The Mudlark (1950)

94 mins | Drama | December 1950

Director:

Jean Negulesco

Producer:

Nunnally Johnson

Cinematographer:

Georges Perinal

Editor:

Thelma Myers

Production Designer:

C. P. Norman
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HISTORY

According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the studio optioned motion picture publicist Theodore Bonnet's novel in Sep 1949 for $5,000, then purchased it the following month for a total of $75,000 plus $2,500 based on sales of the book during its first year of publication.
       The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, reveals that Nunnally Johnson was the only writer who worked on the screenplay, apart from studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck had fears about Johnson's and director Jean Negulesco's intent to use a variety of British dialects in the film. In a Jan 1950 memo to them, he wrote, "Nothing has done more to kill English pictures in America than pronounced British accents. A British picture has got to be simply sensational to get by in this country and overcome the absolute hatred of American audiences for British accents....A Scottish accent is worst of all. If we load this picture with pronounced accents we are going to be in serious trouble."
       The print viewed was a British release print, identical to the American release version in terms of plot, but containing more production and cast credits. As Alec Guinness' contract called for him to have co-star billing, equal to Irene Dunne's, on prints shown in the U.K., Northern Ireland and Ireland, his name immediately follows Dunne's before the main title on the print viewed. On prints released in America, however, he received first billing after the main title. Actor Anthony Steel was loaned to Twentieth Century-Fox by J. Arthur Rank Productions, Ltd. A 26 Jun 1950 HR news item reported ... More Less

According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the studio optioned motion picture publicist Theodore Bonnet's novel in Sep 1949 for $5,000, then purchased it the following month for a total of $75,000 plus $2,500 based on sales of the book during its first year of publication.
       The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, reveals that Nunnally Johnson was the only writer who worked on the screenplay, apart from studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck had fears about Johnson's and director Jean Negulesco's intent to use a variety of British dialects in the film. In a Jan 1950 memo to them, he wrote, "Nothing has done more to kill English pictures in America than pronounced British accents. A British picture has got to be simply sensational to get by in this country and overcome the absolute hatred of American audiences for British accents....A Scottish accent is worst of all. If we load this picture with pronounced accents we are going to be in serious trouble."
       The print viewed was a British release print, identical to the American release version in terms of plot, but containing more production and cast credits. As Alec Guinness' contract called for him to have co-star billing, equal to Irene Dunne's, on prints shown in the U.K., Northern Ireland and Ireland, his name immediately follows Dunne's before the main title on the print viewed. On prints released in America, however, he received first billing after the main title. Actor Anthony Steel was loaned to Twentieth Century-Fox by J. Arthur Rank Productions, Ltd. A 26 Jun 1950 HR news item reported that American makeup expert Ben Nye advised Dave Aylott on special techniques for transforming Dunne into Queen Victoria. A later story in Life magazine stated that the daily latex applications took ninety minutes to apply.
       Before the film's release, Zanuck removed a sequence depicting Victoria with her grandchildren, played by Maurice Warren, Michael Brooke and Jane Short, as he felt it interrupted the dramatic flow of the story. Despite initial criticism in the British press about an American playing Queen Victoria, the film was selected for showing at the annual Royal Film Performance on 30 Oct 1950, in the presence of King George VI and the Royal Family to benefit the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund. The Los Angeles premiere, on 30 Jan 1951, was a benefit for Santa Monica's St. John's Hospital Guild, of which Dunne was chairman. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Costume Design (Black-and-White) category. A radio adaptation of the screenplay was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on 27 Aug 1951 and starred Dunne and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
       Other films about Queen Victoria include the 1937 Imperator Film production Victoria the Great , which was directed by Herbert Wilcox and starred Anna Neagle and Anton Walbrook. Neagle and Walbrook also starred in Queen of Destiny , another Imperator film, released in Great Britain in 1938 as Sixty Glorious Years (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5508 and F3.5443). Queen Victoria and John Brown were also depicted in the 1997 British production Mrs. Brown , directed by John Madden II and featuring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Dec 1950.
---
Daily Variety
27 Nov 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Nov 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 50
p.11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 50
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 50
p. 3.
Life
9 Nov 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Dec 50
p. 597.
New York Times
25 Dec 50
p. 25.
Variety
8 Nov 50
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Pat Hitchcock
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Dial adv
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Sd ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Tech adv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Hist adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Mudlark by Theodore Bonnet (Garden City, NY, 1949).
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1950
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 30 October 1950
Miami opening 22 December 1950
New York opening: 24 December 1950
Production Date:
12 May--20 July 1950 at London Film Studios, Shepperton, England
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
11 January 1951
Copyright Number:
LP689
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
94
Length(in feet):
8,417
Length(in reels):
11
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
PCA No:
14628
SYNOPSIS

