Lady in the Dark (1944)

100 mins | Drama | 1944

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HISTORY

Raoul Pene du Bois's onscreen credit reads: "Settings and Costumes designed by Raoul Pene du Bois." Onscreen dance credits read as follows: "Miss Rogers' dance by and with Don Loper" and "'The Circus' and Miss Parker's dance by and with Billy Daniels." Portions of the following songs, which were featured in the original musical, are heard in this film: "One Life to Live," "Girl of the Moment," "It Looks Like Liza" and "This is New," music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin; and "Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan. The film rights to Moss Hart's musical, Lady in the Dark , which starred Gertrude Lawrence as "Liza," were originally owned by Alexander Korda, according to modern sources. Modern sources also note that the musical drama was partially inspired by Moss Hart's personal experience with psychoanalysis.
       According to an article in the NYT , the PCA requested that director Mitchell Leisen modify Liza's relationship with the married "Kendall" so that it would appear more sentimental than romantic and insisted that the character of "Russell Paxton" not be depicted as overtly "effeminate." Material in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following about the production: Choreographer George Balanchine was originally slated to choreograph the dance sequences but was released from his contract prior to production. MacDonald Carey was initially cast to reprise his Broadway role as "Dr. Brooks" but withdrew when he was called into military service. Marjorie Rambeau was to appear as "Maggie Grant." Special effects director Slavko Vorkapich worked on the film but declined a screen credit. Paramount negotiated with Vogue editor Babs Willaumez ... More Less

