Elsa Maxwell's Public Deb No. 1 (1940)

79 mins | Comedy-drama | 13 September 1940

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HISTORY

Working titles for this film include Public Relations , Princess and the Pauper , and The Public Be Damned . The film is also known under the title Public Deb. No. 1 . Material in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Script Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library indicate that Elsa Maxwell wrote the first draft of this screenplay, though she received no writing credit nor is there any indication that material from that draft was used. HR reported that director Sidney Lanfield severed his relationship with Fox after fifteen years when he refused to direct this film. According to a Twentieth Century-Fox press release, this was the fourth film for which Fox had borrowed George Murphy from M-G-M. Linda Darnell was cast at one time in the lead role in this film, but was later replaced by Brenda Joyce. Press releases note that Brenda Joyce's wardrobe was worth $275,000, but the actual rental cost was $50,000. A free-standing, wheeled dance floor was built for the film, which, when attached to the camera, allowed the camera to dolly around Murphy and Joyce during the dance sequence. In addition, the make-up for Elsa Maxwell for the costume party sequence reportedly took two hours each day to apply. Mickey Rooney wrote a song entitled "Public Deb. #1" and auditioned it before the Fox music department, in hopes of selling it for this film. It was not used or purchased, however. The film makes reference to the 30 November 1939 invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union which resulted in the Treaty of Moscow of 12 March 1940, and led ... More Less

Working titles for this film include Public Relations , Princess and the Pauper , and The Public Be Damned . The film is also known under the title Public Deb. No. 1 . Material in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Script Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library indicate that Elsa Maxwell wrote the first draft of this screenplay, though she received no writing credit nor is there any indication that material from that draft was used. HR reported that director Sidney Lanfield severed his relationship with Fox after fifteen years when he refused to direct this film. According to a Twentieth Century-Fox press release, this was the fourth film for which Fox had borrowed George Murphy from M-G-M. Linda Darnell was cast at one time in the lead role in this film, but was later replaced by Brenda Joyce. Press releases note that Brenda Joyce's wardrobe was worth $275,000, but the actual rental cost was $50,000. A free-standing, wheeled dance floor was built for the film, which, when attached to the camera, allowed the camera to dolly around Murphy and Joyce during the dance sequence. In addition, the make-up for Elsa Maxwell for the costume party sequence reportedly took two hours each day to apply. Mickey Rooney wrote a song entitled "Public Deb. #1" and auditioned it before the Fox music department, in hopes of selling it for this film. It was not used or purchased, however. The film makes reference to the 30 November 1939 invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union which resulted in the Treaty of Moscow of 12 March 1940, and led to the partial annexation of Finland by the Soviet Union. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
18 Sep 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 40
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
27 Aug 40
p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald
25 May 40
p. 40.
Motion Picture Herald
31 Aug 40
p. 53.
New York Times
18 Sep 40
p. 19.
Variety
28 Aug 40
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Jewels by
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
DANCE
Dances staged by
Dances staged by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Public Relations
The Public Be Damned
Public Deb No. 1
Release Date:
13 September 1940
Production Date:
Began 8 April 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
13 September 1940
Copyright Number:
LP9929
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79
Length(in feet):
7,247
Country:
United States
PCA No:
6234
SYNOPSIS

A Communist rally is held at New York City's Union Square. A number of Legionnaires decide to break up the rally, causing a riot. At night court, the magistrate sentences each Communist to "thirty dollars or thirty days." When Penny Cooper, heiress to the Cooper's Soup fortune and café society's number one debutante, faces the gavel, however the judge immediately drops the charges against her and all the others. Returning home, Penny is greeted by her new butler and political tutor, Grisha, a shady character at best. Waiting for Penny is her boyfriend, Bruce Fairchild. Bruce, a Republican lawyer, tells Penny he has been asked to run for Congress. Penny is thrilled, thinking Bruce will carry the Communist banner. Penny's uncle Milburn arrives in a cab from Palm Beach and tells Penny that, as she represents Cooper's Soup to the masses, she must stay out of the news. Just then, Grisha arrives with headlines proclaiming Penny's new Communist allegiance. Women's groups begin a boycott of Cooper's Soup, causing sales to plummet. Milburn addresses a meeting of the board of directors, telling them society hostess Elsa Maxwell will endorse the soup for $25,000. When Elsa arrives, however, she announces that she can not endorse the soup and that Penny needs to "be taken out to the woodshed." Later, at the Russian restaurant Red Samovar, Penny and Bruce have dinner. Their waiter, Alan Blake, is no Russian and no waiter. After dropping a olive in Penny's cleavage and spilling Bruce's soup, Alan stirs Penny's ire when he responds in the negative to her questions about Communism. Upset at ... +


