Ladies in Retirement (1941)

91-92 mins | Melodrama | 18 September 1941

Director:

Charles Vidor

Producer:

Lester Cowan

Cinematographer:

George Barnes

Editor:

Al Clark

Production Designer:

David Hall

Production Company:

Lester Cowan Productions, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

During the film's opening credits, the camera pans across a marsh, revealing tombstones with the cast members' names inscribed on them. According to pre-production news items in HR , Lillian Gish, Judith Anderson, Pauline Lord, Laurette Taylor and Helen Chandler were all considered for the roles of the demented "Creed" sisters. An item in NYT added that Rosalind Russell was also interested in playing one of the sisters. Although an Apr 1941 HR news item noted that Michael Hogan was working on the film's screenplay, the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. According to a news item in HCN , Gilbert Miller, the celebrated stage producer who owned the rights to the Reginald Denham-Edward Percy play, disdained the film business and refused to allow any of his plays to be made into motion pictures until he met Lester Cowan. Miller was so impressed by Cowan that he agreed to give him the motion picture rights to the play in exchange for an interest in the production and the position of co-producer. Isobel Elsom also portrayed "Mrs. Fiske" in the stage production. Ida Lupino, who was married at the time to her co-star Louis Hayward, was borrowed from Warner Bros. to appear in this production. According to Lupino's biography, the part of "Ellen Creed" was her favorite film role.
       The picture received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Score. In 1969, Columbia remade the film as The Mad Room , directed by Bernard Girard and starring Stella Stevens and Shelley Winters. The 1951 NBC teleplay Ladies ... More Less

During the film's opening credits, the camera pans across a marsh, revealing tombstones with the cast members' names inscribed on them. According to pre-production news items in HR , Lillian Gish, Judith Anderson, Pauline Lord, Laurette Taylor and Helen Chandler were all considered for the roles of the demented "Creed" sisters. An item in NYT added that Rosalind Russell was also interested in playing one of the sisters. Although an Apr 1941 HR news item noted that Michael Hogan was working on the film's screenplay, the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. According to a news item in HCN , Gilbert Miller, the celebrated stage producer who owned the rights to the Reginald Denham-Edward Percy play, disdained the film business and refused to allow any of his plays to be made into motion pictures until he met Lester Cowan. Miller was so impressed by Cowan that he agreed to give him the motion picture rights to the play in exchange for an interest in the production and the position of co-producer. Isobel Elsom also portrayed "Mrs. Fiske" in the stage production. Ida Lupino, who was married at the time to her co-star Louis Hayward, was borrowed from Warner Bros. to appear in this production. According to Lupino's biography, the part of "Ellen Creed" was her favorite film role.
       The picture received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Score. In 1969, Columbia remade the film as The Mad Room , directed by Bernard Girard and starring Stella Stevens and Shelley Winters. The 1951 NBC teleplay Ladies in Retirement , starring Lillian Gish, Una O'Connor and Betty Sinclair was also based on the Denham-Percy play, as was the 1954 Lux Video Theatre teleplay of the same name. The 1954 version was directed by Richard Goode and starred Claire Trevor, Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett, the latter two of whom reprised their screen roles. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Sep 1941.
---
Film Daily
9 Sep 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Citizen-News
12 Aug 1941.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 41
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Sep 41
p. 258.
New York Times
16 Mar 1941.
---
New York Times
7 Nov 41
p. 27.
New York Times
9 Nov 1941.
---
Variety
10 Sep 41
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
In assoc with
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec fog eff
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Ladies in Retirement by Reginald Denham and Edward Percy (New York, 26 Mar 1940).
MUSIC
"Tit Willow" from the operetta The Mikado by William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 September 1941
Production Date:
15 May--26 June 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
18 September 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10755
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91-92
Length(in feet):
8,293
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

When housekeeper Ellen Creed receives a letter demanding the immediate removal of her two mentally deranged sisters from the house where they have been living, she asks her employer, retired actress Leonora Fiske, to allow the two to visit her at Miss Fiske's house, which is located in the marshes of an estuary of the Thames river. After Miss Fiske consents, Ellen travels to London to fetch her sisters. In her absence, a rogue named Albert Feather comes to the house, looking for his aunt Ellen. Informed by Miss Fiske that Ellen is in London, Albert divulges that he desperately needs twelve pounds to replace funds he embezzled from the bank where he is employed. Albert's tale strikes a chord of nostaglia in Miss Fiske, and she unlocks her oven, which now serves as her safe, and hands the money to him. Albert then departs, and several days later, Ellen arrives with her sisters: the fractious and defiant Emily and the simpleton Louisa. Six weeks later, Miss Fiske, exasperated by the chaos and disorder that Emily and Louisa have wrought upon her home, asks Ellen to send them away. When Ellen begins to argue with her employer, Miss Fiske fires her and orders her to leave immediately with her sisters. Later, Ellen apologizes to Miss Fiske and begs her to relent, claiming that Emily and Louisa will be institutionalized unless she cares for them. When Miss Fiske turns a deaf ear to her pleas, Ellen tells her sisters that Miss Fiske has agreed to sell her the house and is going away and then sends them out for a picnic. ... +