Raoul Pene du Bois's onscreen credit reads: "Settings and Costumes designed by Raoul Pene du Bois." Onscreen dance credits read as follows: "Miss Rogers' dance by and with Don Loper" and "'The Circus' and Miss Parker's dance by and with Billy Daniels." Portions of the following songs, which were featured in the original musical, are heard in this film: "One Life to Live," "Girl of the Moment," "It Looks Like Liza" and "This is New," music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin; and "Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan. The film rights to Moss Hart's musical, Lady in the Dark , which starred Gertrude Lawrence as "Liza," were originally owned by Alexander Korda, according to modern sources. Modern sources also note that the musical drama was partially inspired by Moss Hart's personal experience with psychoanalysis.
       According to an article in the NYT , the PCA requested that director Mitchell Leisen modify Liza's relationship with the married "Kendall" so that it would appear more sentimental than romantic and insisted that the character of "Russell Paxton" not be depicted as overtly "effeminate." Material in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following about the production: Choreographer George Balanchine was originally slated to choreograph the dance sequences but was released from his contract prior to production. MacDonald Carey was initially cast to reprise his Broadway role as "Dr. Brooks" but withdrew when he was called into military service. Marjorie Rambeau was to appear as "Maggie Grant." Special effects director Slavko Vorkapich worked on the film but declined a screen credit. Paramount negotiated with Vogue editor Babs Willaumez to act as a technical advisor, along with photographer John Rawlins, but Vogue was unable to release them for the time specified. However, Paramount did pay Willaumez a lump sum for her costume designs, some of which were used in the film. Paramount also engaged the following high fashion designers to design costumes for this film: Valentina, Norell, Adrian and Falkenstein. The extent of their contribution to Lady in the Dark has not been determined, however. (According to a modern interview with Mitchell Leisen, only Valentina contributed a design.) The film's final cost was $2,581,657.
       HR news items reported the following about the production: In Feb 1941, Paramount, which owned one-third of the stage play Lady in the Dark , outbid Columbia and Warner Bros. and purchased the screen rights to the musical for $283,000, a record price at the time. The studio then refused an offer from producer Howard Hughes to sell the property for $320,000. A Mar 1942 news item reported that Paramount was negotiating with Fred Astaire to re-team with Ginger Rogers, with whom he had not performed in five years, on the picture. Associate producer David Lewis withdrew from the film due to military service. Paramount considered featuring Angna Enters as Liza's alter ego in the dream sequences. Paramount postponed the film's release because of a backlog of other pictures. To reduce the running time of the film, a scene featuring Mischa Auer singing "Tchaikovsky," a popular number performed by Danny Kaye in the original play, was cut, according to an article in NYHT .
       In a modern interview, Leisen claims that although Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich received screen credit for the screenplay, he completely re-wrote their script. Leisen also noted that producer B. G. DeSylva insisted that Rogers' rendition of "My Ship," (music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin) which she sings in a park just prior to the high school graduation dance, be cut from the film.
       The Var review noted that the film was "produced on a lavish scale in Technicolor," and that the "plethora of many combinations of brilliant colors stamps the production as perhaps the finest ever turned out in tints." A LAEx review noted that the film "is best described as a happy, happy mingling of Freud and Walt Disney....The spectacle, the color, the unusual theme add up to being the real stars of Lady in the Dark ." The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Interior Decoration (Color), and Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture). Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland reprised their roles in a 29 Jan 1945 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast. A second Lux adaptation, broadcast on 16 Feb 1953, starred Judy Garland and John Lund. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Feb 1944.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 Feb 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1941.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 43
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 44
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 44
p. 11.
Los Angeles Examiner
10 Feb 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Feb 44
p. 1753.
New York Herald Tribune
20 Feb 1944.
---
New York Times
1 Nov 1942.
---
New York Times
23 Jan 44
p. 3 (sec 2).
New York Times
23 Feb 44
p. 17.
Variety
16 Feb 44
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Louise La Planche
Tony Marsh
Fred "Red" Johnson
Larry "Bozo" Valli
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mitchell Leisen Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art supv
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Modern gowns
Cost executed by
Contr to cost des
MUSIC
Mus scored and dir by
Vocal arr
Orch arr
Mus assoc
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
Montages
DANCE
Miss Rogers' dance by
"The Circus" and Miss Parker's dance staged by
Dance supv
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Lips, eyes, etc.
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Lady in the Dark , book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin (New York, 23 Jan 1941).
SONGS
"Suddenly It's Spring," music and lyrics by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen
"The Saga of Jenny," music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
"Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan
+
SONGS
"Suddenly It's Spring," music and lyrics by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen
"The Saga of Jenny," music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
"Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan
"Dream Lover," music and lyrics by Clifford Grey and Victor Schertzinger.
+
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
Hollywood premiere: 9 February 1944
New York opening: 22 February 1944
Production Date:
9 December 1942--20 March 1943
retakes and addl scenes 23 March--24 March 1943 and 16 April 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 February 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12686
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100
Length(in feet):
9,000
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Liza Elliott, the stern editor-in-chief of Allure fashion magazine, finds that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Liza rejects her physician's advice to go into psychoanalysis and seeks solace in her work, but her condition is aggravated by jokester Charley Johnson, her publicity and advertising manager, who constantly challenges her authority. Liza's married boyfriend, Allure publisher Kendall Nesbitt, also fears that his unavailability is contributing to her confusion. Frightened by her own lack of control, Liza starts therapy with Dr. Alexander Brooks. During her first session, Liza recalls that in her most recent dream she wore an extravagant blue gown, which baffles her as she hates the color blue. In the dream, Charley is commissioned to paint Liza's portrait for a two-cent stamp, but the portrait is a caricature, and Liza becomes a laughingstock. Brooks surmises that although Liza is controlled and severe in her appearance, it may be her secret childhood dream to be glamorous. Later that day, Liza's staff loses control when handsome Hollywood star Randy Curtis comes in to model for photographs and makes it impossible for photographer Russell Paxton to do his work. Liza is unmoved by Randy's good looks, but when Kendall announces that he is now free to marry her, Liza greets the news with trepidation, and agrees to a dinner date with Randy. That night, Liza dreams that she falls in love with Randy just before her wedding. Charley officiates at the dream wedding, and when he asks if anyone opposes the marriage, the guests shout at Liza to reveal her true self. After she relates her dream to Brooks, he suggests ... +


