Escape (1948)

79 mins | Drama | July 1948

Writer:

Philip Dunne

Producer:

William Perlberg

Cinematographer:

F. A. Young

Editor:

Alan Jaggs

Production Designer:

Vetchinsky
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HISTORY

The onscreen title credit for this film reads "John Galsworthy's Escape ." The film begins with the following written quotation from Justice , a 1910 play by Galsworthy: "There is nothing more tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing what you have done." The film ends with another quotation from the same play: "The law is what it is--a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another." In his autobiography, Rex Harrison recalled his admiration for a British-made 1930 film version of Escape , directed by Basil Dean and starring Gerald du Maurier and Edna Best. Harrison wrote that he personally approached Twentieth Century-Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck and asked him to buy the rights to the play as a vehicle for him. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the studio bought the motion picture rights to Escape from Associated Talking Pictures Ltd. (which had obtained the rights from Paramount) in 1947, for the sum of ten thousand pounds, plus a fifty-pound payment to the Galsworthy estate. Contrary to regular studio policy, the rights were purchased for only a ten-year period and expired in 1957 when the studio elected not to renegotiate them.
       Escape was the first post-war American production to shoot in Britain under a special tax-settlement agreement between the two countries designed to revitalize the British film industry. The film's exteriors were shot in the village and heath near Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England. According to information on the film contained in ... More Less

The onscreen title credit for this film reads "John Galsworthy's Escape ." The film begins with the following written quotation from Justice , a 1910 play by Galsworthy: "There is nothing more tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing what you have done." The film ends with another quotation from the same play: "The law is what it is--a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another." In his autobiography, Rex Harrison recalled his admiration for a British-made 1930 film version of Escape , directed by Basil Dean and starring Gerald du Maurier and Edna Best. Harrison wrote that he personally approached Twentieth Century-Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck and asked him to buy the rights to the play as a vehicle for him. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the studio bought the motion picture rights to Escape from Associated Talking Pictures Ltd. (which had obtained the rights from Paramount) in 1947, for the sum of ten thousand pounds, plus a fifty-pound payment to the Galsworthy estate. Contrary to regular studio policy, the rights were purchased for only a ten-year period and expired in 1957 when the studio elected not to renegotiate them.
       Escape was the first post-war American production to shoot in Britain under a special tax-settlement agreement between the two countries designed to revitalize the British film industry. The film's exteriors were shot in the village and heath near Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England. According to information on the film contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the Breen Office rejected a first draft of the screenplay in May 1947 because "the story seems to condone and justify a certain type of lawlessness," adding that "those supporting characters who wish to help him make good his escape are presented to the audience as estimable and sympathetic." The PCA also insisted that the character of the "Girl in the park" not be depicted as a prostitute, as she was in the play: "It is sufficient for story purposes if she merely be suspected of being a prostitute." The scene in Hyde Park was reshot in Feb 1948, for reasons that have not been determined. Shortly before the film's release, Zanuck cut a major sequence in which "Matt Denant" meets a fellow fisherman who turns out to be a retired judge, and the men engage in a conversation about law and justice. The judge (played by Felix Aylmer, who had played the minor role of prison governor in the 1930 film), recognizes Matt but chooses not to turn him in to a passing policeman, explaining that if he himself has ever been guilty of an injustice on the bench, his inaction that day will help to balance his record.
       Escape opened to generally favorable reviews in New York in Aug 1948, although some critics objected to Galsworthy's sermonizing. "The picture has the cool logic of a syllogism and no more emotion than one," wrote the New York Post . The print viewed was from Great Britain, but according to the cutting continuity of the American release in the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, there are only very minor differences between the prints that circulated in Britain and America, and none are related to the plot. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Jun 1948.
---
Daily Variety
26 May 48
p. 4, 19
Film Daily
27 May 48
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
29 May 48
p. 88.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 48
p. 3, 17
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 48
pp. 8-9.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 May 48
p. 4183.
New York Times
16 Aug 48
p. 12.
Variety
31 Mar 48
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
By arrangement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios Ltd.
Cam op
By arrangement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios Ltd.
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Personal asst to prod
Personal asst to prod
STAND INS
Stand-in and stunts for Rex Harrison
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Escape by John Galsworthy (London, 12 Aug 1926).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
John Galsworthy's Escape
Release Date:
July 1948
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: late March 1948
Los Angeles opening: 30 July 1948
Production Date:
mid September--early December 1947
retakes early February 1948 at D & P Studios, Denham, England
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1948
Copyright Number:
LP2307
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79
Length(in feet):
7,079
Length(in reels):
9
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
PCA No:
12985
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After visiting his friend Titch's aerodrome in Hendley, England, Matt Denant, a former RAF squadron leader, prepares to return to London. Rodgers, an employee of the aerodrome, asks Matt to place a sizeable bet for him at the racetrack, and when his horse loses, promises to send Matt a check to cover his loss. One evening, Matt is strolling in Hyde Park when an outspoken young woman strikes up a conversation with him. While they are talking, Penter, a plainclothes detective, arrests the woman for soliciting. Matt intercedes, and while he and Penter are struggling, the detective loses his balance and strikes his head on a park bench. Matt sends the woman away, but refuses to abandon the injured man, and the police arrive on the scene and arrest him. Penter dies, and Matt is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. Matt swears that he will never submit to a verdict he considers unjust, and one night, while on work detail, he slips away in the heavy fog. The next morning, Inspector Harris calls on Sir James Winton, who lives nearby with his daughters Grace and Dora, and warns them about the escaped convict. Dora then enters her bedroom to find Matt devouring her breakfast, but conceals his presence from the police. Upon hearing his story, Dora gives Matt her fiancé's fishing clothes and directs him to a place to hide, an unused hut on a nearby stream. After Matt and the police leave, Grace tells her sister that she knows the fugitive was in their home. Meanwhile, in the village of Moorside, Matt calls ... +


