Banjo on My Knee (1936)

95 mins | Comedy-drama | 11 December 1936

Director:

John Cromwell

Cinematographer:

Ernest Palmer

Editor:

Hanson Fritch

Production Designer:

Hans Peters

Production Company:

Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

Studio records give the release date as 11 Dec 1936 while MPH lists it as 4 Dec 1936. Var lists a song by McHugh and Adamson entitled "Sippy," which was not in the final film and is not included in the music cue sheets for the film in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. Also, according to the legal files, the actor and director Norman Foster functioned as a representative of the studio in negotiating the acquisition of the rights to the novel. This was the first film in which Barbara Stanwyck sang and danced. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Henry Fonda was originally scheduled to play "Ernie." According to various news items, Stanwyck was borrowed from RKO, Goldwyn loaned Joel McCrea and Walter Brennan, Anthony Martin replaced Michael Whalen in the role of "Chick Bean" and a special company filmed authentic scenes of Mississippi River life among the shanty boatmen of New Orleans and its environs. It is unknown whether any of this footage was incorporated into the film; the filming may have been undertaken as part of pre-production research. A HR news item states that the studio originally announced the film as a Janet Gaynor vehicle. According to the legal records, Margaret Hamilton was original cast in the role of "Gurtha," but because she was tied up in another film, she was not able to appear in this one.
       According to correspondence in the PCA file for this film, PCA Director Joseph Breen warned the studio after he read the final script that the ... More Less

Studio records give the release date as 11 Dec 1936 while MPH lists it as 4 Dec 1936. Var lists a song by McHugh and Adamson entitled "Sippy," which was not in the final film and is not included in the music cue sheets for the film in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. Also, according to the legal files, the actor and director Norman Foster functioned as a representative of the studio in negotiating the acquisition of the rights to the novel. This was the first film in which Barbara Stanwyck sang and danced. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Henry Fonda was originally scheduled to play "Ernie." According to various news items, Stanwyck was borrowed from RKO, Goldwyn loaned Joel McCrea and Walter Brennan, Anthony Martin replaced Michael Whalen in the role of "Chick Bean" and a special company filmed authentic scenes of Mississippi River life among the shanty boatmen of New Orleans and its environs. It is unknown whether any of this footage was incorporated into the film; the filming may have been undertaken as part of pre-production research. A HR news item states that the studio originally announced the film as a Janet Gaynor vehicle. According to the legal records, Margaret Hamilton was original cast in the role of "Gurtha," but because she was tied up in another film, she was not able to appear in this one.
       According to correspondence in the PCA file for this film, PCA Director Joseph Breen warned the studio after he read the final script that the picture would be rejected by the PCA if certain elements in the script were not changed. Breen found the "excessive drinking" objectionable and also complained about "the suggestive running gag showing Newt's efforts to have Pearl and Ernie sleep together so that the marriage may be consummated, and his hopes of an heir fulfilled." Darryl Zanuck, the studio's production head, responded vehemently in a letter to Breen, complaining, "Your reader has injected smut and sex where none was ever intended." Zanuck defended the script submitted and stated, "We are telling a beautiful love story laid among a certain type of river people that exist on the Mississippi today. They are not drunks; they are not whores....[Newt] tries to get [Ernie and Pearl] together; he tries to stop them from quarreling. It is not a case of trying to get them to climb into bed with each other. He wants them to be in love with each other because he knows that if they are, eventually they will have children and he will have an heir. In God's name, what is wrong with this?...I urge you to...retract the letter that has been written. I do not want to make any filthy pictures or any sex pictures. I do not want to have anything in my pictures that is not in good taste." Subsequently, members of the studio staff agreed to tone down the drinking scenes and to include dialogue in which Newt explains that at the time of his own wedding, neighbors serenaded him and his bride with the song, "St. Louis Blues," and that he has been waiting many years to play the song for his own son on his wedding night.
       HR news items state that Tobacco Road, Inc. sued Twentieth Century-Fox for $1,000,000 and asked for an injunction against the exhibition of the film because of a reference made to the play Tobacco Road in the advertising for the film. Tobacco Road, Inc. claimed that the line in question -- "The elemental force that has kept Tobacco Road on Broadway for three years now sweeps like the mighty Mississippi into your own theater" -- destroyed the motion picture value of the play. According to the legal records, the application for the injunction was denied; no additional information regarding the disputation of the suit has been located. The film was re-released in 1943. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Dec 1936.
---
Daily Variety
28 Nov 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Dec 36
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 36
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
30 Nov 36
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
7 Nov 36
p. 34.
Motion Picture Herald
5 Dec 36
p. 42.
New York Times
12 Dec 36
p. 15.
Variety
16 Dec 36
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Banjo on My Knee by Harry Hamilton (Indianapolis, 1936).
SONGS
"Where the Lazy River Goes By," "There's Something in the Air" and "Banjo on My Knee," music and lyrics by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson
"St. Louis Blues," music and lyrics by W. C. Handy.
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 December 1936
Production Date:
19 September--late October 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
4 December 1936
Copyright Number:
LP7111
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95
Length(in feet):
8,587
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2848
SYNOPSIS

