Once Upon a Time (1944)

88 mins | Comedy-drama | 11 May 1944

Director:

Alexander Hall

Producer:

Louis F. Edelman

Cinematographer:

Frank F. Planer

Editor:

Gene Havlick

Production Designers:

Lionel Banks, Edward C. Jewell

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Curly , My Friend Curly , My Client Curly and Yes Sir, That's My Baby . The picture opens with the following prologue: "Someone told us a story the other day that sounded fantastic. But in a world that is so troubled today and where reality is so grim--fantasy was a welcome relief. Thinking you might feel the same way about it--we're passing this yarn to you. Relax and pull up a chair. Once upon a time--"
       News items in the HR yield the following information about the film's production: In Oct 1942, Columbia announced that Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart would star in the picture, which was to be scripted by Edwin Justus Meyer and Dale Van Every. Although a 15 Jan 1942 HR production chart indicated that production had begun with Bogart, Hayworth and Jess Barker, the project was delayed and filming did not begin again until 13 Sep 1943. By 18 Jan 1943 it was announced that Brian Donlevy, who was tired of appearing in war films and wanted to act in a comedy, was to replace Bogart while Bogart took over Donlevy's role in Sahara (see below). Several days later, Columbia suspended Hayworth for refusing to play the female lead in the picture and Donlevy's contract was canceled by mutual consent. Cary Grant then voiced an interest in appearing in the film, which was shelved until late Apr 1943 when Hayworth returned from her suspension. Janet Blair was eventually cast as the female lead, but in early ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Curly , My Friend Curly , My Client Curly and Yes Sir, That's My Baby . The picture opens with the following prologue: "Someone told us a story the other day that sounded fantastic. But in a world that is so troubled today and where reality is so grim--fantasy was a welcome relief. Thinking you might feel the same way about it--we're passing this yarn to you. Relax and pull up a chair. Once upon a time--"
       News items in the HR yield the following information about the film's production: In Oct 1942, Columbia announced that Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart would star in the picture, which was to be scripted by Edwin Justus Meyer and Dale Van Every. Although a 15 Jan 1942 HR production chart indicated that production had begun with Bogart, Hayworth and Jess Barker, the project was delayed and filming did not begin again until 13 Sep 1943. By 18 Jan 1943 it was announced that Brian Donlevy, who was tired of appearing in war films and wanted to act in a comedy, was to replace Bogart while Bogart took over Donlevy's role in Sahara (see below). Several days later, Columbia suspended Hayworth for refusing to play the female lead in the picture and Donlevy's contract was canceled by mutual consent. Cary Grant then voiced an interest in appearing in the film, which was shelved until late Apr 1943 when Hayworth returned from her suspension. Janet Blair was eventually cast as the female lead, but in early Sep 1943 production was delayed because of story problems. This picture marked the screen debut of Ted Donaldson. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Apr 1944.
---
Daily Variety
18 Apr 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
27 Apr 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 44
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Apr 44
p. 1867.
New York Times
30 Jun 44
p. 17.
Variety
26 Apr 44
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Alex Melish
Joseph J. Greene
Buddy Yarus
Cy Ring
Alameda Fowler
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the radio play "My Client Curly" by Norman Corwin on Columbia Workshop (CBS, 7 Mar 1940).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Yes Sir, That's My Baby," words by Gus Kahn, music by Walter Donaldson.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Curly
Yes Sir Thats My Baby
My Client Curly
Release Date:
11 May 1944
Production Date:
13 September--17 December 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
22 April 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12612
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
88
Length(in feet):
7,957
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

After staging three flops in a row, Broadway producer Jerry Flynn is in danger of losing his theater because he is unable to pay the $100,000 note that he owes the bank. After his banker, McKenzie, grants him only one week to pay the note, Jerry wanders out into the street, where nine-year old Arthur "Pinky" Thompson and his friend Fatso are playing the harmonica. When Jerry pitches his last nickle over his shoulder for good luck, the boys pocket the coin and offer the producer a peek at Curly, Pinky's dancing caterpillar. Peering into Curly's shoe box, Jerry is amazed to see the caterpillar stand up and begin to wiggle as Pinky plays "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" on the harmonica. Certain that he can build Curly into a celebrity, Jerry offers to buy the insect, but Pinky refuses, claiming that Curly is his friend. Jerry then proposes forming a partnership with Pinky to promote Curly, and the boy accepts. Soon after, Jeanne Thompson, Pinky's sister and guardian, comes looking for her brother. When Jerry gushes his admiration for Curly, Jeanne declares that he is insane and ushers her brother home. Undaunted, Jerry tells Fatso to bring Pinky to his hotel suite the next morning, and there he introduces The Moke, his right-hand man, to Curly. Although Moke is unimpressed with the "dancing worm," Jerry boasts that he will build the caterpillar into a $100,000 investment and directs Moke to bring all the local columnists to his hotel suite. The reporters greet Jerry's tale of "how he found fantasy on the sidewalk" with derision and refuse to peer into Curly's shoe ... +


