The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944)

87, 90 or 107 mins | Drama | 11 February 1944

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HISTORY

The opening credits of this film read: "Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey . According to a news item in NYT , Benedict Bogeaus, a former Chicago businessman, paid $50,000 for the rights to this picture, which marked his first foray into producing. Pre-production news items in HR yield the following information about the production: Bogeaus negotiated with Rouben Mamoulian and Fritz Lang to direct the picture and considered both Pola Negri and Margo for lead roles. Kent Smith tested for the role of the twin brothers. Bogeaus initially conceived of filming the production in Technicolor. A 14 Sep 1943 HR news item announced Philip Tannura as cinematographer, but his contribution to the released film has not been confirmed. Although a 17 Sep 1943 production chart credits John Mescall as cinematographer, all subsequent production charts list John Boyle in that position. An 18 Nov 1943 HR news item adds Theodore Von Eltz to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A news item in LADN notes that Reynaldo Luza, who served as technical advisor and costume designer on this picture, was a celebrated Peruvian artist. Although the copyright records, MPH and Var reviews list the film's running time as 107 minutes, the DV review lists it as 90 minutes. The viewed print was 87 minutes, the length quoted by modern sources.
       This picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score. Wilder's novel was previously filmed by M-G-M in 1929, and starred Lily Damita and Ernest Torrance and ... More Less

The opening credits of this film read: "Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey . According to a news item in NYT , Benedict Bogeaus, a former Chicago businessman, paid $50,000 for the rights to this picture, which marked his first foray into producing. Pre-production news items in HR yield the following information about the production: Bogeaus negotiated with Rouben Mamoulian and Fritz Lang to direct the picture and considered both Pola Negri and Margo for lead roles. Kent Smith tested for the role of the twin brothers. Bogeaus initially conceived of filming the production in Technicolor. A 14 Sep 1943 HR news item announced Philip Tannura as cinematographer, but his contribution to the released film has not been confirmed. Although a 17 Sep 1943 production chart credits John Mescall as cinematographer, all subsequent production charts list John Boyle in that position. An 18 Nov 1943 HR news item adds Theodore Von Eltz to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A news item in LADN notes that Reynaldo Luza, who served as technical advisor and costume designer on this picture, was a celebrated Peruvian artist. Although the copyright records, MPH and Var reviews list the film's running time as 107 minutes, the DV review lists it as 90 minutes. The viewed print was 87 minutes, the length quoted by modern sources.
       This picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score. Wilder's novel was previously filmed by M-G-M in 1929, and starred Lily Damita and Ernest Torrance and was directed by Charles Brabin (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0601). On 21 Jan 1958, CBS broadcast a televised version of the story starring Hume Cronyn, Viveca Lindfors, and directed by Robert Mulligan. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Feb 1944.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Feb 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 43
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 43
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 44
p. 11.
Los Angeles Daily News
17 Sep 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 Feb 44
p. 1742.
New York Times
3 Oct 1943.
---
New York Times
4 Mar 44
p. 11.
Variety
2 Feb 44
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Rowland V. Lee Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod assoc
Asst to prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus score and dir
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech supv and costs
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (New York, 1927).
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 February 1944
Production Date:
mid September--early November 1943
addl scenes began 10 November 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Benedict Bogeaus Productions
Copyright Date:
11 February 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12725
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87, 90 or 107
Length(in feet):
9,660
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9822
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1774, in Peru, a rickety bridge that for one hundred years has spanned the gorge leading to the chapel of San Luis Rey collapses, sending five people plunging to their death. Deeply affected by the catastrophe, Brother Juniper, the pastor of the chapel, journeys to Lima in quest of why these five people were chosen to die. There Juniper visits Uncle Pio, a theatrical entrepeneur who is widely regarded as the pulse of his people. When Juniper questions Pio about the beloved Peruvian actress Michaela Villegas, Pio recalls first seeing her perform in the streets of Lima: Micheala is attracted to the adventurous Manuel, but Esteban, Manuel's morose twin brother, despises her. One day, Manuel tells Michaela that he is sailing to Spain and asks her to wait for him. After Manuel departs, Pio becomes Michaela's mentor, schooling her in acting and proper comportment. Under Pio's guidance, Michaela develops into the leading actress of the Comedia Theater. The Viceroy, bored and resentful over being exiled from Spain to the colony of Peru, becomes intrigued by Michaela and invites her to the palace. On the night that Michaela is to meet the Viceroy, Manuel returns, and she foresakes her audience with the nobleman to spend the night with him. Jealous over the Viceroy's interest in Michaela, Manuel forbids her to go to the palace and warns her that the aristocracy will make her an object of ridicule. Manuel's return creates tension between the brothers, and upon returning home one night, Manuel finds a stack of unmailed letters Michaela had written to him and a note from Esteban, ... +


