The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

125-126 mins | Drama | June 1944

Director:

Clarence Brown

Producer:

Sidney Franklin

Cinematographers:

George Folsey, Robert Planck

Editor:

Robert J. Kern

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The White Cliffs . The opening credits include the following written quotation from Alice Duer Miller's poem The White Cliffs : "I have loved England,/dearly and deeply,/Since that first morning,/shining and pure,/The white cliffs of Dover, I saw rising steeply/Out of the sea that once made her secure./I had no thought then of husband or lover,/I was a traveler, the guest of a week;/Yet when they pointed 'the white cliffs of Dover,'/Startled I found there were tears on my cheek." That excerpt, as well as other excerpts from Miller's poem and poetry by Robert Nathan, written in the style of The White Cliffs , are also heard in a voice-over narration, delivered intermittently by Irene Dunne as the character "Susan Ashwood." Miller's poem became a best-seller in 1942 after actress Lynn Fontanne gave a dramatic reading of it during a radio broadcast. According to a Nov 1940 HR news item, Ronald Colman, who owned the rights to the poem, and Bette Davis announced that they wanted to star in the screen adaptation for no money and requested that all profits go to the American and British Red Cross. According to Jun 1942 HR news items, director Clarence Brown bought the rights to the poem from Colman and initially planned to make the film independently. Although several Hollywood studios were reportedly in negotiation with Brown for the project, Brown announced on 8 Jun 1942 that he was making the film in England, with British financing and stars. United Artists was set as distributor at that time. In addition, Brown announced he was ... More Less

The working title of this film was The White Cliffs . The opening credits include the following written quotation from Alice Duer Miller's poem The White Cliffs : "I have loved England,/dearly and deeply,/Since that first morning,/shining and pure,/The white cliffs of Dover, I saw rising steeply/Out of the sea that once made her secure./I had no thought then of husband or lover,/I was a traveler, the guest of a week;/Yet when they pointed 'the white cliffs of Dover,'/Startled I found there were tears on my cheek." That excerpt, as well as other excerpts from Miller's poem and poetry by Robert Nathan, written in the style of The White Cliffs , are also heard in a voice-over narration, delivered intermittently by Irene Dunne as the character "Susan Ashwood." Miller's poem became a best-seller in 1942 after actress Lynn Fontanne gave a dramatic reading of it during a radio broadcast. According to a Nov 1940 HR news item, Ronald Colman, who owned the rights to the poem, and Bette Davis announced that they wanted to star in the screen adaptation for no money and requested that all profits go to the American and British Red Cross. According to Jun 1942 HR news items, director Clarence Brown bought the rights to the poem from Colman and initially planned to make the film independently. Although several Hollywood studios were reportedly in negotiation with Brown for the project, Brown announced on 8 Jun 1942 that he was making the film in England, with British financing and stars. United Artists was set as distributor at that time. In addition, Brown announced he was considering adapting the poem first as a Broadway stage play, and would finance and direct the production himself. By 15 Jun 1942, however, M-G-M had purchased both the screen rights to the poem and Brown's services as director of the film.
       HR news items add the following information about the production: As late as Dec 1942, Brown was still planning to film the picture in England, but the only shots taken there were background shots of London's Piccadilly Circus and aerial shots of the Dover Cliffs, which were filmed by a British aviator. In late Jul 1942, HR announced that Brown was contemplating launching a nationwide radio poll to find a "typical" American "boy and girl" for leading roles in the picture. Karl Freund was announced as cameraman in early May 1943, but by the time production began in late May, Robert Planck had been assigned. George Folsey, however, received onscreen credit as cameraman. Although Margaret Adden, Harold DeBecker, twins Joan and Janet Brubaker and Ronald and Harold Butterbaugh, Mary Elliott and Alex McQuoid were listed as cast members in HR , their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some exterior scenes were filmed at the Clarence Brown Ranch in Calabasas, CA. Proceeds from the Los Angeles opening of the film went to the volunteer Army Canteen service, according to the HCN review. The White Cliffs of Dover was announced in HR as the first of three M-G-M films to be dubbed into Spanish for Latin American release, along with Bathing Beauty and Gaslight . The picture was named as the tenth most popular film of 1944 by the National Board of Review. Folsey received an Academy Award nomination in the Cinematography (Black-and-White) category. In Nov 1976, a benefit screening of the film was held in Hollywood, with proceeds going to the preservation and restoration of the lands and buildings along the cliffs of Dover. The song "(There'll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover," written by Nat Burton and Walter Kent and sung by popular British singer Vera Lynn, became a hit in 1942, but was not used in the film. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Mar 1944.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 44
p. 3, 7
Film Daily
13 Mar 44
p. 14.
Hollywood Citizen-News
20 Jun 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 43
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 44
p. 1, 16
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1976.
---
Look
30 May 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Mar 44
pp. 1793-94.
New York Times
12 May 44
p. 15.
Variety
15 Mar 44
p. 32.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Clarence Brown Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl poetry for the picture
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Pub
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the poem The White Cliffs by Alice Duer Miller (New York, 1940).
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1944
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 May 1944
Los Angeles opening: 19 June 1944
Production Date:
25 May--early September 1943
addl scenes began early January 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 April 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12695
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
125-126
Length(in feet):
11,336
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9825
SYNOPSIS