After staging three flops in a row, Broadway producer Jerry Flynn is in danger of losing his theater because he is unable to pay the $100,000 note that he owes the bank. After his banker, McKenzie, grants him only one week to pay the note, Jerry wanders out into the street, where nine-year old Arthur "Pinky" Thompson and his friend Fatso are playing the harmonica. When Jerry pitches his last nickle over his shoulder for good luck, the boys pocket the coin and offer the producer a peek at Curly, Pinky's dancing caterpillar. Peering into Curly's shoe box, Jerry is amazed to see the caterpillar stand up and begin to wiggle as Pinky plays "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" on the harmonica. Certain that he can build Curly into a celebrity, Jerry offers to buy the insect, but Pinky refuses, claiming that Curly is his friend. Jerry then proposes forming a partnership with Pinky to promote Curly, and the boy accepts. Soon after, Jeanne Thompson, Pinky's sister and guardian, comes looking for her brother. When Jerry gushes his admiration for Curly, Jeanne declares that he is insane and ushers her brother home. Undaunted, Jerry tells Fatso to bring Pinky to his hotel suite the next morning, and there he introduces The Moke, his right-hand man, to Curly. Although Moke is unimpressed with the "dancing worm," Jerry boasts that he will build the caterpillar into a $100,000 investment and directs Moke to bring all the local columnists to his hotel suite. The reporters greet Jerry's tale of "how he found fantasy on the sidewalk" with derision and refuse to peer into Curly's shoe box to see the dancing caterpillar. In the hotel lobby, reporter Brant, Jerry's antagonist, phones his editor to mock Jerry's story. Brant's call is overheard by radio announcer Gabriel Heatter, who is intrigued by Curly's talents and invites Curly, Pinky and Jerry to his office. On his broadcast that night, Heatter relates the story of Pinky and Curly, turning it into a parable about hope. The tale of the boy and the bug inspires the audience, making Curly and Pinky instant celebrities. Among those flocking to see the celebrated insect is Dunhill, a representative from Walt Disney, who offers to buy Curly. Jerry, who has promised Pinky that he would never sell the caterpillar, sets Curly's price at $100,000, the amount that he owes the bank. After Dunhill leaves to present Jerry's offer to Disney, Jeanne arrives, upset about her brother's instant fame, and insists that Pinky immediately return home. As news of the dancing caterpillar sweeps the nation, Jerry and Pinky scheme to win Jeanne's sympathy. Sobbing that he doesn't want to live unless he can continue his partnership with Jerry, Pinky climbs onto a window ledge and threatens to jump. Blaming herself for Pinky's misery, Jeanne relents and allows him to move in with Jerry. Jerry's next challenge comes when a team of lepidopterists dispute Curly's dancing ability. After submitting the caterpillar to the scientists for examination, Jerry instructs Pinky to play "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" on his harmonica. When Curly stands up and begins to sway with the music, the scientists authenticate the insect's musical abilities and demand that he remain in their possession. In response, Jerry accuses the scientists of denying him his bill of rights, thus sparking a nationwide debate over who owns the rights to Curly. Later, as Jerry laments Curly's lack of profitability, Disney calls and agrees to his price. That night, Jerry orders Moke to steal Curly as Pinky sleeps, and although he disapproves, Moke anesthesizes himself with drink and slips into Pinky's room. Pinky awakens just as Moke is about to snatch Curly's shoe box, and after Moke passes out on the bed, Pinky takes Curly and runs away. Jerry, meanwhile, has taken Jeanne out to dinner, and when he brings her home, he finds Pinky waiting for him. After denouncing Jerry for trying to steal Curly, Pinky hides the caterpillar. When Jerry slaps Pinky in anger, the boy hands Curly's box to him. Realizing that he has betrayed the boy, Jerry returns the shoe box, but when Pinky opens it, Curly is gone. As the city searches for the missing caterpillar, Pinky blames Jerry for Curly's loss and refuses to speak to him. Jerry is so distraught that even McKenzie's offer to let him keep the theater fails to cheer him. To patch up their friendship, Moke visits one of Curly's fan clubs and asks the boys to help reconcile Jerry and Pinky. After the boys surround Jerry and escort him to Pinky's apartment, Jerry sits at the piano and begins to play "Yes Sir, That's My Baby." When a butterfly takes flight from inside the piano, Jerry realizes that it must be Curly. Just then, Pinky enters the apartment, and when Jerry tells him the news, he joyfully welcomes Curly home. After fluttering around the room, Curly flies out an open window, and Jerry and Pinky, recognizing that the butterfly must now be free, bid their friend farewell. +

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

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