When housekeeper Ellen Creed receives a letter demanding the immediate removal of her two mentally deranged sisters from the house where they have been living, she asks her employer, retired actress Leonora Fiske, to allow the two to visit her at Miss Fiske's house, which is located in the marshes of an estuary of the Thames river. After Miss Fiske consents, Ellen travels to London to fetch her sisters. In her absence, a rogue named Albert Feather comes to the house, looking for his aunt Ellen. Informed by Miss Fiske that Ellen is in London, Albert divulges that he desperately needs twelve pounds to replace funds he embezzled from the bank where he is employed. Albert's tale strikes a chord of nostaglia in Miss Fiske, and she unlocks her oven, which now serves as her safe, and hands the money to him. Albert then departs, and several days later, Ellen arrives with her sisters: the fractious and defiant Emily and the simpleton Louisa. Six weeks later, Miss Fiske, exasperated by the chaos and disorder that Emily and Louisa have wrought upon her home, asks Ellen to send them away. When Ellen begins to argue with her employer, Miss Fiske fires her and orders her to leave immediately with her sisters. Later, Ellen apologizes to Miss Fiske and begs her to relent, claiming that Emily and Louisa will be institutionalized unless she cares for them. When Miss Fiske turns a deaf ear to her pleas, Ellen tells her sisters that Miss Fiske has agreed to sell her the house and is going away and then sends them out for a picnic. As Miss Fiske sits alone at her piano playing her favorite tune, "Tit Willow," Ellen sneaks up from behind and strangles her. Some days later, two nuns from the local priory visit the house to borrow some oil, and Ellen tells them that Miss Fiske is away on an extended voyage. Ellen then sends Lucy, the maid, to the shed to retrieve some oil, and there, Lucy finds Albert hiding. After ascertaining from Lucy that Ellen, who has never met him, is unaware of his previous visit, Albert knocks on the front door and introduces himself. When Ellen tells him that Miss Fiske is traveling, he confides that he is wanted by the police for embezzlement. Ellen agrees to let him stay at the house until she can arrange for his passage out of the country. After everyone has gone to bed that night, Albert picks the lock of the oven-safe and discovers that it has been bricked up. The next day, Albert tries to seduce Lucy as she cleans Miss Fiske's room, and when Lucy resists him, she knocks over a case containing Miss Fiske's best wig, causing them to wonder why she would leave it behind. Albert's puzzlement deepens the next day when Emily blurts out that Miss Fiske sold the house to Ellen, and later, the nuns visit and comment that Miss Fiske never mentioned that she was leaving. His curiosity piqued, Albert opens a letter addressed to Miss Fiske and learns that the bank is questioning the signature on her recently cashed checks. Becoming suspicious, Albert studies Ellen's expression as she opens the letter from the bank. After urgently penning a response, Ellen hurries off to post her letter and Albert uses a mirror to read her reply on the ink blotter. Upon discovering that Ellen has signed her reply "Leonora Fiske," Albert realizes that Ellen has been impersonating Miss Fiske and deduces that she has killed her. Enlisting Lucy in a scheme to blackmail Ellen, Albert begins to dismantle the bricks in the oven. That night, Ellen demands that Albert leave the house by morning because Miss Fiske is coming home. In response, Albert taps his pipe on the oven and says that he dreamt that Miss Fiske was dead. As Ellen tosses in her bed later that night, she hears "Tit Willow" being played and slinks down the stairs to see a strange woman seated at the piano. Although it is only Lucy wearing a wig, Ellen screams and faints. The next day, Albert forces the tormented Ellen to confess her crime and then demands money for his silence. At that moment, the nuns knock at the door to warn Ellen that the police are in the vicinity searching for her nephew. Overhearing their conversation, Albert flees, and Lucy, finally realizing the depravity surrounding her, screams and runs away. Soon after, Emily and Louisa report seeing Albert being led away by some men. Deciding to turn herself in to the police, Ellen kisses her sisters goodbye and disappears into the marsh. +

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.