Secret Beyond the Door (1948)

91 or 98-99 mins | Melodrama | January 1948

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writer:

Silvia Richards

Producer:

Fritz Lang

Cinematographer:

Stanley Cortez

Editor:

Arthur Hilton

Production Designer:

Max Parker

Production Company:

Diana Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

Rufus King's novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen , upon which the film was based, also appeared in the Dec 1945 issue of Red Book magazine under the title The Secret Beyond the Door . The film opens with a voice-over narration spoken by Joan Bennett. Contemporary sources indicate that British actor Michael Redgrave made his U.S. film debut in the picture, although RKO's production of Mourning Becomes Electra (see above), which Redgrave filmed immediately afterward, was released just prior to Secret Beyond the Door . According to contemporary sources, director Fritz Lang wanted Milton Krasner as director of photography, but Bennett, a partner with Lang and producer Walter Wanger in Diana Productions, insisted that Stanley Cortez be used. Contemporary sources reveal Lang's first choice for Mark Lamphere was James Mason. In addition, modern sources note that Ring Larder, Jr. was initially considered as the film's screenwriter and that the final script, by Silvia Richards and Lang (uncredited), took nearly a year to complete.
       As a result of the formation of Universal-International in the summer of 1946, executives Leo Spitz and William Goetz were put in charge of studio production, a fact that significantly influenced post-production of this film. After what contemporary sources indicate were "disastrous previews" of Secret Beyond the Door , Goetz took over the film and made cuts (as much as seventeen minutes worth) and had Bennett dub the entire voice-over track, which was originally recorded by actress Colleen Collins. Lang had no part in the re-editing and modern sources disclose that Lang attempted to take legal action against Bennett, as a partner in Diana ... More Less

Rufus King's novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen , upon which the film was based, also appeared in the Dec 1945 issue of Red Book magazine under the title The Secret Beyond the Door . The film opens with a voice-over narration spoken by Joan Bennett. Contemporary sources indicate that British actor Michael Redgrave made his U.S. film debut in the picture, although RKO's production of Mourning Becomes Electra (see above), which Redgrave filmed immediately afterward, was released just prior to Secret Beyond the Door . According to contemporary sources, director Fritz Lang wanted Milton Krasner as director of photography, but Bennett, a partner with Lang and producer Walter Wanger in Diana Productions, insisted that Stanley Cortez be used. Contemporary sources reveal Lang's first choice for Mark Lamphere was James Mason. In addition, modern sources note that Ring Larder, Jr. was initially considered as the film's screenwriter and that the final script, by Silvia Richards and Lang (uncredited), took nearly a year to complete.
       As a result of the formation of Universal-International in the summer of 1946, executives Leo Spitz and William Goetz were put in charge of studio production, a fact that significantly influenced post-production of this film. After what contemporary sources indicate were "disastrous previews" of Secret Beyond the Door , Goetz took over the film and made cuts (as much as seventeen minutes worth) and had Bennett dub the entire voice-over track, which was originally recorded by actress Colleen Collins. Lang had no part in the re-editing and modern sources disclose that Lang attempted to take legal action against Bennett, as a partner in Diana Productions, for dubbing the voice-over. According to a HR news item, Lang appealed to the Screen Director's Guild regarding the changes and cuts and their executive committee ruled that recutting rights did not extend to adding new scenes or narration shot by other directors, especially when the new material replaced scenes for arbitrary reasons. The news item mentioned that the matter of these eliminations was settled to Lang's satisfaction, but did not reveal any details.
       Files at the USC Cinema-Television Library note that animator Walter Lantz was originally assigned to do the film's opening dream sequence. Later the sequence was given to abstract visual artist and animator Oskar Fischinger, but his tests were considered unsatisfactory and work was eventually produced entirely by the Walt Disney studios. Secret Beyond the Door was Diana Productions' final film. According to HR , the film lost almost its entire production cost of $1.5 million. In 1953, Bank of America foreclosed mortgages on ten independently produced pictures on which money was still owed, one of which was Secret Beyond the Door . More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Jan 1948.
---
Film Daily
13 Jan 48
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 47
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 47
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Jan 48
p. 4009.
New York Times
16 Jan 48
p. 25.
Variety
31 Dec 48
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
ANIMATION
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen by Rufus King (New York, 1946).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1948
Production Date:
early February--mid April-1947
Copyright Claimant:
Diana Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 March 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1656
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91 or 98-99
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12621
SYNOPSIS

