The Medium (1951)

82 or 84-85 mins | Performance | 1951

Director:

Gian-Carlo Menotti

Producer:

Walter Lowendahl

Cinematographer:

Enzo Serafin

Production Designer:

Georges Wakhevitch

Production Company:

Transfilm Productions
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HISTORY

Following the1946 premiere of The Medium at Columbia University, a Broadway production had its premiere on 1 May, 1947. According to a 17 Mar 1950 HR article, producers Walter Lowendahl and Milton Perlman originally purchased the film rights to The Medium in 1950. A 21 Mar 1951 Var article states that the film was financed in part by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Lowendahl, Pearlman, Evan Frankel and Norman Schurr. According to a 5 Nov 1950 NYT article, The Medium , which was filmed in Rome, was the first American film to be financed in much the same way as a Broadway play: as a limited partnership among approximately 40 persons.
       Actors Marie Powers, Leo Coleman, Beverly Dame, Belva Kibler and Donald Morgan all appeared in the Broadway production of the opera. According to the Mar 1951 Var article, the film’s producers decided to book the film for early dates and delay a distribution arrangement. Subsequent to that, according to a 15 Oct 1951 HR article, Lopert Films, Inc. acquired the United States distribution rights.
       The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score of a Musical, but lost to Alfred Newman’s “With a Song in My Heart.” In 1952 the film won a unique award, one never given before at Cannes Film Festival, the “Prix du Film Lyrique.” Italian-born contralto Anna Maria Alberghetti made her screen debut in The Medium . According to modern sources, The Medium is the only film ever made by a major opera composer of his own opera. The same source also noted that Menotti added ... More Less

Following the1946 premiere of The Medium at Columbia University, a Broadway production had its premiere on 1 May, 1947. According to a 17 Mar 1950 HR article, producers Walter Lowendahl and Milton Perlman originally purchased the film rights to The Medium in 1950. A 21 Mar 1951 Var article states that the film was financed in part by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Lowendahl, Pearlman, Evan Frankel and Norman Schurr. According to a 5 Nov 1950 NYT article, The Medium , which was filmed in Rome, was the first American film to be financed in much the same way as a Broadway play: as a limited partnership among approximately 40 persons.
       Actors Marie Powers, Leo Coleman, Beverly Dame, Belva Kibler and Donald Morgan all appeared in the Broadway production of the opera. According to the Mar 1951 Var article, the film’s producers decided to book the film for early dates and delay a distribution arrangement. Subsequent to that, according to a 15 Oct 1951 HR article, Lopert Films, Inc. acquired the United States distribution rights.
       The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score of a Musical, but lost to Alfred Newman’s “With a Song in My Heart.” In 1952 the film won a unique award, one never given before at Cannes Film Festival, the “Prix du Film Lyrique.” Italian-born contralto Anna Maria Alberghetti made her screen debut in The Medium . According to modern sources, The Medium is the only film ever made by a major opera composer of his own opera. The same source also noted that Menotti added and rearranged twenty minutes of music and action from the original opera for the film version. The Medium was Menotti’s only film.
       Television adaptations of the opera, both in the United States and several European countries, include the 1948 CBS version directed by Paul Nickell and starring Marie Powers; a 1953 production by director Carl Ebert for BBC; a CBC production in Canada and a 1981 production directed by Menotti for RAI in Italy.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Sep 1951.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
1 Jan 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1952.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
19 Jan 1952.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
19 Jan 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald
15 Sep 1951.
---
New York Times
5 Nov 1950.
---
New York Times
5 Sep 1951
p. 41.
New Yorker
1 Sep 1951.
---
Newsweek
17 Sep 1951.
---
Saturday Review
8 Sep 1951.
---
The Exhibitor
26 Sep 1951
p. 3166.
Time
24 Sep 1951.
---
Variety
25 Oct 1950.
---
Variety
21 Mar 1951.
---
Variety
12 Sep 1951.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Evan M. Frankel
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Assoc dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Asst. prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed asst
COSTUMES
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
DETAILS
Release Date:
1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 September 1951
Los Angeles opening: 18 January 1952
Production Date:
began 1950 at Scalera Film Studios, Rome
Copyright Claimant:
Walter Lowendahl Productions
Copyright Date:
5 September 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1368
Physical Properties:
Sound
recorded at Studios of RAI-Radio Italiana Reeves-Fairchild Sound Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82 or 84-85
Length(in feet):
7,396
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a poor section of an old European city, fraudulent clairvoyant Madame Flora runs a business in contacting the spirits with the help of her teenage daughter Monica and her assistant, a mute gypsy boy named Toby. When Flora returns home one day to find Monica and Toby playing instead of preparing for that evening’s séance, she heatedly berates them. Although Monica objects to her mother’s deceptive practices, Flora ignores her and prepares for the séance. Flora’s gullible clients, Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau, arrive soon after and explain to a new client, Mrs. Nolan, that they have been coming to Flora for years to communicate with their dead infant Mickey. Mrs. Nolan then shares her hopes of speaking with her deceased daughter Doodly. Once the séance begins, Monica, disguised by a veil, poses as Doodly’s ghost and sings to Mrs. Nolan, counseling her to burn her daughter’s things and save only the gold locket. Although Mrs. Nolan is entranced by her daughter’s presence, she argues that there is not a gold locket. When Mrs. Nolan is interrupted by Mickey’s giggling voice, the Gobineaus console themselves that Mickey is happier in the afterlife. From inside a small closet, Toby controls the apparitions, using pulleys to move the table and instruments to create mysterious sounds. Frustrated by Flora’s earlier wrath, Toby, still hidden behind the curtain, pretends to strangle her with his hands. Simultaneously, Flora feels male hands clutching at her throat and she jumps from her seat in fear. When Flora asks her clients if they saw anyone else in the room, they fail to comprehend her genuine terror. After Flora ushers them out, she turns her suspicions towards Toby, ... +


