Forever Amber (1947)

138 or 140 mins | Melodrama | October 1947

Full page view
HISTORY

The film opens with the following voice-over narration: "This is the tragic story of Amber St. Clair, slave to ambition, stranger to virtue, fated to find the wealth and power she ruthlessly gained wither to ashes in the fire lit by passion and fed by defiance of the eternal command--the wages of sin is death." A written prologue follows, establishing the historical and geographical locale and, after an introductory scene, a second written prologue sets the period as sixteen years later, during the reign of Charles II. Another voice-over narration, spoken by actor Cornel Wilde as the character of "Bruce Carlton," over closing shots is a reprise of dialogue from an earlier part of the film and states: "Haven't we caused enough unhappiness? May God have mercy on us both for our sins." Both voice-over narrations are only heard on the 35mm print and are not on the videotape release of the film.

       HR news items note that in Sep 1944, five weeks prior to the publication of Kathleen Winsor's novel, a bid for the rights was made by an undisclosed film studio based solely on the novel's synopsis. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in early Oct 1944, both Twentieth Century-Fox and M-G-M submitted story synopses to the PCA for approval. PCA head Joseph I. Breen unequivocally turned down the story, finding it "utterly and completely unacceptable under any one of a dozen provisions of the Production Code." News items indicate that the PCA officially banned the novel from motion picture consideration and note that the book's pre-publication publicity exploited the ... More Less

The film opens with the following voice-over narration: "This is the tragic story of Amber St. Clair, slave to ambition, stranger to virtue, fated to find the wealth and power she ruthlessly gained wither to ashes in the fire lit by passion and fed by defiance of the eternal command--the wages of sin is death." A written prologue follows, establishing the historical and geographical locale and, after an introductory scene, a second written prologue sets the period as sixteen years later, during the reign of Charles II. Another voice-over narration, spoken by actor Cornel Wilde as the character of "Bruce Carlton," over closing shots is a reprise of dialogue from an earlier part of the film and states: "Haven't we caused enough unhappiness? May God have mercy on us both for our sins." Both voice-over narrations are only heard on the 35mm print and are not on the videotape release of the film.

       HR news items note that in Sep 1944, five weeks prior to the publication of Kathleen Winsor's novel, a bid for the rights was made by an undisclosed film studio based solely on the novel's synopsis. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in early Oct 1944, both Twentieth Century-Fox and M-G-M submitted story synopses to the PCA for approval. PCA head Joseph I. Breen unequivocally turned down the story, finding it "utterly and completely unacceptable under any one of a dozen provisions of the Production Code." News items indicate that the PCA officially banned the novel from motion picture consideration and note that the book's pre-publication publicity exploited the PCA statement. PCA files disclose that Twentieth Century-Fox's public relations director, Colonel Jason S. Joy, a former PCA executive, advised Breen on 1 Nov 1944 that despite the "ban," the studio intended to proceed with taking an option on the book, based on assurances from PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock that the narrative difficulties could be overcome. The purchase went through the following day, with Twentieth Century-Fox eventually paying $200,000 for the rights, which matched M-G-M's record price for A. J. Cronin's The Green Years (see below). News items claim that Winsor was to serve as assistant on the script and as technical advisor, but there is no corroborating evidence in studio files of her participation in any phase of production.

       The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, indicates that in early 1945, the studio assigned Jerome Cady to write a treatment and screenplay, and Cady completed a first draft by May. In Aug 1945, Philip Dunne was assigned to re-writes and his completed draft was submitted to the PCA in Oct 1945 and rejected. Dunne made the PCA's requested changes and the script received full approval in Dec 1945. A final draft was completed by Dunne in Feb 1946, necessitating arbitration to determine writing credits, which went to both Cady and Dunne, as well as Ring Lardner, Jr., who was hired in Jul 1946 for additional re-writes.

