quiet the American and is accused of putting the mountain before everything. Carla and Martin awaken the next day to discover Hein gone, and an infuriated Martin insists on pursuing the German alone. While Carla waits for Andreas, who finally returns, having determined that Paul is dead, the ill-equipped Martin follows Hein's snowy footprints to the mountain top. Tired and almost snowblind, Martin finally catches up to Hein, who calls him inferior and inches cockily on to a snow cliff. When Hein becomes trapped on the cliff, Martin offers his hand, which the German grudgingly accepts. Despite Martin's help, Hein falls to his death, and Martin passes out just before reaching the top. Eventually, Carla and Andreas reach Martin, and realizing that he cannot continue, Carla declares the climb over. Back in the village, Carla tends to Martin's eyes and finally agrees to marry him. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.