The shanty boat people of Island No. 21 in the Mississippi River know little about life in towns. Following the wedding of Ernie Holley and Pearl Elliott, a "land girl" from Tennessee, Slade, a slovenly fish buyer from the outside, is knocked into the river by Ernie for kissing his bride against his wishes. When the police come, Ernie swims away and thus upsets the plans of his father Newt to serenade the couple with the song "St. Louis Blues" on his "contraption," an assortment of connected musical instruments, in a toast to his future first "grandbaby." Slade turns up unharmed, but Ernie, unaware, becomes a sailor and visits six countries before his return six months later. As Newt waits to serenade them, Ernie and Pearl argue because he announces that he plans to leave again to work in Aruba. Angered that Pearl questions the husband's right to make decisions, Ernie leaves in a rowboat. Pearl immediately goes off with Warfield Scott, a philandering photographer who offers her a job in his New Orleans studio. When Ernie returns, he follows them vowing to break both their necks. In New Orleans, after Pearl sees Scott's squalid studio, she finds work as a dishwasher in the Cafe Creole to repay Scott for his expenditures. Ernie arrives and throws Scott through a picture, and then goes off with sailors to work in Havana when he cannot find Pearl. Two weeks later, Newt arrives and throws Scott through another picture, and after he plays his "contraption" at the Cafe Creole, Newt teams up with Pearl and Chick Bean, a down-on-his-luck singer who has fallen in love with ... +


The shanty boat people of Island No. 21 in the Mississippi River know little about life in towns. Following the wedding of Ernie Holley and Pearl Elliott, a "land girl" from Tennessee, Slade, a slovenly fish buyer from the outside, is knocked into the river by Ernie for kissing his bride against his wishes. When the police come, Ernie swims away and thus upsets the plans of his father Newt to serenade the couple with the song "St. Louis Blues" on his "contraption," an assortment of connected musical instruments, in a toast to his future first "grandbaby." Slade turns up unharmed, but Ernie, unaware, becomes a sailor and visits six countries before his return six months later. As Newt waits to serenade them, Ernie and Pearl argue because he announces that he plans to leave again to work in Aruba. Angered that Pearl questions the husband's right to make decisions, Ernie leaves in a rowboat. Pearl immediately goes off with Warfield Scott, a philandering photographer who offers her a job in his New Orleans studio. When Ernie returns, he follows them vowing to break both their necks. In New Orleans, after Pearl sees Scott's squalid studio, she finds work as a dishwasher in the Cafe Creole to repay Scott for his expenditures. Ernie arrives and throws Scott through a picture, and then goes off with sailors to work in Havana when he cannot find Pearl. Two weeks later, Newt arrives and throws Scott through another picture, and after he plays his "contraption" at the Cafe Creole, Newt teams up with Pearl and Chick Bean, a down-on-his-luck singer who has fallen in love with Pearl. After Ernie returns and sees Scott and Pearl together, he starts a brawl which nearly destroys the cafe. Because of Ernie's temper, Pearl decides to go with Chick to Chicago. Back home, Ernie agrees to marry Leota Long, who earlier jealously snubbed Pearl and now, at the wedding, wears the kimono from Genoa that Ernie once gave Pearl. Pearl returns for the kimono and fights Leota, who during a violent rainstorm, cuts the ropes binding the Holley houseboat to the island. After Newt and Ernie navigate to a sandbar and Newt locks the feuding couple inside the houseboat, they finally kiss, and he happily serenades them with the "St. Louis Blues." +

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

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