The Foxes of Harrow (1947)

115 or 118 mins | Drama | 24 September 1947

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HISTORY

Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library states that the studio paid author Frank Yerby $150,000 for the motion picture rights to The Foxes of Harrow , which was his first novel. A Dec 1947 Ebony article called the figure "the biggest bonanza ever pocketed by a colored writer" and stated that the book was "the first Negro-authored novel ever bought by a Hollywood studio." Yerby was quoted in the article as insisting as a condition of the purchase, "I won't stand to see any of the colored characters debased. I painted them as they were--human beings with human qualities--and if it's filmed, they must remain that way." The magazine pointed out that the film version, however, bore "little resemblance to the original story and all controversial chapters [were] completely omitted from the screen script. The Negro movie-going public will be disappointed in Foxes because the most dramatic, most significant scenes about Negroes in Yerby's book are missing in the film." Mrs. A. C. Bilbrew, who played "Tante Caleen" is the film, noted in the magazine article that the character of "Desiree," a quadroon in the book with whom "Stephen Fox" lives, in the film "is not a colored girl. Little Inch [Achille's son, who, in the book, becomes the New Orleans chief of police during Reconstruction] doesn't grow up at all." In addition, the book contains a scene involving ex-slave and abolotionist Frederick Douglass, and in general makes issues of race and slavery more prominent than they became in the film version.
       In material in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at ... More Less

Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library states that the studio paid author Frank Yerby $150,000 for the motion picture rights to The Foxes of Harrow , which was his first novel. A Dec 1947 Ebony article called the figure "the biggest bonanza ever pocketed by a colored writer" and stated that the book was "the first Negro-authored novel ever bought by a Hollywood studio." Yerby was quoted in the article as insisting as a condition of the purchase, "I won't stand to see any of the colored characters debased. I painted them as they were--human beings with human qualities--and if it's filmed, they must remain that way." The magazine pointed out that the film version, however, bore "little resemblance to the original story and all controversial chapters [were] completely omitted from the screen script. The Negro movie-going public will be disappointed in Foxes because the most dramatic, most significant scenes about Negroes in Yerby's book are missing in the film." Mrs. A. C. Bilbrew, who played "Tante Caleen" is the film, noted in the magazine article that the character of "Desiree," a quadroon in the book with whom "Stephen Fox" lives, in the film "is not a colored girl. Little Inch [Achille's son, who, in the book, becomes the New Orleans chief of police during Reconstruction] doesn't grow up at all." In addition, the book contains a scene involving ex-slave and abolotionist Frederick Douglass, and in general makes issues of race and slavery more prominent than they became in the film version.
       In material in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, conference notes of studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck account for some of the changes. After the first treatment of the story was written by Jerome Cady, Zanuck, in notes dated 26 Jul 1946, stated that the film would have to concentrate on "the personal, emotional story" of the principal characters, and that it would be "practically impossible to take a book of this magnitude and tell everything in it within the confines of a screenplay." Concerning "Desiree," and the miscegenation aspect of the novel, Zanuck stated, "The Production Code will not permit us to use her in the story as now written; the Code would permit us to use her only if it could be made perfectly clear that nothing happened between her and Stephen, and that neither he nor she ever wanted anything to happen. Under these restrictions there doesn't seem to be much point in using the girl at all." Regarding "Tante Caleen," Zanuck noted, "Inasmuch as the Johnson Office [i.e., the PCA] would not permit us to show those scenes in which Caleen now plays a dominant part, she will have to be reduced to a part of less importance in the story." At this stage, Zanuck also was planning to omit the characters of "Achille," "Sauvage" and "Little Inch," but they were ultimately kept. Bilbrew, in the Ebony article, praised as "one of the high points of the picture ... the story of the African princess Sauvage who commits suicide rather than raise a child in slavery." Var , in their review, speculated that this scene "is likely to run into difficulties in many Southern states."
       According to a document in the legal records, Cady's work was not used by Wanda Tuchock in her final screenplay. According to HR news items, Gregory Peck was originally set to play "Stephen Fox." The legal records note that Dorothy Dandridge was originally cast in the role of "Zerline," and that Jimmy Moss replaced Billy Ward in the role of "Etienne" after Ward broke his arm. HR news items also note that Martin Wilkins and Alice Leone and her dance troupe were considered for the cast, which was to include Naomi Sakmar, Arline James, Libbey Wilcott and Joseph Hayden, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. The plantation scenes were shot on location in Sherwood Forest, CA, according to HR . Ebony related that the film cost $2,750,000 to produce, and studio publicity noted that Maureen O'Hara made her singing debut in the film. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Art Direction (black-and-white) category. In Oct 1947, Fox took out an option to a sequel to be written by Yerby, but after he delivered the outline in Feb 1948, the studio decided against purchasing it. On 6 Dec 1948, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a version of the story starring O'Hara and John Hodiak. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Sep 1947.
---
Cue
4 Oct 1947.
---
Daily Variety
8 May 1946.
---
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1947.
---
Ebony
Dec 47
pp. 14-18.
Film Daily
Sep 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
May 46
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
Jun 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 47
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 47
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 47
p. 2, 4
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 47
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 47
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 47
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
11 Oct 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Sep 47
p. 3849.
New York Times
25 Sep 47
p. 35.
New Yorker
4 Oct 1947.
---
Newsweek
6 Oct 1947.
---
Variety
24 Sep 47
p. 11.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Kenneth Washington
William "Bill" Walker
Frank "Billy" Mitchell
Andre Marsaudon
Eddie Le Baron
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to dial
Contr to dial
Contr to dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward dir
Fitter
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orch arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Vocal coach
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv for fencing
Tech adv for jiu-jitsu
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby (New York, 1946).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Pauv' Piti Mom'zelle Zizi" and "Musieu Bainjo," Creole folk songs
"Rye Whiskey," American folk song
"Erzilee," Voodoo chant, composed by Jester Hairston
+
SONGS
"Pauv' Piti Mom'zelle Zizi" and "Musieu Bainjo," Creole folk songs
"Rye Whiskey," American folk song
"Erzilee," Voodoo chant, composed by Jester Hairston
"Wade in the Water" and "Soon--A Will Be Done," Black spirituals.
+
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 September 1947
Production Date:
mid April--18 July 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 October 1947
Copyright Number:
LP1437
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
115 or 118
Length(in feet):
10,611 , 10,672
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12357
SYNOPSIS