A Communist rally is held at New York City's Union Square. A number of Legionnaires decide to break up the rally, causing a riot. At night court, the magistrate sentences each Communist to "thirty dollars or thirty days." When Penny Cooper, heiress to the Cooper's Soup fortune and café society's number one debutante, faces the gavel, however the judge immediately drops the charges against her and all the others. Returning home, Penny is greeted by her new butler and political tutor, Grisha, a shady character at best. Waiting for Penny is her boyfriend, Bruce Fairchild. Bruce, a Republican lawyer, tells Penny he has been asked to run for Congress. Penny is thrilled, thinking Bruce will carry the Communist banner. Penny's uncle Milburn arrives in a cab from Palm Beach and tells Penny that, as she represents Cooper's Soup to the masses, she must stay out of the news. Just then, Grisha arrives with headlines proclaiming Penny's new Communist allegiance. Women's groups begin a boycott of Cooper's Soup, causing sales to plummet. Milburn addresses a meeting of the board of directors, telling them society hostess Elsa Maxwell will endorse the soup for $25,000. When Elsa arrives, however, she announces that she can not endorse the soup and that Penny needs to "be taken out to the woodshed." Later, at the Russian restaurant Red Samovar, Penny and Bruce have dinner. Their waiter, Alan Blake, is no Russian and no waiter. After dropping a olive in Penny's cleavage and spilling Bruce's soup, Alan stirs Penny's ire when he responds in the negative to her questions about Communism. Upset at Alan's impertinence, Penny has Alan fired. Alan, in turn, turns Penny over his knee and spanks her, just as the press arrives. Alan is proclaimed an American hero by the newspapers, which he reads from his jail cell. Back at home, Cooper's Soup nears bankruptcy. Penny claims not to care until Grisha reminds her that the revolution needs her money. Penny drops the charges against Alan and leaves the jail with him while reporters eagerly proclaim "Love at First Slap." Alan agrees to their phony romance when he is made vice president of Cooper's Soup. As the headlines of Penny and Alan's romance fill the society pages, the sales of Cooper's Soup skyrocket. Taking a night off from café society, Alan and Penny go to a blue-collar dance where they find mutual attraction. But when Alan starts telling Penny the ways of the world, she angrily storms home. Catching her at the door, Alan kisses her, telling her "the physical approach is the only one you understand." Upset, Penny fires Alan. The next day, Penny works out with her boxing instructor Eric. Alan calls, telling Penny that he has taken a job on a ship to South America. Penny shows authentic concern until she hears Alan's landlady in the background. At her costume birthday party, Alan thinks he has won Penny's heart, but she dances every dance with Bruce. At the bartender's suggestion, Alan decides to slip Bruce a "Mickey." When he discovers that Bruce and Penny are engaged and that Penny plans sell the soup company and give all the money to the Communist party, Alan instead gives Penny the "Mickey". The next morning, Penny finds herself chained to a bed at the deserted Sugar Ridge Hotel, which Alan had managed at one time. She escapes and is about to sell the soup company to Milburn's drinking buddy, Hugh Stackett, when Eric enters the room, informing them that Russia has just invaded Finland. Penny realizes that Communism isn't what she thought it was and learns that Grisha is no more than a petty thief. She tears up the transfer papers and knocks out Grisha as Alan and Bruce arrive. Penny tells Alan she despises him, but when he kisses her, the "physical approach" works again. Penny throws her Communist manual out the window where a dog then sniffs at it. +

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.