On her wedding day, Celia Barrett reflects upon the events that brought about her hasty marriage: When Celia's older brother Rick dies, she is left a large trust fund which the family lawyer, Bob Dwight, manages. Although Bob is romantically interested in Celia, she decides to go to Mexico with her friend, Edith Potter. One afternoon Celia and Edith witness a knife fight between two men over a woman. Celia is enthralled with the scene and attracts the attention of an American architect, Mark Lamphere. They find themselves drawn to each other and within days are preparing to marry. After the wedding, Mark tells Celia about his work managing an architectural journal and his fascination with reproducing in exact detail rooms in which brutal murders were committed. The couple's honeymoon is abruptly interrupted when Mark tells Celia he has received a telegram summoning him back to New York City. Mark asks Celia to go ahead to his family estate in Lavender Falls, where he will meet her later. That night the maid disconcerts Celia by telling her Mark received no telegram. Puzzled, Celia nevertheless proceeds to her new home, where she is met not by Mark, but by his sister, Caroline "Carey" Lamphere, who informs her that Mark has been delayed. Once at the house, Celia is shocked to discover Mark has a young teenage son, David. Carey introduces Celia to Mark's secretary, Miss Robey, who wears a scarf to cover the side of her face that was burned years before when she rescued David from a mysterious fire. When Celia meets Mark at the train station, ... +


On her wedding day, Celia Barrett reflects upon the events that brought about her hasty marriage: When Celia's older brother Rick dies, she is left a large trust fund which the family lawyer, Bob Dwight, manages. Although Bob is romantically interested in Celia, she decides to go to Mexico with her friend, Edith Potter. One afternoon Celia and Edith witness a knife fight between two men over a woman. Celia is enthralled with the scene and attracts the attention of an American architect, Mark Lamphere. They find themselves drawn to each other and within days are preparing to marry. After the wedding, Mark tells Celia about his work managing an architectural journal and his fascination with reproducing in exact detail rooms in which brutal murders were committed. The couple's honeymoon is abruptly interrupted when Mark tells Celia he has received a telegram summoning him back to New York City. Mark asks Celia to go ahead to his family estate in Lavender Falls, where he will meet her later. That night the maid disconcerts Celia by telling her Mark received no telegram. Puzzled, Celia nevertheless proceeds to her new home, where she is met not by Mark, but by his sister, Caroline "Carey" Lamphere, who informs her that Mark has been delayed. Once at the house, Celia is shocked to discover Mark has a young teenage son, David. Carey introduces Celia to Mark's secretary, Miss Robey, who wears a scarf to cover the side of her face that was burned years before when she rescued David from a mysterious fire. When Celia meets Mark at the train station, he reacts oddly to her lilac corsage. Later he tells Celia he is worried about money, as his journal is failing. During a large party thrown by the Lampheres, Bob tells Celia he believes that Mark may have married her for her money. Mark then takes the guests through his recreated rooms, which feature shocking murders of wives by their husbands, and Celia is mystified when he angrily refuses to show her the last room, which remains locked. A few days later Celia breaks up an argument between Mark and David. David later tells her not to interfere, as he will never get along with Mark, who he believes murdered his mother. When Celia asks Mark how his first wife died, he refuses to tell her and grows detached and cold. Determined to get into the locked room, Celia searches for the key in Mark's workroom, where she discovers Miss Robey without her scarf and with no sign of a scar. Miss Robey admits she had the scar removed years earlier, but feared being fired by Mark, who knew she was in love with him, if he realized she was no longer disfigured. Later, Celia finds the key to the locked room and makes a wax impression of it and has a copy made. When Celia enters the mysterious room she realizes it is an exact replica of her own bedroom, and is certain Mark means to murder her. She tries to run away, but returns the next morning determined to help her husband. Mark, meanwhile, fires Miss Robey and Carey decides to move into town. Shortly thereafter, when David has left for school and Celia and Mark are alone, Celia goes to the locked room and awaits Mark, who soon arrives, set upon killing her. Celia forces him to recollect a series of traumatic events from his childhood that have led him to this mental breakdown. As Mark comes to the realization he is not a murderer, the two find that the house is on fire, having been set ablaze by a jealous Miss Robey. Mark and Celia just manage to escape and, freed of their suspicions of each other, determine to start a new life together. +

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

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