       Script files indicate that studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck considered casting Rex Harrison as "Bruce Carlton," Lee J. Cobb as "Almsbury" and Victor McLaglen as "Black Jack." Among the several actresses tested for the role of "Amber" was Tallulah Bankhead. Although an Oct 1945 HR news item noted that 19-year-old British actress Peggy Cummins was announced to star as Amber, an item in Dec asserted that testing for Amber was continuing and the number of candidates screened was likely to top the number who tried out for the role of "Scarlet O'Hara" in Gone With the Wind . In Jan 1946, HR again declared that Cummins had been cast as Amber, and that Cornel Wilde was being brought off suspension for the role of Bruce.

       Although John M. Stahl had been announced as director in Oct 1945, Edmund Goulding was listed as director in a Jan 1946 news item. Stahl was set as the director by Feb and, with a budget estimated in excess of $3,000,000, principal photography commenced in early Mar, with Vincent Price in the role of Almsbury, and Reginald Gardiner as "King Charles II." In late Apr, four weeks into production, filming was brought to a halt when it was announced that Cummins was suffering from the flu. The following day, by mutual consent with the studio, director Stahl withdrew from the production. Although Zanuck announced that a new director would be assigned and production would resume within a matter of days, HR reported on 1 May 1946 that production of the film would be closed down for a three-month minimum and that another actress would likely be brought in to star and Otto Preminger to direct.

       In mid-Jun 1946 Preminger was announced as Stahl's replacement. HR items note that Price and Wilde and several other actors in lesser roles were departing the production due to scheduling conflicts. Richard Greene was finally cast as Almsbury in place of Price while Wilde stayed on as Bruce. A NYT article mentioned Gene Tierney as a possible replacement for Cummins, and modern sources indicate that Preminger pressed Zanuck to cast M-G-M's Lana Turner. At the end of Jul 1946, the studio announced that Twentieth Century-Fox contractee Linda Darnell was taking over the role of Amber.

       A LAT article revealed that Twentieth Century-Fox was taking an estimated loss of approximately $1,000,000 in scrapping all the previously shot footage. Zanuck was quoted as remarking that "If there was any problem at all with Peggy Cummins, it was her extreme youth." Production was initially scheduled to recommence in Sep 1946, then moved back to Oct so that Preminger could rehearse the actors. According to HR , in mid-Oct 1946, Twentieth Century-Fox placed Wilde on suspension, claiming that he had refused to continue in the role as Bruce unless granted a salary increase. The same item reported that Wilde insisted his refusal to play the role had nothing to do with salary demands, but rather "my dislike for it and my desire for a vacation." Two days later the matter was resolved and Wilde returned to the production. Location shooting was conducted by a second unit in Monterey, CA. Studio legal files indicate that dialogue director Paul England was cast in a supporting role as "Gumble," but his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio files also add that in Nov 1946 production was briefly shut down due to the illness of Margot Grahame, who played the role of "Bess," which was eventually cut from the completed film. Principal photography was completed in early Mar 1947, nearly one year after it had originally begun. According to HR , Zanuck ordered two more weeks of filming at the end of Mar 1947.

       An undated memorandum in the PCA file reports that "the finished picture is objectionable because it deals excessively in illicit sex and adultery." Other memos from the same file indicate that in late May 1947, Colonel Joy was informed by the PCA that the film was "in violation of the provisions of the Code," and that he admitted that the screen version was at least 50% to 60% different from the final script submitted for PCA approval in Nov 1946. Correspondence in the PCA files reveals that in late Jun 1947, Colonel Joy submitted two reels of re-edited and re-dubbed sequences based on recommendations by the PCA, and it was agreed that with those changes the film was "approvable." A formal seal of approval was granted on 20 Jun 1947. In an unusual action, just prior to the film's Oct 1947 release, Breen sent a three-page memo to MPPA president Eric Johnston in New York, outlining the reasons for granting the film the seal.