In 1774, in Peru, a rickety bridge that for one hundred years has spanned the gorge leading to the chapel of San Luis Rey collapses, sending five people plunging to their death. Deeply affected by the catastrophe, Brother Juniper, the pastor of the chapel, journeys to Lima in quest of why these five people were chosen to die. There Juniper visits Uncle Pio, a theatrical entrepeneur who is widely regarded as the pulse of his people. When Juniper questions Pio about the beloved Peruvian actress Michaela Villegas, Pio recalls first seeing her perform in the streets of Lima: Micheala is attracted to the adventurous Manuel, but Esteban, Manuel's morose twin brother, despises her. One day, Manuel tells Michaela that he is sailing to Spain and asks her to wait for him. After Manuel departs, Pio becomes Michaela's mentor, schooling her in acting and proper comportment. Under Pio's guidance, Michaela develops into the leading actress of the Comedia Theater. The Viceroy, bored and resentful over being exiled from Spain to the colony of Peru, becomes intrigued by Michaela and invites her to the palace. On the night that Michaela is to meet the Viceroy, Manuel returns, and she foresakes her audience with the nobleman to spend the night with him. Jealous over the Viceroy's interest in Michaela, Manuel forbids her to go to the palace and warns her that the aristocracy will make her an object of ridicule. Manuel's return creates tension between the brothers, and upon returning home one night, Manuel finds a stack of unmailed letters Michaela had written to him and a note from Esteban, apologizing for never having mailed them. Full of remorse, Esteban tries to hang himself but Manuel cuts him down and nurses him back to health. When Esteban is well, Manuel abruptly leaves for an around-the-world voyage. Soon after, the Viceroy invites Michaela to the palace again and she accepts. The Marquesa, determined to win the Viceroy for her daughter, embarks upon a scheme to destroy Michaela. When the Viceroy's guests insult Michaela by treating her as a common entertainer, the Marquesa pretends to be her friend, thus winning her confidence. Returning to the present, Pio finishes his part of the story and Juniper visits the Abbess to ask her about the Marquesa. The Abbess tells Juniper that to escape her mother's plans for her marriage, the Marquesa's daughter ran away to Spain and married a young nobleman. Lonely after her daughter's departure, the Marquesa visits the Abbess to ask for a companion. The Abbess obliges by giving her Pepita, an innocent, gentle orphan. Embittered and forlorn, the Marquesa mistreats little Pepita. When the frustrated Marquesa interrogates Pio about Michaela's relationship with the Viceroy, Pio warns her against slander. At Michaela's villa, meanwhile, the Viceroy confides to Michaela that he may be in love with her because she has awakened his interest in the Peruvian people. Later, Esteban, who is working as a scribe, warns Michaela that the Marquesa and the other aristocrats are plotting against her and produces a letter as proof. Feeling betrayed, Michaela goes to Pio for advice, and he composes an insulting song for her to sing at a gathering at the palace that afternoon. Michaela's lyrics about an old crow plotting to overthrow the court scandalizes all those present. Furious, the Viceroy orders Michaela to apologize to the Marquesa and instructs her to wear a black dress and sandals, the uniform of penitence. Although she resents the Viceroy's public humiliation of her, Michaela follows his command and visits the Marquesa. Ashamed, the Marquesa thanks Michaela for showing her the error of her ways and apologizes. That night, Manuel, now a sea captain, returns and asks Michaela to go away with him. In response, Michaela philosophizes about the impossibility of ever understanding oneself or others, and points to the transformation of the Marquesa and Esteban as proof. As Michaela and Manuel embrace, the Viceroy enters and insists that Manuel accompany him to the palace. There, after a confrontation with Manuel, the Viceroy realizes that his rival is dangerous and orders his arrest. Soon after, the Viceroy receives an order to return to Spain and asks Michaela to join him as his wife. Infuriated by Manuel's arrest, Michaela rejects his proposal. As the Viceroy plans his last trip with Michaela, a journey to a mountain village to dedicate a hospital, Michaela tells Pio of Manuel's danger and asks his help in freeing Manuel from jail. On the day of Michaela and the Viceroy's departure to San Luis Rey, Pio and his friends break Manuel out of jail. Upon learning of the escape, the Viceroy questions Pio, who recommends that he pardon Manuel or risk turning him into a martyr. After the Viceroy signs the pardon, Pio delivers it to Manuel, who is hiding in the rocks abutting the bridge of San Luis Rey. Together, Manuel and Pio watch as the Viceroy and his party arrive for their trek across the bridge. They are joined by the Marquesa, who has come to prey at the chapel with Esteban and Pepita. The Viceroy crosses to the other side, followed by Pepita, Esteban, the Marquesa and the Viceroy's aide. As the Viceroy steps onto the yard in front of the chapel, an Indian passes him and crosses onto the bridge. On the other side, meanwhile, Michaela is about to traverse the bridge when Manuel emerges from behind the rocks and kisses her. As she steps on the bridge, the span collapses, sending the Marquesa, the Indian, the Viceroy's aide, Pepita and Esteban to their deaths. Manuel and Pio watch in horror, pulling Michaela to safety at the last moment. +

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

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