In Ireland, in 1795, the master of the House of Harrow orders his servants, Sean and Sara Fox, to rear his daughter's illegitimate baby. The Foxes are paid well, and although the master admonishes Sean to mold the boy into a humble man, the grieving mother begs Sara to give him enough strength to leave Ireland. By 1827, Stephen, the Foxes' son, has grown into a charismatic man who lives by his wits as a gambler in America. Stephen's good looks intrigue Odalie D'Arceneaux, an aristocratic Creole, although she is shocked to learn that he has been accused of cheating at cards and is being cast off their riverboat onto a Mississippi River sandbar. Stephen connives his way off the sandbar onto the pigboat of the boisterous Mike Farrell, who takes him to New Orleans. There, Stephen befriends Andre, another upper-class Creole, who tells him of a charity ball being hosted by Odalie, her sister Aurore and their father, the Vicomte D'Arceneaux. Stephen again fascinates Odalie by donating one thousand dollars to her charity and then partnering Aurore when Odalie refuses his request for a dance. Later, Andre takes Stephen to La Bourse de Maspero , a combination slave market, stock market, gambling hall and restaurant. Stephen joins a blackjack game led by Otto Ludenbach, a German-American scoundrel who starved his family and slaves to acquire his rich plantation. Stephen wins the plantation from Ludenbach, then challenges him to a duel when he makes an insulting reference to Odalie. Ludenbach fires prematurely, wounding Stephen, but Stephen succeeds in killing him. Upon hearing of the duel, ... +


