Two-Faced Woman (1941)

94 mins | Romantic comedy | November 1941

Director:

George Cukor

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

George Boemler

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Twins . According to HR news items, William Powell was initially set to co-star with Greta Garbo, and skiing exteriors were shot near Reno, NV. Although a production still from the film indicates that actor George Cleveland was in the cast, he was not in the released film. Two-Faced Woman was the last film of the Swedish-born Garbo, who came to the United States in 1925, and appeared in many critically praised M-G-M films, including Flesh and the Devil , Anna Christie , Anna Karenina and Camille (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.1818 and F2.0130 and AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0124 and F3.0578). According to news items in HR , Two-Faced Woman was the last film under Garbo's M-G-M contract and subsequent to the film's completion, she announced that she would not make films for any other studio. Although she was mentioned at various intervals throughout the next decade as the possible star of several projects, none materialized. Despite her absence from the screen, Garbo remained an internationally recognized celebrity known for her reclusive private life. In 1990, she died in New York City, at the age of eighty-five.
       Shortly after the press previews of Two-Faced Woman , controversy arose surrounding its condemnation by the National Legion of Decency, a Roman Catholic organization that rated films for their content. Information contained in HR news items, articles in various New York newspapers and memos and letters in the file on the film ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Twins . According to HR news items, William Powell was initially set to co-star with Greta Garbo, and skiing exteriors were shot near Reno, NV. Although a production still from the film indicates that actor George Cleveland was in the cast, he was not in the released film. Two-Faced Woman was the last film of the Swedish-born Garbo, who came to the United States in 1925, and appeared in many critically praised M-G-M films, including Flesh and the Devil , Anna Christie , Anna Karenina and Camille (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.1818 and F2.0130 and AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0124 and F3.0578). According to news items in HR , Two-Faced Woman was the last film under Garbo's M-G-M contract and subsequent to the film's completion, she announced that she would not make films for any other studio. Although she was mentioned at various intervals throughout the next decade as the possible star of several projects, none materialized. Despite her absence from the screen, Garbo remained an internationally recognized celebrity known for her reclusive private life. In 1990, she died in New York City, at the age of eighty-five.
       Shortly after the press previews of Two-Faced Woman , controversy arose surrounding its condemnation by the National Legion of Decency, a Roman Catholic organization that rated films for their content. Information contained in HR news items, articles in various New York newspapers and memos and letters in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal the following information: In a press conference held on 24 Nov 1941, the Legion of Decency issued the following statement: "The National Legion of Decency announced today that the motion picture Two-Faced Woman has been rated as 'C' or 'Condemned' for the following reasons: Immoral and un-Christian attitude toward marriage and its obligations; impudently suggestive scenes, dialogue and situations; suggestive costumes.'"
       Archbishop Francis J. Spellman, head of the diocese of New York City, also publicly denounced the film with the following written statement: "Because of this specific condemnation, the Archbishop warns the faithful that the witnessing of this picture may be an occasion of sin and that the film is a danger to public morality." According to a 7 Dec 1941 NYT article, in an "unprecedented" move, Spellman advised Catholics in New York not to see the film and, according to articles in HR , requested that all pastors in his diocese mention the film's "C" rating at Mass on Sunday, 30 Nov 1941. According to the same NYT article, members of the Hollywood community generally did not react to the condemnation of the film, with the exception of Melvyn Douglas, who was quoted as saying that the picture was "harmless."
       During the course of the next several weeks, many members of the Catholic hierarchy joined Spellmen in his condemnation of the film. The Catholic newspaper The Catholic Register published an editorial in which the paper stated: "If all prints of Two-Faced Woman are not recalled by the producers and re-edited by the Motion Picture Production Code, this writer will be among the first to petition congress to take firm steps in forcing Hollywood to clean house." HR publisher W. R. Wilkerson published an editorial on 10 Dec 1941 criticizing MPAA head Will Hays for not addressing the issue. Wilkerson complained that Hays "who is paid royally to represent this business" failed to defend the film and "shoved the duties he is being paid to administer over onto the lap of M-G-M, which is now trying to meet the demands of the Catholic body, even though that body stands alone in its condemnation of the picture."
       MPAA/PCA letters and memos reveal that a partial script was submitted to the PCA on 12 Jun 1941. By 1 Jul 1941, the script for the film was approved following a suggestion on 17 Jun to "lean backwards to avoid any objectionable details or lines that might emphasize the sex suggestive features of the finished picture." Various changes in the script and retakes were approved without incident throughout the film's shooting schedule. A PCA file memorandum dated 26 Nov 1941, two days after the condemnation of the film by the Legion of Decency, stated the following: "The original story idea was told verbally to Mr. [Joseph I.] Breen [head of the PCA] by Mr. [Bernard] Hyman of M-G-M and rejected by Mr. Breen. The reason for the objection was that the story contemplated the situation of a man having a sex affair with a woman whom he thought was his wife's twin sister, getting her pregnant, and then discovering that it was his wife whom he had impregnated all the time...this was sometime in 1940." The final script had no indication that the character of "Karin" was pregnant, and a certificate was issued for the completed film on 6 Oct 1941. The 26 Nov 1941 memo also stated, "please note particularly the review from MPH of 25 Oct 1941, in which no exception is taken to the moral content of the picture."
       A letter in the PCA file, dated 1 Nov 1941, to Hays from New York Congressman Martin J. Kennedy stated that Archbishop Spellman had publicly condemned the picture and asked the motion picture industry "to clean house." It went on to state: "True Americanism required clean thinking, clean living, and clean pictures...I call upon you, Mr. Hays, to immediately stop the distribution of this picture." In order to receive a less inflamatory "B", or "adults only" rating from the Legion of Decency, M-G-M made revisions and cuts in the film. A 5 Dec 1941 telegram sent from M-G-M vice-president and general counsel J. Robert Rubin to M-G-M executive produced E. J. Mannix suggested the insertion of an additional scene to show "Larry" calling the ski lodge and discovering that his wife left Idaho for New York a week before. This scene was included in the viewed print. Various news items indicate that M-G-M had refused to publicize the film by using the controversy as an exploitation tool and issued this statement to the press on 18 Dec 1941: "The original version will be withdrawn from circulation following existing contractual comments, and the revised version will be made available in all future bookings." That same day, members of the Legion of Decency viewed the revised picture and officially took it off the "condemned" list.
       Garbo and Douglas co-starred in two previous M-G-M films, As You Desire Me in 1932, and Ninotcha in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0180 and F3.3147). The first film based on the Ludwig Fulda play was the 1925 First National picture Her Sister from Paris , directed by Sidney Franklin and starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2451). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Oct 1941.
---
Daily Variety
22 Oct 41
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Oct 1941.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
25 Nov 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 40
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 41
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 41
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 41
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 41
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 41
p. 4.
Liberty
29 Sep 1941.
---
Life
29 Sep 41
pp. 87-91.
Motion Picture Daily
22 Oct 1922.
---
Motion Picture Herald
25 Oct 41
p. 329.
New York Times
7 Dec 1941.
---
New York Times
1 Jan 42
p. 37.
Showmen's Trade Reviews
25 Oct 1941.
---
Variety
22 Oct 41
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
Jewels
MUSIC
Mus score
Orch
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles created by
STAND INS
Dance double for Greta Garbo
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by a German play by Ludwig Fulda (production undetermined).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Twins
Release Date:
November 1941
Production Date:
13 June--mid August 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 January 1942
Copyright Number:
LP10987
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
94
Length(in feet):
8,116
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7687
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

