A Connecticut Yankee (1931)

95-96 mins | Comedy | 5 April 1931

Director:

David Butler

Cinematographer:

Ernest Palmer

Editor:

Irene Morra

Production Company:

Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The title card in the screen credits reads "Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee ." The working title of the film was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court . According to a NYT news item, the sets were to be designed by Joseph Urban; however, William Darling is listed for settings in the screen credits and in all the contemporary sources. In the print viewed, the face of the Will Rogers character turns the color red when the Myrna Loy character kisses him. According to a modern interview with the director, David Butler, every print sent out was hand tinted at this spot in the film. The name "Sir Rogers de Claremore," used in the film for the supposed ancestor of the character played by Rogers, refers to Rogers' real hometown of Claremore, OK. The MPH reviewer wrote, "The hanging sequence in the climax scene should be cut. It is distasteful and tinges a magnificent comedy with a grimness that doesn't belong." According to a pre-release news item, John Garrick, Lumsden Hare and William V. Mong were in the cast; their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       A 11 Jul 1991 NYT article about a recent solar eclipse relates two historical precedents for the scene in this film in which "Hank" threatens to blot out the sun: "On his visit to Jamaica in 1504, Columbus extorted food from natives by consulting an almanac, threatening to make the moon disappear, and then agreeing to return it just before the eclipse ended. In 1806 an Indian in the Midwestern United States named Tenskwatawa won great ... More Less

The title card in the screen credits reads "Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee ." The working title of the film was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court . According to a NYT news item, the sets were to be designed by Joseph Urban; however, William Darling is listed for settings in the screen credits and in all the contemporary sources. In the print viewed, the face of the Will Rogers character turns the color red when the Myrna Loy character kisses him. According to a modern interview with the director, David Butler, every print sent out was hand tinted at this spot in the film. The name "Sir Rogers de Claremore," used in the film for the supposed ancestor of the character played by Rogers, refers to Rogers' real hometown of Claremore, OK. The MPH reviewer wrote, "The hanging sequence in the climax scene should be cut. It is distasteful and tinges a magnificent comedy with a grimness that doesn't belong." According to a pre-release news item, John Garrick, Lumsden Hare and William V. Mong were in the cast; their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       A 11 Jul 1991 NYT article about a recent solar eclipse relates two historical precedents for the scene in this film in which "Hank" threatens to blot out the sun: "On his visit to Jamaica in 1504, Columbus extorted food from natives by consulting an almanac, threatening to make the moon disappear, and then agreeing to return it just before the eclipse ended. In 1806 an Indian in the Midwestern United States named Tenskwatawa won great fame as a prophet -- and embarrassed the territorial officials -- by using the same technique during a solar eclipse."
       This film was chosen as the tenth of the year's best films by NYT . The novel was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1927 by Herbert Fields, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Fox and the Mark Twain Co. produced another film based on the same source in 1920, entitled A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court , which starred Harry Myers and was directed by Emmett J. Flynn (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0780). Var said that with the exception of What Price Glory , the earlier version of Twain's story was "probably the best silent comedy Fox ever turned out, and among the leaders of its class released by any firm." Var noted that Douglas Fairbanks originally turned down the story, and speculated, "The staff working on this sound version must have run off the silent print plenty." Twentieth Century-Fox re-released this film in 1936. Paramount produced A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in 1949, which starred Bing Crosby and was directed by Tay Garnett. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
EHW
27 Dec 30
p. 28.
Film Daily
21 Oct 30
p. 8.
Film Daily
18 Nov 30
p. 6.
Film Daily
12 Apr 31
p. 32.
Harrison's Reports
11 Apr 31
p. 58.
HF
10 Jan 31
p. 24.
Motion Picture Herald
21 Mar 31
p. 39.
New York Times
13-Jul-30
---
New York Times
13 Apr 31
p. 17.
New York Times
11 Jul 91
p. A10.
Variety
15 Apr 31
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
David Butler Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adpt and dial
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Settings
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Bus mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (New York, 1889).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee
Release Date:
5 April 1931
Production Date:
24 November 1930--mid January 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
25 February 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2048
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95-96
Length(in feet):
8,700
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

