This Above All (1942)

110 or 118 mins | Romance | 24 July 1942

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HISTORY

The title of the picture and Knight's novel is derived from a soliloquy delivered by "Polonius" in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet : "This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man." According to a Feb 1941 HR news item, three major studios, including Paramount and Twentieth Century-Fox, joined in a bidding war for the film rights to Eric Knight's best-selling novel This Above All . By Jul 1941, according to LAT , Fox had secured the rights to the story for just over $100,000. (A HR news item listed the sale at $35,000, however.) Treatment drafts and story conference notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library indicate that Fox, vacillated as to whether to keep "Clive" alive or have him die at the end. In the final film, "Clive's" fate was left ambiguous, just as it had been in the novel.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, an early version of the script submitted to the PCA was found to be in violation of the Production Code on grounds that it was a "story of illicit sex without the compensating moral values required by the Production Code." In a letter to Fox, the PCA noted that the story did not present the "correct standards of life" regarding the depiction of two unmarried people "going away for a week, for immoral purposes." In defense of the story, Fox alluded to two earlier ... More Less

The title of the picture and Knight's novel is derived from a soliloquy delivered by "Polonius" in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet : "This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man." According to a Feb 1941 HR news item, three major studios, including Paramount and Twentieth Century-Fox, joined in a bidding war for the film rights to Eric Knight's best-selling novel This Above All . By Jul 1941, according to LAT , Fox had secured the rights to the story for just over $100,000. (A HR news item listed the sale at $35,000, however.) Treatment drafts and story conference notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library indicate that Fox, vacillated as to whether to keep "Clive" alive or have him die at the end. In the final film, "Clive's" fate was left ambiguous, just as it had been in the novel.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, an early version of the script submitted to the PCA was found to be in violation of the Production Code on grounds that it was a "story of illicit sex without the compensating moral values required by the Production Code." In a letter to Fox, the PCA noted that the story did not present the "correct standards of life" regarding the depiction of two unmarried people "going away for a week, for immoral purposes." In defense of the story, Fox alluded to two earlier films with similar subject matter, Farewell to Arms (Paramount, 1932) and The Old Maid (Warner Bros., 1939), which had been approved by the Hays office. According to a PCA memorandum dated 7 Nov 1941, the agency was unconvinced by the studio's argument, and offered specific suggestions as to how to change the script to meet the requirements of the Code. On 10 Nov 1941, Zanuck composed a four-page reply to the PCA, in which he accused the agency of ignoring the submitted script and instead basing its opinion on Knight's novel and the first draft of the script. Zanuck also pointed out that Fox had eliminated from the story the illegitimate pregnancy and the illicit love affair.
       In early Mar 1942, after submitting another revised version of the script, Fox was informed that the new script also did not meet the provisions of the Production Code. The PCA then suggested specific changes that would make the script acceptable, including the addition of a scene that would clearly indicate that "Prue's action in going off for a weekend with Clive was not the right or acceptable thing to do." Choosing not to appeal the PCA's decision, Fox revised the script and won the PCA's approval. The Var and other contemporary reviews called attention to the changes Fox made in adapting the novel to film, especially the "toning down" of the love affair between the protagonists. In the film, one sequence specifically shows that the couple occupied separate rooms at their hotel.
       A Jul 1941 HR news item notes that production was to begin in Shepherd's Bush, England, in late Sep 1941 under the supervision of Robert Kane. In Aug 1941, a HR news item stated that Zanuck would be leaving for England to personally supervise the production, and that film editor Otho Lovering would be accompanying Zanuck, Kane and screenwriter R. C. Sheriff. Lovering was replaced by Walter Thompson by the time production on the film began. A mid-Sep 1941 HR news item noted that Fox planned to spend a total of $6,500,000 on six films scheduled for shooting at Shepherd's Bush, and that This Above All was set to receive the largest share of that money. By late Sep, 1941 however, contemporary news items reported that plans to shoot the film in England had been canceled, presumably because of the war, and that Zanuck had taken over supervision of the production from Kane, whose new assignment was to film only background footage in England. In addition to delays caused by the change in location, Fox, according to HR , postponed the start of production in mid-Nov to give Tyrone Power, who had just completed his role in Son of Fury , a brief rest. The film was delayed again in late Nov to give Power and Joan Fontaine more time to rehearse their love scenes.
       Contemporary sources indicate that Fox had, at different times, considered Robert Donat, Laurence Olivier and Richard Greene for the part played by Power. An Oct 1941 Fox memorandum contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at UCLA lists the following "cast suggestions" (apparently made by director Anatole Litvak): Alan Hale or Nigel Bruce for the role of "Monty"; Dennis Holley for "Prue's" father; Wyndham Standing for "General Cathaway"; Florence Bates or Isabel Jeans for "Iris"; Una O'Connor for the waitress; and Cedric Hardwicke for the rector. Modern sources note that Fontaine, who was loaned to Fox from David O. Selznick's company, initially rejected her assignment to the film and only accepted it when Selznick threatened her with suspension.
       According to studio publicity materials and contemporary news items, a $26,000 set, designed to match the look of the background footage shot in England, was constructed on a Fox sound stage. English illustrator William Bagdatopolus drew sketches of the English countryside to aid art director Richard Day in designing the sets. By Nov 1941, according to HR , 3,000 feet of background footage had already been filmed in England. According to HR , technical advisors Kathleen Hunt and Iris Houston were officers of the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The Hollywood set was a replica of the exterior of a WAAF encampment that included seventeen buildings and dirt roads.
       Virginia McDowall, who appeared in the film as a young girl, was the sister of actor Roddy McDowall. On 29 May 1942, two weeks after its world premiere in New York, the film had its west coast premiere at the Fremont theater in San Luis Obispo, CA. This Above All was the first film to be shown in the newly constructed theater, and the event reportedly drew many celebrities, including Laurel and Hardy, Jackie Cooper and Joe E. Brown. In the summer of 1942, Lux Radio Theatre aired a radio adaptation of the story, starring Tyrone Power, reprising his film role, and Barbara Stanwyck. The film received an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Interior Direction, and was nominated for Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Recording and Best Film Editing. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 May 1942.
---
Film Daily
13 May 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1941.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 41
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 41
p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 41
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 42
p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 May 42
p. 661.
New York Times
13 May 42
p. 14.
Variety
13 May 42
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Gwendolyn Logan
Mrs. Wilfrid North
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
In charge of background shooting
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel This Above All by Eric Mowbray Knight (New York, 1941).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 July 1942
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 12 May 1942
Production Date:
1 December 1941--24 February 1942
retakes began 20 March 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
24 July 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11718
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
110 or 118
Length(in feet):
9,939
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8088
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In England, during early days of the Second World War, Prudence Cathaway, daughter of the aristocratic General Cathaway, announces to her snobbish family that she has joined the Women's Auxiliary Force. When the Cathaways balk at her decision, Prudence lectures them on their outdated values. At the WAAF training camp, Prudence befriends Violet Worthing, who soon fixes her up with Clive Briggs, an army friend of Violet's sweetheart, Joe. Unaware that Prudence is from aristocracy, Clive declares his distaste for all of England's upper class, but Prudence falls in love with him anyway. As their romance flourishes, Clive and Prudence go on their first military leave together, taking a seven-day vacation at the Dover Grand Hotel. In Dover, Prudence runs into her aunt Iris, but the two merely exchange unfriendly glances. Fearing that her aunt will tell her family about her affair with Clive and that she will be further ostracized by them, Prudence becomes distraught. Clive, too, begins to act strangely, yelling military orders in his sleep and becoming generally distracted. Later, when Prudence reads the telegram that seemed to trigger Clive's unusual behavior, she learns only that his friend Monty is coming to visit him. Prudence later learns that Clive deserted the army after being wounded at Dunkerque, and that Monty has come to return Clive to his regiment before he is officially listed as a deserter. Clive eventually confides in Prudence that he left the service because he disliked defending England's aristocracy. Prudence responds by giving Clive an impassioned lecture about the glory of England--a speech that brings tears to her eyes and drives Clive away. ... +