Liza Elliott, the stern editor-in-chief of Allure fashion magazine, finds that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Liza rejects her physician's advice to go into psychoanalysis and seeks solace in her work, but her condition is aggravated by jokester Charley Johnson, her publicity and advertising manager, who constantly challenges her authority. Liza's married boyfriend, Allure publisher Kendall Nesbitt, also fears that his unavailability is contributing to her confusion. Frightened by her own lack of control, Liza starts therapy with Dr. Alexander Brooks. During her first session, Liza recalls that in her most recent dream she wore an extravagant blue gown, which baffles her as she hates the color blue. In the dream, Charley is commissioned to paint Liza's portrait for a two-cent stamp, but the portrait is a caricature, and Liza becomes a laughingstock. Brooks surmises that although Liza is controlled and severe in her appearance, it may be her secret childhood dream to be glamorous. Later that day, Liza's staff loses control when handsome Hollywood star Randy Curtis comes in to model for photographs and makes it impossible for photographer Russell Paxton to do his work. Liza is unmoved by Randy's good looks, but when Kendall announces that he is now free to marry her, Liza greets the news with trepidation, and agrees to a dinner date with Randy. That night, Liza dreams that she falls in love with Randy just before her wedding. Charley officiates at the dream wedding, and when he asks if anyone opposes the marriage, the guests shout at Liza to reveal her true self. After she relates her dream to Brooks, he suggests that Kendall is a father figure, and that her "true self" wants to be glamorous. Liza angrily rejects Brooks's diagnosis and cancels all future sessions. The next day, Charley announces his resignation so that he can work as an editor at another magazine. Liza offers Charley a raise, but he rejects her offer because he knows that she will never step down from her position. Kendall then confronts Liza, and when she admits that she does not want to marry him, he insists that she fulfill her commitment. After Randy later implies that it is Liza's plain appearance that pleases him, Liza puts on a lavish gown for their dinner date. That night at supper, Randy confesses his love for Liza, but she leaves abruptly when their intimate conversation is interrupted by Charley and his date, who is an ardent fan of Randy. At home, Liza is tortured by her inability to make a decision about marrying Kendall, about using Charley's new idea for a circus-themed Easter cover, and finally, about the kind of woman she wants to be. Inspired by Charley's drawings for the circus-themed cover art, Liza dreams that she is a child attending a circus, and that Charley is the ringmaster: Liza is suddenly a grown woman in a cage and is put on trial for her indecision. Liza defends herself by singing the "Saga of Jenny," about a woman whose firm decisions always lead her astray. Liza then hears the strains of "My Ship," a tune from her childhood, which she hums any time she is worried. When Liza seeks comfort in an image of her father, he angrily responds that she should take off her outrageous dress. The next day, Liza returns to Brooks, and they confirm that the source of Liza's trouble lies in her childhood: One day, Liza's father asks her to sing "My Ship" for her mother's friends, all of whom cherish her mother for her beauty. Liza is humiliated when they find no resemblance between mother and daughter, and she is unable to sing the song. Liza's mother dies shortly after, and to draw her father out of his grief, Liza tries on her mother's blue gown. Liza's father angrily demands that she take off the dress, and thereafter, Liza avoids her father and focuses only on schoolwork. When she is invited to her high school graduation dance by Ben, who is considered the most handsome boy in the school, a little light comes back into her life, but this soon dims after Ben abandons her at the dance in favor of his former girl friend. Brooks now suggests that Liza has withdrawn from femininity to avoid being hurt, and therefore, has forced men to accept her as their superior. Brooks believes that she may only be happy with a man who will dominate her. With a new outlook on life, Liza gently rejects Kendall and accepts Randy's marriage proposal. When Randy asks her to head his new production studio, however, Liza realizes that he is not the man for her. Liza then offers Charley a partnership, with the possibility that she will eventually relinquish her position, and Charley delightedly accepts. While discussing new ideas for the magazine, Charley and Liza discover they love each other and kiss. Russell, frustrated by the demands of his work, stops into Liza's office and, seeing them kissing, announces, "This is the end, the absolute end!" +

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

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