The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)

80 mins | Drama | 17 August 1945

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HISTORY

The film was reviewed under it's pre-release title Uncle Harry . According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen office first took an interest in Thomas Job's play in 1939, when it was submitted to them by British producer Herbert Wilcox, who was considering the material for an RKO production. On 31 Oct 1939, PCA director Joseph I. Breen stated in an internal memo that he would reject any filming of Job's play with its current ending. In the play, the character of "Uncle Harry" accidentally kills one sister, while the other, the one whom he was trying to murder, is executed for the crime. Harry, who is unable to convince anyone that he is the real murderer, receives his only punishment from his own conscience. On 3 Nov 1939, Breen notified RKO that he was officially rejecting the material, as it suffered from an "unsatisfactory treatment of the leading character, who is a murderer."
       In Feb 1943, HR news items stated that Republic Pictures had purchased the screen rights to Uncle Harry , with the intention of casting Paul Muni in the title role. On 18 Feb 1943, however, HR reported that Clifford Hayman, the producer of the New York stage production, denied the sale of the play to Republic. In May 1943, the Job play was once more submitted by RKO to the Breen office, this time as a possible project for German director Fritz Lang. In this submission, however, Harry's character had been institutionalized in a mental hospital and the story unfolded within that ... More Less

The film was reviewed under it's pre-release title Uncle Harry . According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen office first took an interest in Thomas Job's play in 1939, when it was submitted to them by British producer Herbert Wilcox, who was considering the material for an RKO production. On 31 Oct 1939, PCA director Joseph I. Breen stated in an internal memo that he would reject any filming of Job's play with its current ending. In the play, the character of "Uncle Harry" accidentally kills one sister, while the other, the one whom he was trying to murder, is executed for the crime. Harry, who is unable to convince anyone that he is the real murderer, receives his only punishment from his own conscience. On 3 Nov 1939, Breen notified RKO that he was officially rejecting the material, as it suffered from an "unsatisfactory treatment of the leading character, who is a murderer."
       In Feb 1943, HR news items stated that Republic Pictures had purchased the screen rights to Uncle Harry , with the intention of casting Paul Muni in the title role. On 18 Feb 1943, however, HR reported that Clifford Hayman, the producer of the New York stage production, denied the sale of the play to Republic. In May 1943, the Job play was once more submitted by RKO to the Breen office, this time as a possible project for German director Fritz Lang. In this submission, however, Harry's character had been institutionalized in a mental hospital and the story unfolded within that framework. With some reservations, Breen notified RKO on 27 May 1943 that this change might make Uncle Harry acceptable film material. Later, in Oct 1943, Twentieth Century-Fox contacted the Hays office about producing its own adaptation of Uncle Harry , and, like RKO, was told by Breen that the play, as originally written, was not acceptable.
       According to information found in the Charles K. Feldman papers at the AFI Louis B. Mayer Library, Universal purchased the screen rights to the play on 23 Nov 1943. LAEx news items listed the purchase price at $100,000. Agent and producer Charles K. Feldman then purchased the rights to Uncle Harry from Universal for $50,000 on 3 Dec 1943. Under that agreement, Universal would produce and distribute the film in association with Feldman, and the purchase price was to be taken from Universal's future payments to Feldman for his share of the profits from two 1942 Universal releases, Pittsburgh and The Spoilers , and his current production of Three Cheers for the Boy , which was released by Universal in 1944 as Follow the Boys (see entries above and below). On 14 Apr 1944, Feldman then sold Uncle Harry back to Universal for $150,000, plus twenty-five-per-cent of the film's net profits in excess of the first $200,000. This agreement faced some legal hurdles, however, as producer Charles R. Rogers claimed that his company had an oral agreement with Feldman to produce Uncle Harry . It has not been determined how Feldman and Rogers settled their dispute.
       According to the Feldman papers, the first treatment for the Universal production of Uncle Harry was finished on 14 Sep 1944, authored by screenwriter Keith Winters and producer Joan Harrison. Winters then completed the first draft of the screenplay on 20 Mar 1944. Writer Stephen Longstreet was later brought onto the project and his final draft of The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry was turned in on 6 Mar 1945. Longstreet received sole writing credit for the screenplay; Winters is credited with the play's adaptation. According to the MPPA/PCA records, Universal's production of The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry met with little resistance from the Breen Office.
       On 19 Aug 1945, NYT reported that Universal had been previewing the film with five different endings, over a ten-day period, at an unnamed Los Angeles theater. NYT then reported on 26 Aug 1945 that Universal had decided to use the ending given in the above summary, in which the murder of Hester is only a dream. According to the MPPA/PCA files, the approved storyline for The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry was similar to the plot submitted by RKO in May 1943, with Harry telling his story to "Dr. Adams" and "Deborah Brown," his ex-fiancée, as he prepares to board a train that will take him to a mental institution. It has not been determined if that ending was one of the four shot, then rejected, by the studio. According to Life magazine, producer Harrison ended her association with Universal over her disagreement with the studio's editorial decision.
       Studio financial reports found in the Feldman papers state that The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry had a negative cost of $886,100, and that, by Nov 1957, it had grossed $945,400 domestically, with a world-wide box office of $1,541,000. On 2 Nov 1957, Universal sold the film for $100,000 to the National Telefilm Assoc., which re-released it under the title Zero Murder Case . According to the Feldman Papers, the film had previously been re-released by Realart Pictures, Inc. in 1947. HR news items include Louis Jean Heydt in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Aug 1945.
---
Daily Variety
8 Aug 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Aug 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1943.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1943.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 45
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 45
p. 8.
Life
10 Sep 1945.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
5 Nov 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jun 45
p. 2499.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Aug 45
p. 2598.
New York Times
19 Aug 1945.
---
New York Times
24 Aug 45
p. 14.
New York Times
26 Aug 1945.
---
Variety
8 Aug 45
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod, Prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Dir of sd
[Sd] tech
Re-rec and eff mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Research dir
Research dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Uncle Harry by Thomas Job, as produced on the stage by Clifford Hayman (New York, 20 May 1942).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Uncle Harry
Release Date:
17 August 1945
Production Date:
mid April--mid June 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1945
Copyright Number:
LP13436
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11021
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Harry Melville Quincy lives with his two sisters, Lettie and Hester, in their New Hampshire home, the last remnant of a family fortune lost in the Great Depression. Harry, a mild-mannered designer at the Warren Mill, is affectionately known as "Uncle Harry" by both young and old. One day, Deborah Brown, a beautiful young woman from the Mill's New York office, arrives in town, and Harry quickly attracts her attention. After a few weeks, the two become a couple and Deborah decides to move to New Hampshire. Three months later, Deborah tells Harry that she has been invited on a European trip by their boss, John Warren, prompting a jealous Harry to propose. While Hester is delighted by Harry's engagement, her younger sister Lettie plots to break up the couple. After six months, Harry and Deborah remain unmarried, as Lettie has rejected all alternative housing that would allow the couple to wed and move into the family home. Realizing that the only way to break free of his sisters is to leave town, Harry and Deborah decide to elope and move to New York. Lettie, however, feigns a sudden illness and is rushed to the hospital. Recognizing the ruse, Deborah insists that Harry decide once and for all between Lettie and herself, but thinking that his sister is in mortal danger, Harry refuses to leave town. Deborah then breaks their engagement, and three weeks later, the Quincys are informed that Deborah and John have married in New York. An elated Lettie rises from her sick bed in celebration, only to be denounced in Harry's presence by an angry ... +