At an Idaho ski lodge, workaholic New York magazine editor Larry Blake comes to relax and is immediately attracted to ski instructor Karin Borg. Karin at first seems indifferent to his advances, but after a minor skiing accident leaves them stranded together, they fall in love and immediately marry. Meanwhile, search parties are sent looking for the missing pair and Blake's worried partner, O. O. Miller, and secretary, Miss Ellis, arrive from New York. Finding the pair safe and sound, Miller wants Larry to return immediately to New York to re-design their magazine. Although Larry had told Karin that he was giving up the fast-paced life, he enthusiastically plans to return to the city the next morning. He and Karin, who prefers the simple life, quarrel, then make up, but the next morning, neither has changed positions. Karin refuses to go to New York with Larry and he leaves without her, promising faithfully to return within a week. After receiving several telegrams announcing delays, Karin contacts Miss Ellis and tells her that she is secretly coming to New York. She meets Miss Ellis at an exclusive dresshop and makes herself over into a glamorous-looking woman of the world. They then go to the theater where a new play that Larry is backing is being rehearsed. Hiding in the back of the theater, Karin overhears a flirtatious conversation between Larry and his former girl friend, playwright Griselda Vaughn. Hurt that Larry has seemingly forgotten her, Karin determines to go back to Idaho immediately, but as she and Miss Ellis leave through the theater's back door, they are seen by O. O. Because Karin ... +