In England, during early days of the Second World War, Prudence Cathaway, daughter of the aristocratic General Cathaway, announces to her snobbish family that she has joined the Women's Auxiliary Force. When the Cathaways balk at her decision, Prudence lectures them on their outdated values. At the WAAF training camp, Prudence befriends Violet Worthing, who soon fixes her up with Clive Briggs, an army friend of Violet's sweetheart, Joe. Unaware that Prudence is from aristocracy, Clive declares his distaste for all of England's upper class, but Prudence falls in love with him anyway. As their romance flourishes, Clive and Prudence go on their first military leave together, taking a seven-day vacation at the Dover Grand Hotel. In Dover, Prudence runs into her aunt Iris, but the two merely exchange unfriendly glances. Fearing that her aunt will tell her family about her affair with Clive and that she will be further ostracized by them, Prudence becomes distraught. Clive, too, begins to act strangely, yelling military orders in his sleep and becoming generally distracted. Later, when Prudence reads the telegram that seemed to trigger Clive's unusual behavior, she learns only that his friend Monty is coming to visit him. Prudence later learns that Clive deserted the army after being wounded at Dunkerque, and that Monty has come to return Clive to his regiment before he is officially listed as a deserter. Clive eventually confides in Prudence that he left the service because he disliked defending England's aristocracy. Prudence responds by giving Clive an impassioned lecture about the glory of England--a speech that brings tears to her eyes and drives Clive away. Clive sets out on foot but does not get far before a farmer, mistaking him for a spy, assaults him. The bloodied Clive takes refuge at a nurse's home, but the nurse learns that he is a suspected spy and threatens to call the police. Clive then seeks help from a clergyman, who lectures Clive on faith and inspires him to return to his regiment. Before turning himself in, however, Clive sends Prudence a message to meet him at Charing Cross so that they can be married. On his way to Charing Cross, though, Clive is arrested by military police and taken to headquarters. After pleading with his commander, Clive manages to secure a two-hour leave so that he can meet Prudence one last time. Clive's second attempt to get to Charing Cross in time to meet Prudence is stymied when he is wounded while rescuing a woman and her child from a burning building. Clive is rushed to a hospital, and as his life hangs in the balance, Prudence arranges an impromptu wedding. At Clive's bedside, a nurse, reading from Shakespeare's play Hamlet , says, "This above all: To thine own self be true," after which an air raid siren is heard and darkness descends on the room. +

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

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