After a broadcast from his radio station in a small Connecticut town, Hank Martin, a supplier of radio equipment, makes a delivery during a severe thunderstorm because his assistant says that the destination, an old mansion, is too spooky. Upon arriving, Hank is confronted by a girl, who beseeches his help to get away, and by a young man, hiding in a suit of armor, who says he is the girl's friend. A seductive woman then warns Hank not to protect the girl. The master of the house has Hank hook up a battery to an invention, which, the man hopes, will enable him to hear sounds from the past that are still vibrating in the ether. When a voice announces that it is from the court of King Arthur, Hank, frightened, tries to leave, but a door knocks a suit of armor on top of him. He awakens in another time period as a knight, Sir Sagramor, prods him with a lance. When Sagramor takes him to Camelot Castle and brags that he has captured a demon, Hank, to save his life, proves that he has magical powers by lighting his cigarette lighter. King Arthur's magician Merlin, who is envious that he can't make the lighter work, convinces the king to burn Hank at the stake. When Hank notices in his pocket notebook that a total eclipse of the sun occurred at noon on June 21, 528 A.D. and learns from another prisoner, Emile le Poulet, whom he dubs Clarence, that today is the 20th of that year, he threatens to blot out the sun the next day unless he is ... +


After a broadcast from his radio station in a small Connecticut town, Hank Martin, a supplier of radio equipment, makes a delivery during a severe thunderstorm because his assistant says that the destination, an old mansion, is too spooky. Upon arriving, Hank is confronted by a girl, who beseeches his help to get away, and by a young man, hiding in a suit of armor, who says he is the girl's friend. A seductive woman then warns Hank not to protect the girl. The master of the house has Hank hook up a battery to an invention, which, the man hopes, will enable him to hear sounds from the past that are still vibrating in the ether. When a voice announces that it is from the court of King Arthur, Hank, frightened, tries to leave, but a door knocks a suit of armor on top of him. He awakens in another time period as a knight, Sir Sagramor, prods him with a lance. When Sagramor takes him to Camelot Castle and brags that he has captured a demon, Hank, to save his life, proves that he has magical powers by lighting his cigarette lighter. King Arthur's magician Merlin, who is envious that he can't make the lighter work, convinces the king to burn Hank at the stake. When Hank notices in his pocket notebook that a total eclipse of the sun occurred at noon on June 21, 528 A.D. and learns from another prisoner, Emile le Poulet, whom he dubs Clarence, that today is the 20th of that year, he threatens to blot out the sun the next day unless he is released. Goaded by Merlin, the king moves the execution time to the immediate present, but Hank then learns that today is actually the 21st and revises his threat. The subsequent eclipse causes the king to beg for the sun's restoration. Hank obliges and then agrees to be the king's prime minister. The "magical" changes instituted under Hank include telephones, messengers on roller skates, factories to produce things people have been happy without, and advertising to make them want those things. When Queen Morgan le Fay, the king's sister, sends word that unless Arthur gives her half his kingdom, she will put his daughter, Princess Alisande, on a torture rack, King Arthur decides that Hank and Sagramor shall joust for the honor to save Alisande. In his cowboy outfit, Hank easily wins by lassoing Sagramor and dragging him around the arena, but he suggests that Clarence, who loves the princess, rescue her instead. Because Clarence is only a page, and therefore cannot marry a princess, the king dubs him Sir Rogers de Claremore, which, it turns out, is the name of Hank's ancestor, whom he has been trying to locate. Afraid that if Clarence dies, he himself will never be born, Hank offers to save Alisande himself and convinces King Arthur to go with him. Merlin, who is friendly with the queen, and Sagramor plot against them, and after Sagramor's men capture Arthur and Hank, and strip Arthur of his beard, Queen Morgan refuses to recognize him. Attracted to Hank, the queen attempts to seduce him. He escapes her grasps and releases Arthur and Alisande from a torture chamber, but they are recaptured and taken to the gallows. As King Arthur is about to be hanged, Clarence, in a helicopter, drops a bomb, and tanks and armored cars equipped with machine guns arrive to do battle. Hank releases the torture victims, but he is then surrounded by the queen's forces. A dynamite explosion knocks him out, and he awakens in the mansion of the inventor just as a radio broadcast of the "Knights of the Round Table" ends. The inventor, whom Hank had imagined as King Arthur, is chagrined because he mistook the voices from the radio show for those of the real historical characters. As Hank quickly leaves, he discovers the girl and boy he met earlier, who resemble Alisande and Clarence, inside his truck. They tell him that the inventor is the girl's father and that her aunt, the seductive woman, who resembles Queen Morgan le Fay, does not want the girl to marry the boy. Hank gives them the truck to go to a minister and walks home in the storm. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.