At an Idaho ski lodge, workaholic New York magazine editor Larry Blake comes to relax and is immediately attracted to ski instructor Karin Borg. Karin at first seems indifferent to his advances, but after a minor skiing accident leaves them stranded together, they fall in love and immediately marry. Meanwhile, search parties are sent looking for the missing pair and Blake's worried partner, O. O. Miller, and secretary, Miss Ellis, arrive from New York. Finding the pair safe and sound, Miller wants Larry to return immediately to New York to re-design their magazine. Although Larry had told Karin that he was giving up the fast-paced life, he enthusiastically plans to return to the city the next morning. He and Karin, who prefers the simple life, quarrel, then make up, but the next morning, neither has changed positions. Karin refuses to go to New York with Larry and he leaves without her, promising faithfully to return within a week. After receiving several telegrams announcing delays, Karin contacts Miss Ellis and tells her that she is secretly coming to New York. She meets Miss Ellis at an exclusive dresshop and makes herself over into a glamorous-looking woman of the world. They then go to the theater where a new play that Larry is backing is being rehearsed. Hiding in the back of the theater, Karin overhears a flirtatious conversation between Larry and his former girl friend, playwright Griselda Vaughn. Hurt that Larry has seemingly forgotten her, Karin determines to go back to Idaho immediately, but as she and Miss Ellis leave through the theater's back door, they are seen by O. O. Because Karin does not want Larry to know that she has been to New York, Miss Ellis tells O. O. that the woman he has seen is not Karin, but her twin sister Katherine. Karin's appearance and demeanor are so different from what they were in Idaho that O. O. easily accepts her as "Katherine" and invites her to dinner. Karin continues the deception that evening at Larry's favorite nightclub. Larry, who is with Griselda, is stunned when Karin walks in with O. O., but Karin pretends she does not know him and O. O. informs him that she is his sister-in-law, Katherine. Larry is extremely suspicious, even though "Katherine" drinks, smokes and dances, none of which Karin does. Karin pretends to be a blatant gold digger who uses men for her own pleasure and advancement, shocking Larry and angering Griselda, who is afraid that Katherine will be more successful than Karin at luring Larry away from her. Unknown to Karin, Larry sneaks off to telephone the ski lodge and is pleased to hear that Karin has left for New York. Later that night, Larry takes a very inebriated Karin to her hotel room and tries to romance her, but she orders him out. The next morning, while Miss Ellis helps Karin nurse her first hangover, Larry calls to apologize for his behavior and asks to meet her. She then tells Miss Ellis that she will pretend to be such a complete "vamp" that he will run back to Karin. When Larry arrives, the game continues until he says that he wants to divorce Karin so that he can reform her. He then says that he is flying to Idaho to tell Karin, but she convinces him to go by train, then secretly flies back. At Karin's cabin, she acts like her old self, but when Larry sees that she still is wearing toenail polish, like Katherine, he knows that they are one and the same. They spend the night together and in the morning, after Larry suggests that he could be happy with both Katherine and Karin, she accuses him of really being two people, goes into the bathroom, then returns wearing Katherine's negligee. When he pretends not to believe her story of being both Katherine and Karin, she angrily tells him, "we're both through with you," then goes skiing. He follows her, but falls into a frozen lake. When she calls after him, he says, "I'm not Larry, I'm his twin brother," and they kiss as he calls her "Karin, Katherine." +

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.