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HISTORY

A 15 Jun 1941 NYT news item revealed that Warner Bros. paid playwrights Elliott Nugent and James Thurber $150,000 for the rights to their play. A press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library announced that the film was to have starred Priscilla Lane, but she was cast in another project. everal members of the cast, including Don DeFore, Ivan Simpson, Minna Phillips and Regina Wallace, reprised their Broadway roles for the film. Director and author Nugent played the role of "Tommy Turner" on stage. The world premiere of the film was held in Columbus, OH, where Ohio State University, the alma mater of both Nugent and Thurber, is located. Var mistakenly lists the film's running time as 126 minutes.
       Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were political radicals accused of murdering a shoe-factory paymaster and guard and stealing the $16,000 payroll. They were convicted in 1921 and electrocuted in 1927. During the appeal of their case, doubt of their guilt led to worldwide protests. Nugent and Thurber's play was also the inspiration for the 1952 Warner Bros. musical She's Working Her Way Through College , starring Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo and directed by Bruce Humberstone. In the latter film, the story turns on whether an ex-burlesque queen should be allowed to stay in ... More Less

A 15 Jun 1941 NYT news item revealed that Warner Bros. paid playwrights Elliott Nugent and James Thurber $150,000 for the rights to their play. A press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library announced that the film was to have starred Priscilla Lane, but she was cast in another project. everal members of the cast, including Don DeFore, Ivan Simpson, Minna Phillips and Regina Wallace, reprised their Broadway roles for the film. Director and author Nugent played the role of "Tommy Turner" on stage. The world premiere of the film was held in Columbus, OH, where Ohio State University, the alma mater of both Nugent and Thurber, is located. Var mistakenly lists the film's running time as 126 minutes.
       Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were political radicals accused of murdering a shoe-factory paymaster and guard and stealing the $16,000 payroll. They were convicted in 1921 and electrocuted in 1927. During the appeal of their case, doubt of their guilt led to worldwide protests. Nugent and Thurber's play was also the inspiration for the 1952 Warner Bros. musical She's Working Her Way Through College , starring Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo and directed by Bruce Humberstone. In the latter film, the story turns on whether an ex-burlesque queen should be allowed to stay in college. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Mar 1942.
---
Daily Variety
3 Mar 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Mar 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 42
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Mar 42
p. 537.
New York Times
15 Jun 1941.
---
New York Times
28 Mar 42
p. 11.
Variety
4 Mar 42
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent, as produced by Herman Shumlin (New York, 1 Sep 1940).
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 April 1942
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Columbus, OH: 12 March 1942
Production Date:
late August--mid October 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 April 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11185
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
101
Length(in feet):
9,039
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, English professor Tommy Turner and his wife Ellen host a cocktail party for Dean Frederick Damon and his wife Blanche; anti-intellectual trustee Ed Keller and his wife Myrtle; and former football hero Joe Ferguson. Just before dinner, Damon informs Tommy and Ellen that student Michael Barnes, a boyfriend of Ellen's sister, Patricia Stanley, has written an editorial excoriating the trustees as fascists and pointing to Tommy as the only professor interested in freedom of speech. In the editorial, Michael mentions that the following Monday during class, Tommy will read a letter by Bartolomeo Vanzetti, an anarchist executed for murder along with his associate, Nicola Sacco, in 1927. Both Damon and Ellen are worried that if Tommy goes ahead with his plans, the trustees will brand him a Communist and fire him. Tommy does not want to be an example, but does not really understand why he should not read the letter to his class. Later Joe, a former boyfriend of Ellen's, arrives with flowers for Ellen's birthday, which Tommy has forgotten, and announces that he and his wife are divorcing. During cocktails, Keller learns about the Vanzetti letter and expresses his horror that Tommy would expose his students to something un-American. Tommy gets so angry at Keller that he decides to read the letter to spite him. Then when Joe and Ellen dance together to an old song, all of Tommy's old jealousy of Joe returns. After the rally, Joe offers to take Tommy and Ellen to dinner, but Tommy pleads illness and encourages Ellen to accept his offer. The next day, the entire campus is ... +


During homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, English professor Tommy Turner and his wife Ellen host a cocktail party for Dean Frederick Damon and his wife Blanche; anti-intellectual trustee Ed Keller and his wife Myrtle; and former football hero Joe Ferguson. Just before dinner, Damon informs Tommy and Ellen that student Michael Barnes, a boyfriend of Ellen's sister, Patricia Stanley, has written an editorial excoriating the trustees as fascists and pointing to Tommy as the only professor interested in freedom of speech. In the editorial, Michael mentions that the following Monday during class, Tommy will read a letter by Bartolomeo Vanzetti, an anarchist executed for murder along with his associate, Nicola Sacco, in 1927. Both Damon and Ellen are worried that if Tommy goes ahead with his plans, the trustees will brand him a Communist and fire him. Tommy does not want to be an example, but does not really understand why he should not read the letter to his class. Later Joe, a former boyfriend of Ellen's, arrives with flowers for Ellen's birthday, which Tommy has forgotten, and announces that he and his wife are divorcing. During cocktails, Keller learns about the Vanzetti letter and expresses his horror that Tommy would expose his students to something un-American. Tommy gets so angry at Keller that he decides to read the letter to spite him. Then when Joe and Ellen dance together to an old song, all of Tommy's old jealousy of Joe returns. After the rally, Joe offers to take Tommy and Ellen to dinner, but Tommy pleads illness and encourages Ellen to accept his offer. The next day, the entire campus is in an uproar over Michael's editorial, and Tommy, believing that Ellen is still in love with Joe, decides to drive her away for her own good. Although Joe does not really want to marry Ellen--he is more interested in who will win the football game--he feels obligated to accept her if she leaves Tommy. While Joe and Ellen attend the game, Tommy and Michael get drunk. In nature, Tommy says, if another male threatens to take away an animal's mate, he tears him apart. Tommy then points out that he is a male animal. When Ellen and Joe return from the game, which was won by Midwestern at the last moment, Tommy announces his intention to knock Joe out. On Monday morning, Tommy, having been knocked out by Joe, must face the entire university and read Vanzetti's letter. Before they leave, Ellen announces her plans to live with Joe, upsetting both Joe and Tommy. Keller, meanwhile, has expelled Michael and threatens Tommy with dismissal if he reads the letter, but to everyone's surprise, Damon defends Tommy. In front of an enormous crowd, Tommy gives an impassioned speech in favor of the free exchange of ideas and free speech and then reads Vanzetti's moving and non-political letter. Ellen is deeply impressed by her husband's behavior, as are the students. Tommy is given a hero's reception and is reconciled with Ellen. Free from his obligation to Ellen, Joe plans to return to his wife. +

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.