As she prepares for an influx of wounded soldiers at a London military hospital, American-born Red Cross volunteer Lady Susan Ashwood worries about her son John, who is fighting overseas, and fondly recalls her arrival in England many years before: In April 1914, Susan and her father, Hiram Porter Dunn, a small-town newspaper publisher from Rhode Island, arrive in London for a two-week vacation. Hiram detests everything English, especially the rainy weather, which quickly aggravates his lumbago and keeps him in his boardinghouse bed. On their last day in London, Col. Walter Forsythe, an elderly boardinghouse resident, invites Susan to accompany him to a ball hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Waverly, and she eagerly accepts. At the ball, the colonel tricks young Sir John Ashwood into dancing with Susan by leading him to believe she is his friend's Australian cousin, whom John has been asked to entertain. John is immediately taken with the down-to-earth Susan and spends a long, romantic evening with her. Just before parting, John begs Susan to stay in England, but she tearfully insists that she has to leave with her father. The next morning, however, John shows up at the boardinghouse and announces that his mother, Lady Jean, has invited both Susan and Hiram to their country manor. After much cajoling, Hiram finally gives Susan permission to stay in England without him, and she is whisked away to the country. Although they give Susan a warm welcome, John's family, including his brother Reggie, is unsure about her relationship with John and one night invite his childhood sweetheart, Helen Hampton, who is still in love with him, to dinner. ... +


As she prepares for an influx of wounded soldiers at a London military hospital, American-born Red Cross volunteer Lady Susan Ashwood worries about her son John, who is fighting overseas, and fondly recalls her arrival in England many years before: In April 1914, Susan and her father, Hiram Porter Dunn, a small-town newspaper publisher from Rhode Island, arrive in London for a two-week vacation. Hiram detests everything English, especially the rainy weather, which quickly aggravates his lumbago and keeps him in his boardinghouse bed. On their last day in London, Col. Walter Forsythe, an elderly boardinghouse resident, invites Susan to accompany him to a ball hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Waverly, and she eagerly accepts. At the ball, the colonel tricks young Sir John Ashwood into dancing with Susan by leading him to believe she is his friend's Australian cousin, whom John has been asked to entertain. John is immediately taken with the down-to-earth Susan and spends a long, romantic evening with her. Just before parting, John begs Susan to stay in England, but she tearfully insists that she has to leave with her father. The next morning, however, John shows up at the boardinghouse and announces that his mother, Lady Jean, has invited both Susan and Hiram to their country manor. After much cajoling, Hiram finally gives Susan permission to stay in England without him, and she is whisked away to the country. Although they give Susan a warm welcome, John's family, including his brother Reggie, is unsure about her relationship with John and one night invite his childhood sweetheart, Helen Hampton, who is still in love with him, to dinner. John, however, is sure about his feelings for Susan and proposes, but she is too stunned to give an immediate answer. Susan then receives a telegram from her father, pleading with her to come home, and when John's family makes seemingly anti-American comments in front of her, she explodes in anger. Although Lady Jean apologizes and assures her that the English are reserved by nature, Susan prepares to sail home, convinced that she is too "American" for John. As she is about to board the ship, however, John appears and talks her into marrying him. In the midst of their honeymoon, war breaks out, and John, who, following family tradition is an Army officer, is sent off to fight. After three years of separation, Susan and Lady Jean learn that the government has arranged for soldiers' wives to be reunited with their husbands for a brief leave in France. Their joy is shortlived, however, when a telegram announcing Reggie's death in battle also arrives. At an elegant resort in coastal France, Susan and the war-weary John relish every moment of their reunion. A year later, Susan, who now lives in London, watches hopefully with her newborn son, John Ashwood II, as American troops march through the streets. Just before peace is declared, however, John is killed in action, and Susan is devastated. Lady Jean finally brings Susan out of her embittered grief by impressing on her that John sacrificed his life in order to assure his son a peaceful future. Many years later, Susan and Hiram, who now lives at the Ashwood manor, become concerned when they hear German acquaintances of young John predicting that Germany will soon "finish" the business of the previous war. Sure that another war is coming, Hiram convinces Susan to return to America with John, but while they are on the train to the coast, John, who takes seriously his duties as master of the manor, persuades her to stay in England, his home. When war finally breaks out, both John and his childhood sweetheart, farmer's daughter Betsy Kenney, go to the front. Back at the hospital, Susan's reveries are interrupted by the arrival of the wounded soldiers. As she had feared, John is among the injured and has only a few hours to live. When she sees American troops outside, marching side by side with English soldiers, however, she assures John that his sacrifice, like that of his father, will not be in vain. +

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

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