       According to various contemporary news items, Forever Amber opened in New York City at the Roxy Theatre on 22 Oct 1947 and set an opening day box-office record. On the same day, the film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, Archbishop of New York, termed the film "a glorification of immorality and licentiousness" and advised that "Catholics may not see this production with a safe conscience." HR news items throughout the end of Oct and early Nov 1947 note that in Providence, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Boston, Catholic Church representatives spoke out officially against the film and in some cases attempted to have showings legally halted. Similar news items reveal that the Archbishop of Philadelphia threatened a boycott of the Fox Theatre unless Forever Amber was withdrawn within 48 hours.

       According to memos and correspondence in PCA files, in an effort to reverse the Legion's "C" rating, Twentieth Century-Fox officials agreed with PCA recommendations that a voice-over prologue and epilogue be added (see above). A PCA memo states that Preminger was "vehemently opposed" to the epilogue because Bruce's voice-over admission of sin is heard over a shot of Amber, and threatened to disassociate himself from the entire production if the edit was carried out. There is no evidence that Preminger took any such action. The additional soundtrack material and cutting instructions were shipped to over 400 exhibitors and were in full effect on all prints in release by mid-Dec 1947. Based on these changes, the Legion of Decency reclassified Forever Amber from a "C" or "condemned" rating to a "B" or "morally objectional in part" rating on 8 Dec 1947.

       Forever Amber received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music/Scoring. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 47
p. 41.
American Cinematographer
Jan 48
p. 8.
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1947.
---
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1947.
---
Film Daily
10 Oct 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Citizen-News
12 Jan 1946.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
1 May 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 45
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 46
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 46
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 46
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 46
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 46
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 47
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 47
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 47
p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 47
p. 1, 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 47
p. 1, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 47
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 47
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 47
pp. 1- 2, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 47
p. 1, 4, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 47
pp. 16-17.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 47
p. 1, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 47
p. 1, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 47
p. 4.
Independent Film Journal
4 Jan 47
p. 35.
Life
3 Nov 47
pp. 66-68.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Oct 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Oct 47
p. 3885.
New York Times
19 Nov 1944.
---
New York Times
14 Jul 1946.
---
New York Times
4 Aug 1946.
---
New York Times
23 Oct 1947.
p. 31.
Variety
15 Oct 1947.
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Edmond Breon
Perry "Bill" Ward
Frederick Ledebur
Jimmy Lagano
Robert Hale
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward dir
Costume jewelry
MUSIC
Orch arr
Orch arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (New York, 1944).
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1947
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 October 1947
Production Date:
late October 1946--11 March 1947
addl seq began 30 March 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
22 October 1947
Copyright Number:
LP1390
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
138 or 140
Length(in feet):
12,536
Length(in reels):
15
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11495
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1644, during the revolt of the English Parliament and Oliver Cromwell's army against the tyrannical rule of King Charles I, a baby wrapped in a blanket on which the name "Amber" is sewn, is left at the front door of a Puritan farmer by a fleeing nobleman, who is then killed by his pursuers. By 1660, after the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the House of Stuart, in the person of Charles II, Amber, now an attractive young woman, is betrothed by her ward, Matt Goodgroome, to a farmer. She rebels against the match, as she does not want to remain in a small village her whole life, and becomes enamored of Lord Bruce Carlton, a soldier for hire who stops at the village. Although he refuses to take her with him to London, she follows him and his best friend, Lord Harry Almsbury, and in London, she and Bruce become lovers. Because Charles believes that Bruce is pursuing his mistress, Barbara Palmer, Countess Castelmaine, with whom Bruce earlier had a romance, Charles provides Bruce two ships with which to establish a privateering enterprise and share the profits he makes robbing foreign treasure ships. When Amber learns that Bruce has gone to sea, she vows to use her wiles to achieve a social level above that of Bruce so that he will want her. She is soon cheated out of the money Bruce left her by a crooked investor and, although pregnant, is sent to prison on a false charge. In prison, she meets Black Jack Mallard, an infamous highwayman, and seeing that he is attracted to her, convinces him to ... +