After visiting his friend Titch's aerodrome in Hendley, England, Matt Denant, a former RAF squadron leader, prepares to return to London. Rodgers, an employee of the aerodrome, asks Matt to place a sizeable bet for him at the racetrack, and when his horse loses, promises to send Matt a check to cover his loss. One evening, Matt is strolling in Hyde Park when an outspoken young woman strikes up a conversation with him. While they are talking, Penter, a plainclothes detective, arrests the woman for soliciting. Matt intercedes, and while he and Penter are struggling, the detective loses his balance and strikes his head on a park bench. Matt sends the woman away, but refuses to abandon the injured man, and the police arrive on the scene and arrest him. Penter dies, and Matt is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. Matt swears that he will never submit to a verdict he considers unjust, and one night, while on work detail, he slips away in the heavy fog. The next morning, Inspector Harris calls on Sir James Winton, who lives nearby with his daughters Grace and Dora, and warns them about the escaped convict. Dora then enters her bedroom to find Matt devouring her breakfast, but conceals his presence from the police. Upon hearing his story, Dora gives Matt her fiancé's fishing clothes and directs him to a place to hide, an unused hut on a nearby stream. After Matt and the police leave, Grace tells her sister that she knows the fugitive was in their home. Meanwhile, in the village of Moorside, Matt calls the aerodrome from a public phone, and Titch agrees to leave a small plane unattended at the aerodrome so that Matt can use it to escape to France. Matt encounters a car salesman and asks to take a test drive, then forces the salesman out of the car once they are on the open road. He later has trouble with the car, and Grace and Dora, who are coincidentally out for a drive, stop to help. Dora warns him that there are roadblocks ahead, and over her sister's objections, insists on riding with Matt to help him escape. As they drive, Dora tells Matt that she does not love her fiancé, but is marrying him as "an investment." Meanwhile, Harris learns that Matt used the public phone, and is connected with the aerodrome. Rodgers answers the phone, and when he learns that there is a generous reward for the fugitive, reveals Matt's escape plan. Matt takes off just as Harris arrives at the aerodrome, but the fog is heavy and the plane crashes into some trees. An injured Matt sets fire to the plane and escapes on foot, eventually making his way to a farm and falling asleep. In the morning, he is discovered by a shepherd, and when the farmer, Browning, guesses Matt's identity and threatens to call the police, Matt knocks him out and flees. Meanwhile, Harris shows Dora and Grace the clothes he has retrieved from the burned wreckage of the plane, and Grace admits that they assisted Matt. After Harris leaves, Dora tells Grace that she wrote to her fiancé the previous night and ended their engagement. Dora then goes to the hut, where she finds Matt. She urges him to give himself up and serve out his sentence, promising to marry him when he is released, but Matt refuses. Hoping that Matt will change his mind, Dora goes to contact Harris, and Matt leaves the hut and seeks refuge in the village church. Matt and the parson engage in a philosophical conversation, and the parson reminds him that human laws are fallible. The police and a group of villagers surround the church, and Matt surrenders rather than allow the parson to compromise his integrity by lying for him. His faith restored, Matt goes with Harris, confident that Dora will wait for him. +

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

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