The Great Profile (1940)

78-79 or 82 mins | Comedy | 30 August 1940

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HISTORY

According to Fox publicity material, this picture was based on the press coverage about John Barrymore's fights with his wife, Dolores Costello, his infamous drinking bouts, and his appearance in the play My Dear Children which, based on reviews, was saved by his outrageous onstage ad-libbing. According to notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Lou Breslow and Owen Francis prepared the rough outline for this film in Feb 1940. The story files also indicate that the character played by Willie Fung was originally set for Otto Harno. A memo written by screenplay writer Milton Sperling, dated 22 Apr 1940, criticizes the original screenplay, which was written by Hilary Lynn. In the memo, Sperling complains that Lynn's characters are too exaggerated, and expresses his desire to rewrite the script. On 5 Mar 1940, producer Darryl F. Zanuck suggested the character of "Boris Mefoosky," and thought that Gregory Ratoff should play the part. Zanuck originally named the character "Len."
       Studio publicity records note that Barrymore did not memorize any of his lines for the film, but instead read them from a blackboard. George French is listed as his blackboard toter. Because Barrymore never missed a cue or muffled a speech, the use of blackboards was credited with bringing the picture five days under schedule and saving the studio an estimated $25,000. The acrobats who appeared in the picture belonged to the Pina Troupe, the Four Olympic Aces and the Three Velardes. According to the publicity material, at the time of production, John Barrymore was $62,000 in debt and said that he ... More Less

According to Fox publicity material, this picture was based on the press coverage about John Barrymore's fights with his wife, Dolores Costello, his infamous drinking bouts, and his appearance in the play My Dear Children which, based on reviews, was saved by his outrageous onstage ad-libbing. According to notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Lou Breslow and Owen Francis prepared the rough outline for this film in Feb 1940. The story files also indicate that the character played by Willie Fung was originally set for Otto Harno. A memo written by screenplay writer Milton Sperling, dated 22 Apr 1940, criticizes the original screenplay, which was written by Hilary Lynn. In the memo, Sperling complains that Lynn's characters are too exaggerated, and expresses his desire to rewrite the script. On 5 Mar 1940, producer Darryl F. Zanuck suggested the character of "Boris Mefoosky," and thought that Gregory Ratoff should play the part. Zanuck originally named the character "Len."
       Studio publicity records note that Barrymore did not memorize any of his lines for the film, but instead read them from a blackboard. George French is listed as his blackboard toter. Because Barrymore never missed a cue or muffled a speech, the use of blackboards was credited with bringing the picture five days under schedule and saving the studio an estimated $25,000. The acrobats who appeared in the picture belonged to the Pina Troupe, the Four Olympic Aces and the Three Velardes. According to the publicity material, at the time of production, John Barrymore was $62,000 in debt and said that he made this picture for his creditors, and that he wanted to make his next one for himself. The publicity records also note that actress Mary Beth Hughes was required to wear so much makeup and change it so many times, that she contracted makeup poisoning; that the film was originally intended as a quieter Adolph Menjou vehicle, but the script was revamped for Barrymore, and Menjou was paid to leave the film; and that twenty-seven paintings were produced by artist Leo Quijano for the sole purpose of being destroyed during the filming of two scenes--one in which Barrymore attacks a painting with a palette knife, and another in which his wife "Sylvia" breaks one over his head. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Apr 40
p 3.
Film Daily
20 Aug 40
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 40
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 40
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
19 Aug 40
p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Herald
24 Aug 40
p. 55.
New York Times
18 Oct 40
p. 25.
Variety
21 Aug 40
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
Blackboard toter
SOURCES
SONGS
"Oh Johnny, How You Can Love," music by Abe Olman, lyrics by Ed Ross.
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 August 1940
Production Date:
late May--9 July 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
25 October 1940
Copyright Number:
LP10025
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
78-79 or 82
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
6469
SYNOPSIS

Evans Garrick, an eccentric and tempermental thespian, is expelled from a picture and from Hollywood following his disappearance from a production and the discovery that he has been on a three day bender. Boris Mefoosky, Evans' manager, and Sylvia, Evans' wife, soon desert him because of his degenerated state, and vow never to return. After Mary Maxwell, a neoyphyte screen writer, sneaks into Evans' house and convinces him to play the lead in her new play, he calls the press to notify them that he will be starring in a new play, and, hoping to win back his wife, he announces that Sylvia will be cast opposite him. Mary's wealthy fiancé, Richard Lansing, provides the financial backing for the production, but Boris soon finds himself in financial straits and followed by debt collectors. In its first performance, the play gets off to a poor start until Evans saves it in the second act when he re-enters the stage drunk and turns the show into a comedy. Disenchanted with Evans' performance in her play, Mary threatens to shut down the production. When Sylvia deserts Evans once again, Mary is forced to take over her role. Richard tries to save the play by telling Mary that the play is not a lampoon of her story, but rather a mirror of a desperate actor who has lost control of himself. Deeply distressed and concerned about Evans' behavior, Mary tells Evans that she intends to reform him and bring out the great actor within him. The play fails, however, when Evans plays his part sober. Touched by her concern for his well-being, Evans tells Mary ... +


Evans Garrick, an eccentric and tempermental thespian, is expelled from a picture and from Hollywood following his disappearance from a production and the discovery that he has been on a three day bender. Boris Mefoosky, Evans' manager, and Sylvia, Evans' wife, soon desert him because of his degenerated state, and vow never to return. After Mary Maxwell, a neoyphyte screen writer, sneaks into Evans' house and convinces him to play the lead in her new play, he calls the press to notify them that he will be starring in a new play, and, hoping to win back his wife, he announces that Sylvia will be cast opposite him. Mary's wealthy fiancé, Richard Lansing, provides the financial backing for the production, but Boris soon finds himself in financial straits and followed by debt collectors. In its first performance, the play gets off to a poor start until Evans saves it in the second act when he re-enters the stage drunk and turns the show into a comedy. Disenchanted with Evans' performance in her play, Mary threatens to shut down the production. When Sylvia deserts Evans once again, Mary is forced to take over her role. Richard tries to save the play by telling Mary that the play is not a lampoon of her story, but rather a mirror of a desperate actor who has lost control of himself. Deeply distressed and concerned about Evans' behavior, Mary tells Evans that she intends to reform him and bring out the great actor within him. The play fails, however, when Evans plays his part sober. Touched by her concern for his well-being, Evans tells Mary that he loves her, and after she admits that she loves him too, she breaks off her engagement to Richard. Capitalizing on Evans' new romance with Mary, Mefoosky leaks word to the press in the hope of making Sylvia jealous enough to come back and torment Evans, which he knows will improve his performance. Mefoosky's plan is successful and Sylvia returns. The play closes with Sylvia back in the lead role and Evans in top form. +

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.