The Sisters (1938)

95 or 99 mins | Drama | 14 October 1938

Director:

Anatole Litvak

Writer:

Milton Krims

Cinematographer:

Tony Gaudio

Editor:

Warren Low

Production Designer:

Carl Jules Weyl

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

As the film opens, the first page of Myron Brinig's novel is shown onscreen for several seconds, enabling the audience to read part of the page that sets the time and place of the story and introduces the main characters. At several other points within the film, and at the end, the device is used again to establish the passage of time, as well as changes within the characters' lives.
       According to the Warner Bros. production files, director William Dieterle turned down the film, Irene Dunne was the studio's first choice to play Louise, and Fredric March was approached to play Frank. Two endings were shot for the film: in one, Louise marries her boss, William Benson (the novel's ending), and in the other, Louise and Frank are reconciled. Preview audiences preferred the second ending, according to the files.
HR noted that Warner Bros. built $200,000 worth of special sets to be razed and burned during the filming of the San Francisco earthquake scene. In addition, HR claimed that three weeks were required to film the sequence. The film used stock footage from Warner Bros. 1927 film Old San Francisco (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). Modern sources indicate that the property was originally purchased for Kay Francis, that Ginger Rogers was considered for the lead, and that Franchot Tone and George Brent were also suggested as stars. Another film made during the 1930s in which the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was featured prominently was the 1936 M-G-M production San Francisco , directed by W. S. Van Dyke, and starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and ... More Less

As the film opens, the first page of Myron Brinig's novel is shown onscreen for several seconds, enabling the audience to read part of the page that sets the time and place of the story and introduces the main characters. At several other points within the film, and at the end, the device is used again to establish the passage of time, as well as changes within the characters' lives.
       According to the Warner Bros. production files, director William Dieterle turned down the film, Irene Dunne was the studio's first choice to play Louise, and Fredric March was approached to play Frank. Two endings were shot for the film: in one, Louise marries her boss, William Benson (the novel's ending), and in the other, Louise and Frank are reconciled. Preview audiences preferred the second ending, according to the files.
HR noted that Warner Bros. built $200,000 worth of special sets to be razed and burned during the filming of the San Francisco earthquake scene. In addition, HR claimed that three weeks were required to film the sequence. The film used stock footage from Warner Bros. 1927 film Old San Francisco (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). Modern sources indicate that the property was originally purchased for Kay Francis, that Ginger Rogers was considered for the lead, and that Franchot Tone and George Brent were also suggested as stars. Another film made during the 1930s in which the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was featured prominently was the 1936 M-G-M production San Francisco , directed by W. S. Van Dyke, and starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeanette MacDonald. (see above). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Oct 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Jun 38
p. 11.
Film Daily
10 Oct 38
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 38
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
4 Oct 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
2 Jul 38
p. 29.
Motion Picture Herald
8 Oct 38
p. 40.
New York Times
15 Oct 38
p. 21.
Variety
5 Oct 38
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Anatole Litvak Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Sisters by Myron Brinig (New York, 1937).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 October 1938
Production Date:
6 June--early August 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 August 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8352
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95 or 99
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4407
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On presidential election night in 1904, Louise, Helen and Grace Elliot, daughters of Silver Bow, Montana pharmacist Ned Elliott, excitedly prepare for the town’s ball. Serious Louise, the eldest, plans to marry as soon as Tom Knival, a stodgy but stable young man, asks her. Helen, the prettiest of the sisters, yearns for the romance and excitement of life beyond Silver Bow, and Grace, the youngest, secretly wants Tom. At the ball, as Theodore Roosevelt’s election is announced, Tom is about to ask Louise to marry him when Frank Medlin, a restless young sports reporter visiting from San Francisco, asks her to dance. The two fall in love at first sight, and stay out late, to the displeasure of Louise’s parents. Frank extends his stay for several days, and at Sunday dinner with the Elliotts, impulsively announces that he and Louise are going to be married. Despite her family’s disapproval, Louise and Frank elope to San Francisco that night. Soon Grace marries Tom, to whom she is well suited, and gives birth to a son. Helen also marries, after the wealthy Sam Johnson, father of Helen’s friend Stella, proposes, promising to let her go anywhere she wants and not demand love in return. As the months pass, life for Frank and Louise is difficult. Although Louise does not complain about their finances, and encourages Frank to write the novel he has dreamed of, he becomes restless, chafing at his loss of freedom. On the night that Louise plans to tell Frank she is going to have a baby, he comes home drunk and lashes out at her. The next ... +


