A Woman's Secret (1949)

84-85 mins | Drama | 7 February 1949

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Mortgage on Life and The Long Denial . Modern sources note that RKO head Howard Hughes chose the final title. Vicki Baum's novel was serialized in Collier's magazine under the title The Long Denial between 1 Jun and 22 Jun 1946. A Woman's Secret marked producer/writer Herman J. Mankiewicz's first screen credit after a four-year drought. Although this film was shot after director Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (See Entry), it was released before his debut picture. Ray married star Gloria Grahame on 1 Jun 1948. (Modern sources add that Grahame met Ray during this film's production and was four months pregnant at the time of their marriage.) Jay C. Flippen, who played "Inspector Fowler" in the picture, was Ray's best man at the civil ceremony, according to modern sources. Ray and Grahame divorced in 1952. A contemporary source indicates that Kay Lorraine dubbed Grahame's singing. RKO borrowed Maureen O'Hara for the production. Modern sources add the following additional information about the production: Jacques Tourneur was first assigned to direct the picture, but turned the film down because of scheduling pressures. After a preview of the film, Ray shot a new scene, featuring "Susan" in her hospital room. The film was budgeted at $853,000 and lost $760,000 at the box ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Mortgage on Life and The Long Denial . Modern sources note that RKO head Howard Hughes chose the final title. Vicki Baum's novel was serialized in Collier's magazine under the title The Long Denial between 1 Jun and 22 Jun 1946. A Woman's Secret marked producer/writer Herman J. Mankiewicz's first screen credit after a four-year drought. Although this film was shot after director Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (See Entry), it was released before his debut picture. Ray married star Gloria Grahame on 1 Jun 1948. (Modern sources add that Grahame met Ray during this film's production and was four months pregnant at the time of their marriage.) Jay C. Flippen, who played "Inspector Fowler" in the picture, was Ray's best man at the civil ceremony, according to modern sources. Ray and Grahame divorced in 1952. A contemporary source indicates that Kay Lorraine dubbed Grahame's singing. RKO borrowed Maureen O'Hara for the production. Modern sources add the following additional information about the production: Jacques Tourneur was first assigned to direct the picture, but turned the film down because of scheduling pressures. After a preview of the film, Ray shot a new scene, featuring "Susan" in her hospital room. The film was budgeted at $853,000 and lost $760,000 at the box office. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Feb 1949.
---
Daily Variety
8 Feb 49
p. 3.
Down Beat
26 Aug 49
p. 9.
Film Daily
10 Feb 49
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 48
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 48
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 49
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Feb 49
p. 4493.
Variety
9 Feb 49
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Dore Schary Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
STAND INS
Voice double for Gloria Grahame
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mortgage on Life by Vicki Baum (Garden City, NY, 1946).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Estrellita," words and music by M. M. Ponce
"Paradise," words by Gordon Clifford, music by Nacio Herb Brown.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Long Denial
Mortgage on Life
Release Date:
7 February 1949
Production Date:
mid February--late March 1948
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 March 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2213
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
84-85
Length(in feet):
7,612
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13028
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After singer Susan Caldwell, known to her fans as Estrellita, finishes one of her radio performances, she returns to her New York apartment, where she lives with her mentor, Marian Washburn. Susan and Marian immediately begin to quarrel when Susan declares that she is tired and wants to quit the business. A concerned Marian follows Susan upstairs, and a few moments later, a gunshot rings out and Marian is discovered by the maid, Mollie, bending over an unconscious Susan. Although Marian tells the police that she shot the singer, her admission of guilt is not believed by her longtime friend and sometime lover, Luke Jordan, a popular composer and pianist. Luke hires attorney Brook Matthews, Susan's ex-fiancé, to defend Marian. Flanked by Luke and Brook, Marian relates her version of events to Assistant District Attorney Roberts and police inspector Fowler: After following Susan into her room, Marian haranges her protegee about her career, demanding that she continue singing. When Susan states that she is returning to her former simple life, Marian shoots her with a gun that she later claims was a gift from an admiring soldier. Back in the police station, Marian concludes her story and is returned to her cell. Frustrated by Marian's passivity, Luke invites Fowler to lunch and tells him the story of how, years earlier, he and Marian met: In a New York café, Luke and Marian, a young, promising singer, perform together. Marian's career is about to take off when she develops a rare form of larnygitis. No longer able to sing at the level she is used to, Marian decides to give up ... +