In a poor section of an old European city, fraudulent clairvoyant Madame Flora runs a business in contacting the spirits with the help of her teenage daughter Monica and her assistant, a mute gypsy boy named Toby. When Flora returns home one day to find Monica and Toby playing instead of preparing for that evening’s séance, she heatedly berates them. Although Monica objects to her mother’s deceptive practices, Flora ignores her and prepares for the séance. Flora’s gullible clients, Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau, arrive soon after and explain to a new client, Mrs. Nolan, that they have been coming to Flora for years to communicate with their dead infant Mickey. Mrs. Nolan then shares her hopes of speaking with her deceased daughter Doodly. Once the séance begins, Monica, disguised by a veil, poses as Doodly’s ghost and sings to Mrs. Nolan, counseling her to burn her daughter’s things and save only the gold locket. Although Mrs. Nolan is entranced by her daughter’s presence, she argues that there is not a gold locket. When Mrs. Nolan is interrupted by Mickey’s giggling voice, the Gobineaus console themselves that Mickey is happier in the afterlife. From inside a small closet, Toby controls the apparitions, using pulleys to move the table and instruments to create mysterious sounds. Frustrated by Flora’s earlier wrath, Toby, still hidden behind the curtain, pretends to strangle her with his hands. Simultaneously, Flora feels male hands clutching at her throat and she jumps from her seat in fear. When Flora asks her clients if they saw anyone else in the room, they fail to comprehend her genuine terror. After Flora ushers them out, she turns her suspicions towards Toby, but Monica defends the feebleminded boy. The following morning Flora arrives at Mrs. Nolan’s apartment to question her about the occurrences of the preceding night, but Mrs. Nolan can only speak of Doodly and shows Flora the gold locket she found in her daughter’s bedroom. Flora confronted by the existence of the locket, becomes increasingly fearful and yells at Mrs. Nolan never to return to her house. That night while Flora seeks refuge from her fears and hallucinations by drinking at the local tavern, Toby and Monica sneak out of the apartment and wander through a street carnival. When Monica wanders away to look at vendors' wares, Toby is taunted by talking parrots and midgets. After Monica finds the frightened Toby and they begin their journey home. Along the way, they encounter Flora half-conscious dragging herself up some cobblestone steps. Monica helps her mother home, and once inside, Flora hears Doodly’s voice and accuses Toby of creating the apparitions. When Flora attacks Toby, Monica pulls her mother away from the boy. Much later, Flora looks in on the sleeping Toby and resumes her interrogation, dripping hot candle tallow on his eyelids when Toby feigns being asleep. Monica again steps in to rescue Toby. The next day Flora wanders through the park and imagines seeing the Gobineaus grieving for their child. Meanwhile, Toby and Monica play a fairytale game of love and pursuit, running and skipping through the apartment. Flora returns and insists that she loves Toby as her own child. When he is unable to answer Flora’s questions about who touched her during the séance, however, Flora whips the boy mercilessly. After she is interrupted by Mrs. Nolan and the Gobineaus, Flora reveals that the séances were a hoax, shows them the mechanics of the drums and bells, and orders her daughter to sing the haunting sounds that represented their departed children. Despite her confession, the clients insist on another séance and she orders them from the apartment and then tells Toby to leave as well. After Toby flees, Monica, having fallen in love with him, calls to him from her bedroom window. While climbing up the side of the building, Toby watches from outside a window as Flora begs for mercy from the hallucinations that terrorize her. When she finally passes out from drinking, Toby enters and hides in his closet. Hearing the rustle, Flora awakens from her stupor and pulls out a gun to protect herself from the intruder. When she turns and sees the closet curtain move, she fires at the closet and Toby falls out from behind the curtain, dead. Monica races from her room and, upon seeing Toby’s body, runs from the apartment calling for help. Flora bends over the dead body and asks once again, “Was it you?” +

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.