On presidential election night in 1904, Louise, Helen and Grace Elliot, daughters of Silver Bow, Montana pharmacist Ned Elliott, excitedly prepare for the town’s ball. Serious Louise, the eldest, plans to marry as soon as Tom Knival, a stodgy but stable young man, asks her. Helen, the prettiest of the sisters, yearns for the romance and excitement of life beyond Silver Bow, and Grace, the youngest, secretly wants Tom. At the ball, as Theodore Roosevelt’s election is announced, Tom is about to ask Louise to marry him when Frank Medlin, a restless young sports reporter visiting from San Francisco, asks her to dance. The two fall in love at first sight, and stay out late, to the displeasure of Louise’s parents. Frank extends his stay for several days, and at Sunday dinner with the Elliotts, impulsively announces that he and Louise are going to be married. Despite her family’s disapproval, Louise and Frank elope to San Francisco that night. Soon Grace marries Tom, to whom she is well suited, and gives birth to a son. Helen also marries, after the wealthy Sam Johnson, father of Helen’s friend Stella, proposes, promising to let her go anywhere she wants and not demand love in return. As the months pass, life for Frank and Louise is difficult. Although Louise does not complain about their finances, and encourages Frank to write the novel he has dreamed of, he becomes restless, chafing at his loss of freedom. On the night that Louise plans to tell Frank she is going to have a baby, he comes home drunk and lashes out at her. The next morning, guilt and his love for Louise make him stop drinking and start to work hard, but Louise keeps her pregnancy a secret. Several weeks later, when Louise accompanies Frank on an assignment to cover a boxing match, the smoke and smells of the arena make her ill, forcing her to leave. When Frank goes to her, she tells him about the baby. Delighted, Frank promises to work ever harder and wants to accompany her home, but she insists that he stay to finish his assignment. Climbing several stories to their apartment, Louise collapses and has a miscarriage. Frank is shattered and blames himself. Months later, on Christmas Eve, Frank, who has been drinking heavily, is angry when his friend and fellow sportswriter, Tim Hazelton, criticizes part of Frank’s book. Depressed because doctors’ bills are overwhelming him and he cannot afford to buy Louise a Christmas gift, Frank goes to his editor and demands a raise. Because of Frank’s belligerence, his editor angrily fires him, saying that he is drinking too much and his work is no longer good. Later, at home, Louise surprises Frank with a Christmas tree, furthering his feelings of inadequacy. Louise is understanding when Frank confesses that he was fired, but when she tells him that she has found a job at Benson’s department store, his pride is hurt. He forbids her to work, which precipitates a bitter argument that ends when he leaves to get drunk. As the months pass, Frank is unable to find work, while Louise is thriving at her job as secretary to store owner William Benson. In a final attempt to save their love, Louise promises to quit her job, and Frank goes from newspaper to newspaper trying, without success, to find work. Later, Tim finds Frank in a saloon and tells him that he must leave San Francisco and get a fresh start, but when Frank later listens to sailors exchanging stories about life at sea, he decides to hire on to a ship bound for Singapore. That afternoon, Frank goes to see Louise and asks Benson, whom Frank senses is in love with Louise, to take her out for a celebratory dinner after work that night. When Louise arrives home, there is a note from Frank, stating that he is sailing at midnight because their love is dying, and it is his fault. Louise rushes to stop Frank, but a policeman who misunderstands why she is roaming the docks arrests her. By the time Louise is released, it is two in the morning. A few hours later, a tremendous earthquake shakes San Francisco, destroying her apartment. Her friend Flora, a floozy who lives across the hall, goes to her during the quake, then gives Louise her mother’s address in Oakland, and invites her to stay. As news of the earthquake is telegraphed around the world, and there is no word from Louise, Ned travels to San Francisco to find her. Louise does not want to leave her apartment, but soldiers force her to evacuate so that they can dynamite her street in an effort to stop the fires raging through the city. Exhausted and feverish, Louise makes her way to Oakland, where Flora and her mother, a kindly madam, take care of her. Meanwhile, when Frank’s ship receives a wireless message about the quake, he becomes hysterical and tries to jump overboard after the captain refuses to heed the maritime order to return to San Francisco. Days later, Benson discovers where Louise is, and, with Ned, takes her back to San Francisco. Within two years, Benson’s department store, like most of San Francisco, has been rebuilt. Louise now has her own secretary, and is a confident of Benson. When Louise receives word from Grace that Tom has been unfaithful with Mrs. Taylor, a notorious woman in town, Louise returns for a visit Silver Bow, and wires Helen to return as well. Back home, Louise convinces Grace to give Tom another chance. Then, with her sisters, convinces other men who have had liaisons with Mrs. Taylor, to force the woman to leave town. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Tim, who has received a letter from Frank revealing that he had not found what he was looking for, meets him when his ship docks. Weak and ill, Frank goes with Tim to Benson’s to see Louise. Learning that she has gone to Silver Bow, Frank and Tim decide to follow her. Benson also travels to Silver Bow, arriving before them. It is now election night, 1908, and the Elliotts again prepare for the election night ball. Helen’s new fiancé, Englishman Anthony Bittick, joins them, as does Tom, Helen and Benson. At the ball, Frank, who is sober but weak, watches Louise from the mezzanine and asks Tim to go to her first. He does, and when Frank overhears Louise tell Tim that if Frank ever returned she would love him on his terms, Frank, chastened, goes to her and they pledge to begin again. +

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.