In Ireland, in 1795, the master of the House of Harrow orders his servants, Sean and Sara Fox, to rear his daughter's illegitimate baby. The Foxes are paid well, and although the master admonishes Sean to mold the boy into a humble man, the grieving mother begs Sara to give him enough strength to leave Ireland. By 1827, Stephen, the Foxes' son, has grown into a charismatic man who lives by his wits as a gambler in America. Stephen's good looks intrigue Odalie D'Arceneaux, an aristocratic Creole, although she is shocked to learn that he has been accused of cheating at cards and is being cast off their riverboat onto a Mississippi River sandbar. Stephen connives his way off the sandbar onto the pigboat of the boisterous Mike Farrell, who takes him to New Orleans. There, Stephen befriends Andre, another upper-class Creole, who tells him of a charity ball being hosted by Odalie, her sister Aurore and their father, the Vicomte D'Arceneaux. Stephen again fascinates Odalie by donating one thousand dollars to her charity and then partnering Aurore when Odalie refuses his request for a dance. Later, Andre takes Stephen to La Bourse de Maspero , a combination slave market, stock market, gambling hall and restaurant. Stephen joins a blackjack game led by Otto Ludenbach, a German-American scoundrel who starved his family and slaves to acquire his rich plantation. Stephen wins the plantation from Ludenbach, then challenges him to a duel when he makes an insulting reference to Odalie. Ludenbach fires prematurely, wounding Stephen, but Stephen succeeds in killing him. Upon hearing of the duel, Odalie is furious that Stephen has linked his name to hers, but softens when she learns that he has given the grateful widow money to start a new life. Soon Stephen is hard at work improving the plantation, which he renames "Harrow," and astutely building a financial empire. Stephen continues to work while Odalie visits Paris for a year, and upon her return, he invites her family to the grand opening of Harrow. At the celebration, Odalie is anxious about Stephen's possessiveness, but when he describes his humble birth and confesses that he built Harrow for her, she tells her father that she will marry Stephen. On their wedding night, Stephen and Odalie's passionate kiss is interrupted by the well wishes of a noisy group led by Farrell. Odalie refuses to acknowledge them, and so Stephen goes to drink with his friends. When he returns, Stephen finds the bedroom door locked and breaks it down. The next morning, distressed about the violent beginning of their marriage, Odalie declares that she will wear Stephen's jewels and preside at his table, but nothing more. Although he loves her, Stephen's own pride prevents him from pressing Odalie for her forgiveness, and he loses himself in gambling, drinking and hard work. One night, Stephen comes home to find Odalie watching a voodoo ceremony conducted by the slaves to ensure the safe birth of her son. Overjoyed that Odalie is pregnant, Stephen bears her continued coldness. When the child is due, the slave Achille comes to Stephen with the news that his wife, La Belle Sauvage , a proud slave newly arrived from Africa, has also given birth to a son. Stephen wants the boy to be his son's personal attendant, but Belle asserts that her son is a prince, not a slave, and attempts to drown him rather than subject him to a life of servitude. Stephen and Achille save the baby but Belle perishes in the river. Back at the house, Stephen and Odalie admire their new son, Etienne, although Stephen reacts angrily when the doctor states that the boy may grow up with a limp due to a turned-in foot. Later, on Etienne's third birthday, Odalie admires Stephen's plans for the boy's secure financial future, but over the next few years, worries as Stephen teaches the youngster fencing and horseback jumping. One night, she and Stephen have a heated argument over the rearing of Etienne, and when the lad hears them, he rushes down the stairs and falls. Etienne dies that night, and the grief-stricken Stephen yells at the assembled slaves, telling them that Harrow itself has died. Later, the economic crisis that Stephen had predicted strikes, and although Stephen succeeds in saving a few of his friends by buying their worthless stocks, he is destroyed financially. Determined to save Harrow, Odalie decides to strip the house of its furnishings and sell her jewels. She goes to talk to Stephen at the house of his mistress Desiree, but when she tells him of her plan and her wish to have another child with him, he states that he no longer wants her or Harrow. Odalie then returns to Harrow, but there finds that the furnishings and jewelry were not enough, and that the sugarcane must be harvested and sold immediately. As a storm approaches, the slaves hide in the fields and listen to the voodoo drums, which say that Stephen is dead. Odalie tries to convince the slaves to work but they refuse. Despairing, she goes to the house but then sees that Stephen has returned and is organizing the workers. After the storm has passed and the crop has been gathered, Odalie finds Stephen at Etienne's grave and tearfully embraces him when he declares that at least the ground in which Etienne lies will always be his. +

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

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