After singer Susan Caldwell, known to her fans as Estrellita, finishes one of her radio performances, she returns to her New York apartment, where she lives with her mentor, Marian Washburn. Susan and Marian immediately begin to quarrel when Susan declares that she is tired and wants to quit the business. A concerned Marian follows Susan upstairs, and a few moments later, a gunshot rings out and Marian is discovered by the maid, Mollie, bending over an unconscious Susan. Although Marian tells the police that she shot the singer, her admission of guilt is not believed by her longtime friend and sometime lover, Luke Jordan, a popular composer and pianist. Luke hires attorney Brook Matthews, Susan's ex-fiancé, to defend Marian. Flanked by Luke and Brook, Marian relates her version of events to Assistant District Attorney Roberts and police inspector Fowler: After following Susan into her room, Marian haranges her protegee about her career, demanding that she continue singing. When Susan states that she is returning to her former simple life, Marian shoots her with a gun that she later claims was a gift from an admiring soldier. Back in the police station, Marian concludes her story and is returned to her cell. Frustrated by Marian's passivity, Luke invites Fowler to lunch and tells him the story of how, years earlier, he and Marian met: In a New York café, Luke and Marian, a young, promising singer, perform together. Marian's career is about to take off when she develops a rare form of larnygitis. No longer able to sing at the level she is used to, Marian decides to give up performing. Later, Luke and Marian meet Susan when she faints from hunger after auditioning unsuccessfully for a Broadway show. Marian and Luke take Susan back to Marian's apartment and there learn that the pretty, unsophisticated girl from Azusa, California, has a voice "with hormones." Impressed by Susan's talent, Marian becomes her mentor and begins grooming her for a career in show business. After Luke concludes the first part of his story, he tries to see the heavily guarded Susan at the hospital. There he runs into Lee Crenshaw, a surly ex-soldier Susan met while performing in New Orleans, from whom Luke assumes Marian got her gun. Unable to talk with Susan, Luke goes to Fowler's home and, to the delight of Fowler's wife Mary, an amateur detective, continues his tale: Marian takes Susan to Paris, but as Luke later learns, Susan spurns her attempts at education and flees with a salesman to Algiers. Luke tracks the flighty, petulant Susan to an American nightclub in Algiers and there comes up with the idea of using the classic song "Estrellita" as her signature tune. Sometime later, while on board a luxury liner, Susan sings "Estrellita" to an appreciative crowd, which includes Brook Matthews and his mother. As Marian and Luke had hoped, Brook decides to use his money to promote Susan and soon falls in love with her. Back at the Fowlers', the detective remains unconvinced by Luke's testimonial, but Mary takes it upon herself to inspect Susan's apartment. While there, Mollie asks Mary to mail a Louisiana motel key that Susan had given to her just before she was shot. Later, while waiting at the hospital for Susan to recover from surgery, Lee reveals to Luke that he gave his gun to Susan, not Marian. When a groggy Susan confirms Marian's version of events, however, her mentor appears condemned until Mary shows her husband and Luke the motel key. Mary also points out that, shortly after Susan had left surgery, her nurse read aloud the newspaper account of the shooting, and thereby had influenced her memory. Confronted with the key, Susan admits that she married Lee in Louisiana, but quickly regretted her decision and fled to New York. Susan then recounts the moments leading up to the shooting: Upset about Lee, who has sent her a threatening telegram, Susan quarrels with Marian. When Marian reads the telegram and sees Lee's gun on Susan's vanity, she panics, believing that the singer intends to harm herself. Marian and Susan grab for the gun at the same time, and Marian accidentally shoots her protegee during the ensuing struggle. With the mystery finally unraveled, Fowler dismisses all charges against Marian. Susan then makes up with Brook, and Marian finally proposes to the faithful Luke. +

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

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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.