In 1644, during the revolt of the English Parliament and Oliver Cromwell's army against the tyrannical rule of King Charles I, a baby wrapped in a blanket on which the name "Amber" is sewn, is left at the front door of a Puritan farmer by a fleeing nobleman, who is then killed by his pursuers. By 1660, after the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the House of Stuart, in the person of Charles II, Amber, now an attractive young woman, is betrothed by her ward, Matt Goodgroome, to a farmer. She rebels against the match, as she does not want to remain in a small village her whole life, and becomes enamored of Lord Bruce Carlton, a soldier for hire who stops at the village. Although he refuses to take her with him to London, she follows him and his best friend, Lord Harry Almsbury, and in London, she and Bruce become lovers. Because Charles believes that Bruce is pursuing his mistress, Barbara Palmer, Countess Castelmaine, with whom Bruce earlier had a romance, Charles provides Bruce two ships with which to establish a privateering enterprise and share the profits he makes robbing foreign treasure ships. When Amber learns that Bruce has gone to sea, she vows to use her wiles to achieve a social level above that of Bruce so that he will want her. She is soon cheated out of the money Bruce left her by a crooked investor and, although pregnant, is sent to prison on a false charge. In prison, she meets Black Jack Mallard, an infamous highwayman, and seeing that he is attracted to her, convinces him to take her with him when he escapes, so that her baby will be born outside of prison. Their escape is arranged by Mother Red Cap, the head of Jack's gang, who puts Amber to work after she gives birth, luring men so that the gang can rob them. Jack is killed by the King's men during one robbery attempt, and Amber avoids capture by hiding in the home of Rex Morgan, a captain of the king's guard. Morgan uses his influence to obtain Amber work as an actress, and she raises enough money to get her son, named Bruce, from Mother Red Cap and put him up in a nice country home. Amber lives with Morgan, but when he proposes, she refuses. While Morgan is in Wales, Charles sees Amber onstage and invites her to dine with him. Amber turns him down, however, when she learns that Harry has brought Bruce to the theater. She takes him to see their son, hoping he will want to settle down with her, but he plans to return to sea, as he intensely dislikes the goings on at court. When Morgan, having returned, finds them together, he challenges Bruce to a duel, saying that Amber is his fiancée. Disgusted at Amber, Bruce accepts but tries to convince Morgan to end the duel after the first blood has been drawn. Morgan refuses and Bruce kills him, then angrily berates Amber when she tries to comfort him. After Bruce departs England again, Amber marries the elderly widowed Earl of Radcliffe in order to become a countess, hoping that the title will interest Bruce. She diverts their wedding party to London, where the Black Plague is spreading, when she learns that Bruce's ship has docked there. She finds him as he is about to succumb to the plague and struggles to save his life, first killing a mercenary nurse and then lancing a dangerous boil on his chest. Bruce recovers, but Radcliffe tracks him down, and when Bruce learns that Amber is his wife, he leaves for Virginia. As a devastating fire sweeps through London, Charles attempts to seduce Amber at a ball at Whitehall. Radcliffe spirits her home, however, and locks her in her room so she cannot return to the ball. That night, as fire destroys Radcliffe Hall, Radcliffe threatens to send Amber to the country for good, then struggles with her, before a disgruntled servant hits him and throws him into the conflagration to his death. Amber soon becomes Charles' mistress. When Bruce and his new wife Corinna visit from Virginia, he tries to convince Amber, who believes he still loves her, to let him adopt their child and take him back to Virginia, as he despises the "sick age" and court life to which the boy will be exposed. Amber invites Corinna to dine with her and Charles and retires, leaving them alone, then writes a note to Bruce about his wife's whereabouts. Charles, however, deduces Amber's scheme and allows Corinna to leave, her virtue unscathed. He then tells Amber to leave because her actions, which have made him realize that she truly loves Bruce, have shattered the illusion of happiness he had created because he could not find love as a king. When Bruce comes for the child and Amber sees that the boy, who is bored with court life, is excited about going, she gives him up and sadly watches them depart. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.