Harry Melville Quincy lives with his two sisters, Lettie and Hester, in their New Hampshire home, the last remnant of a family fortune lost in the Great Depression. Harry, a mild-mannered designer at the Warren Mill, is affectionately known as "Uncle Harry" by both young and old. One day, Deborah Brown, a beautiful young woman from the Mill's New York office, arrives in town, and Harry quickly attracts her attention. After a few weeks, the two become a couple and Deborah decides to move to New Hampshire. Three months later, Deborah tells Harry that she has been invited on a European trip by their boss, John Warren, prompting a jealous Harry to propose. While Hester is delighted by Harry's engagement, her younger sister Lettie plots to break up the couple. After six months, Harry and Deborah remain unmarried, as Lettie has rejected all alternative housing that would allow the couple to wed and move into the family home. Realizing that the only way to break free of his sisters is to leave town, Harry and Deborah decide to elope and move to New York. Lettie, however, feigns a sudden illness and is rushed to the hospital. Recognizing the ruse, Deborah insists that Harry decide once and for all between Lettie and herself, but thinking that his sister is in mortal danger, Harry refuses to leave town. Deborah then breaks their engagement, and three weeks later, the Quincys are informed that Deborah and John have married in New York. An elated Lettie rises from her sick bed in celebration, only to be denounced in Harry's presence by an angry Hester. Finally realizing what a fool he has been, Harry decides to poison Lettie, but Hester is mistakenly given the drugged cocoa and dies. Lettie is later tried and convicted of her sister's murder and sentenced to the gallows. While his sister awaits the hangman, Harry's conscience begins to get the better of him and he confesses to the crime. No one, however, believes that the virtuous Harry would commit such a horrible act. Even the vengeful Lettie refuses to support his claim, knowing the years of tortured guilt he will endure after her execution. A dreaming Harry is then awakened by Deborah, who has decided not to marry John and has returned to him. As the couple prepares to elope, Hester enters the room, offering them her congratulations, as well as receiving Harry's farewell message for the bed-ridden Lettie. +

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

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