When Wheeler, a young orphan who survives as a scavenger on the mudflats of the River Thames in late nineteenth-century England, comes upon a dead man, he steals his small cameo plaque of Queen Victoria although he does not know who she is. Two other urchins try to take the cameo away from "The Mudlark" but are stopped by a night watchman, who tells him about the Queen, who is known as "The Mother of England." The night watchman also mentions that she has lived in seclusion in Windsor Castle since the death of her husband, Prince Albert, fifteen years earlier, and Wheeler, intrigued by the Queen's motherly appearance, makes his way to Windsor Castle to try to see her. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli has come to visit Victoria and tells John Brown, Prince Albert's former servant and now confidant of the Queen, of his concern about her continued seclusion. In an audience with the Queen, Disraeli informs her that the passage of an important reform program is being vigorously opposed and needs her total support and that her seclusion is creating a very negative impression. Disraeli advises her to accept an invitation to attend the one hundreth anniversary celebration of the Lambeth Foundling Hospital. However, Victoria does not wish to leave Windsor, even for a brief period, as it holds such fond memories of her late husband. Meanwhile, Wheeler enters the castle grounds, falls down a coal shute and finds his way into the Queen's private chambers. Emily Prior, the Queen's Maid of Honor, is romantically involved with Guards officer Lt. Charles McHatten, but her mother, Lady Margaret Prior, does not approve of the match due to Charles's ... +


When Wheeler, a young orphan who survives as a scavenger on the mudflats of the River Thames in late nineteenth-century England, comes upon a dead man, he steals his small cameo plaque of Queen Victoria although he does not know who she is. Two other urchins try to take the cameo away from "The Mudlark" but are stopped by a night watchman, who tells him about the Queen, who is known as "The Mother of England." The night watchman also mentions that she has lived in seclusion in Windsor Castle since the death of her husband, Prince Albert, fifteen years earlier, and Wheeler, intrigued by the Queen's motherly appearance, makes his way to Windsor Castle to try to see her. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli has come to visit Victoria and tells John Brown, Prince Albert's former servant and now confidant of the Queen, of his concern about her continued seclusion. In an audience with the Queen, Disraeli informs her that the passage of an important reform program is being vigorously opposed and needs her total support and that her seclusion is creating a very negative impression. Disraeli advises her to accept an invitation to attend the one hundreth anniversary celebration of the Lambeth Foundling Hospital. However, Victoria does not wish to leave Windsor, even for a brief period, as it holds such fond memories of her late husband. Meanwhile, Wheeler enters the castle grounds, falls down a coal shute and finds his way into the Queen's private chambers. Emily Prior, the Queen's Maid of Honor, is romantically involved with Guards officer Lt. Charles McHatten, but her mother, Lady Margaret Prior, does not approve of the match due to Charles's low social standing. Charles has sought permission from Lady Margaret and the Queen to marry Emily but both forbid Emily to see Charles again. Emily responds that she will marry whom she wishes and that the Queen can no longer control her life. Wheeler, meanwhile, is discovered in the Queen's dining room by maid Kate Noonan and footman Slattery, an Irishman who tries to impress Kate by saying he is plotting against the monarchy. They hide Wheeler behind some curtains as the Queen, Disraeli and other dinner guests enter. During the dinner, Wheeler falls asleep and his snoring causes him to be discovered. As there have already been several attempts on the Queen's life, he is regarded with great suspicion. Wheeler reveals that he has overhead Slattery saying that he wanted to burn down the castle. Brown interrogates the boy but, realizing he is starving, orders him to be fed, even instructing him on the proper use of a fork. Meanwhile, Emily, who has decided to elope, leaves a note for her mother and goes to meet Charles. However, he is Officer of the Day and is summoned to question Wheeler, leaving Emily waiting in the rain. Brown, a Scot with a fondness for the national drink, takes a liking to the boy and gives him a tour of the castle, even permitting him to sit on the Queen's throne. However, they are discovered by Charles, and Wheeler is handed over to the police as a potential assassin and is held prisoner in the Tower of London. The Queen orders Disraeli to have the case against the boy handled with great caution and with as little public comment as possible as there is speculation that Wheeler might be part of an Irish plot. A police officer rounds up some of the cronies and fellow scavengers Wheeler thinks could testify to his character, but they claim not to recognize him. Meanwhile, Emily and Charles have planned another elopement rendezvous, but this time he is summoned to see Disraeli and Emily is left waiting once again. Later, after the Queen indicates to Emily that her position on the marriage might be changing, Emily and Charles finally keep a rendezvous. In the House of Commons, Devoy, an Irish Member, denounces the newspaper characterizations of Irish involvement in the Wheeler case. Disraeli agrees that Wheeler acted alone and uses the boy's life story in his campaign for major social reforms, which gain overwhelming support from the Members. Later, Disraeli tells Wheeler that the government has arranged for his care and schooling. Displeased by a rebuke in Disraeli's speech, the Queen summons him to Windsor. The prime minister tells her that although she may not approve of his method, his campaign has been successful. He then offers to resign. Brown defuses the situation by interjecting that Victoria's late husband would have approved of Disraeli's actions. Wheeler has sneaked into the castle again, and Brown presents him to the Queen, who tells him that he is a very naughty boy. He touches her heart, however, when he shows her the cameo he has saved and says that he only wanted to see her. The Queen thanks him and instructs Disraeli to watch over him. Later, Queen Victoria ends her seclusion and appears at the hospital's celebration where she is, once more, greeted with affection by her subjects. +

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

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