The President's Lady (1953)

96-97 mins | Biography | April 1953

Director:

Henry Levin

Writer:

John Patrick

Producer:

Sol C. Siegel

Cinematographer:

Leo Tover

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, Leland Fuller

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

This film is based on the lives of President Andrew Jackson (1767--1845) and his wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson (1767--1828). As depicted in the film, Rachel was married when she met Jackson, and they were married for two years before learning that her first husband had not officially obtained a divorce, as they had believed. The scandal haunted the couple's otherwise happy marriage, and the hot-tempered Jackson often fought those who slandered his wife. Rachel died after Jackson was elected president but before he was inaugurated, and one of her nieces, Emily Donelson, served as Jackson's hostess in the White House during the majority of his presidency.
       Acccording to a 30 Aug 1951 HR news item, when Twentieth Century-Fox purchased Irving Stone's novel while it was still in galley proofs, producer Sol C. Siegel hoped to star Gregory Peck and Olivia de Havilland in the title roles. According to HR news items, Joyce MacKenzie was originally signed for the part of "Jane." Other HR news items include Roger Moore and Carolyn Numkena in the cast, although their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity announced that Andrew Jackson IV appeared in the film as an extra during the election rally scene, but his appearance in the released picture has also not been confirmed. According to a 3 Oct 1952 HR news item, some sequences were shot on location at the Twentieth Century-Fox ranch near Calabasas, CA.
       The President's Lady received Academy Award nominations for Best Art and Set Direction (b&w) and Best Costume Design (b&w). Charlton Heston reprised his role for ... More Less

This film is based on the lives of President Andrew Jackson (1767--1845) and his wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson (1767--1828). As depicted in the film, Rachel was married when she met Jackson, and they were married for two years before learning that her first husband had not officially obtained a divorce, as they had believed. The scandal haunted the couple's otherwise happy marriage, and the hot-tempered Jackson often fought those who slandered his wife. Rachel died after Jackson was elected president but before he was inaugurated, and one of her nieces, Emily Donelson, served as Jackson's hostess in the White House during the majority of his presidency.
       Acccording to a 30 Aug 1951 HR news item, when Twentieth Century-Fox purchased Irving Stone's novel while it was still in galley proofs, producer Sol C. Siegel hoped to star Gregory Peck and Olivia de Havilland in the title roles. According to HR news items, Joyce MacKenzie was originally signed for the part of "Jane." Other HR news items include Roger Moore and Carolyn Numkena in the cast, although their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity announced that Andrew Jackson IV appeared in the film as an extra during the election rally scene, but his appearance in the released picture has also not been confirmed. According to a 3 Oct 1952 HR news item, some sequences were shot on location at the Twentieth Century-Fox ranch near Calabasas, CA.
       The President's Lady received Academy Award nominations for Best Art and Set Direction (b&w) and Best Costume Design (b&w). Charlton Heston reprised his role for a 28 Sep 1953 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story, which co-starred Joan Fontaine. Heston again played Jackson in the 1959 Paramount production The Buccaneer , directed by Anthony Quinn (see above). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Mar 1953.
---
Daily Variety
5 Mar 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Mar 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 52
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 52
p. 5, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 52
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 52
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 52
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 53
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Apr 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Mar 53
p. 1750.
New York Times
22 May 53
p. 31.
Newsweek
13 Apr 1953.
---
Time
4 May 1953.
---
Variety
11 Mar 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel President's Lady: A Novel of Rachel and Andrew Jackson by Irving Stone (New York, 1951).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1953
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Nashville, TN: 17 March 1953
Production Date:
15 September--late October 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 March 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2686
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
96-97
Length(in feet):
8,790
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16198
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1789, Rachel Donelson Robards meets Tennessee's attorney general, Andrew Jackson, for the first time when he seeks room and board at her mother's farm near Nashville. John Overton, Andrew's law partner and Rachel's cousin, had recommended Andrew, and Mrs. Donelson welcomes the young attorney, who also has experience fighting Indians. Andrew becomes infatuated with the lovely Rachel and is disappointed when her moody husband, Lewis Robards, comes from Harrodsburg to ask her to return home. Lewis apologizes for his jealous, antagonistic behavior, but upon their return, Rachel discovers that Lewis has been having an affair with a slave girl. The sympathetic Mrs. Robards writes to Mrs. Donelson, telling her that Rachel wishes to go back to Nashville, and Mrs. Donelson sends Andrew to retrieve her. Infuriated, Lewis pulls a gun on Andrew, but Andrew easily disarms him and leaves with Rachel. The couple evade a band of Indians, then stop for the night at an inn to avoid further danger. When they arrive at the farm in the morning, they learn that Lewis has arrived before them. Lewis demands that Rachel leave with him, and when she refuses, he threatens to return the following morning with gun-toting relatives. Desperate to protect Rachel, Mrs. Donelson asks flatboat owners Capt. and Mrs. Stark to take Rachel to Natchez, but the Starks refuse to accept the responsibility unless a man accompanies Rachel. Andrew volunteers, and after they fend off an Indian attack, the couple kiss and realize that they have fallen in love. In Spanish-controlled Natchez, Andrew tells Rachel that she could obtain an annulment there and they could marry, but that their marriage ... +


In 1789, Rachel Donelson Robards meets Tennessee's attorney general, Andrew Jackson, for the first time when he seeks room and board at her mother's farm near Nashville. John Overton, Andrew's law partner and Rachel's cousin, had recommended Andrew, and Mrs. Donelson welcomes the young attorney, who also has experience fighting Indians. Andrew becomes infatuated with the lovely Rachel and is disappointed when her moody husband, Lewis Robards, comes from Harrodsburg to ask her to return home. Lewis apologizes for his jealous, antagonistic behavior, but upon their return, Rachel discovers that Lewis has been having an affair with a slave girl. The sympathetic Mrs. Robards writes to Mrs. Donelson, telling her that Rachel wishes to go back to Nashville, and Mrs. Donelson sends Andrew to retrieve her. Infuriated, Lewis pulls a gun on Andrew, but Andrew easily disarms him and leaves with Rachel. The couple evade a band of Indians, then stop for the night at an inn to avoid further danger. When they arrive at the farm in the morning, they learn that Lewis has arrived before them. Lewis demands that Rachel leave with him, and when she refuses, he threatens to return the following morning with gun-toting relatives. Desperate to protect Rachel, Mrs. Donelson asks flatboat owners Capt. and Mrs. Stark to take Rachel to Natchez, but the Starks refuse to accept the responsibility unless a man accompanies Rachel. Andrew volunteers, and after they fend off an Indian attack, the couple kiss and realize that they have fallen in love. In Spanish-controlled Natchez, Andrew tells Rachel that she could obtain an annulment there and they could marry, but that their marriage would not be legal in the United States. Rachel refuses to let Andrew give up his career and asks him to return to Nashville to obtain a divorce for her. Before he leaves, however, Andrew receives a letter from John announcing that Lewis has gotten a divorce, charging Rachel with adultery. Although she is crushed by the accusation, Rachel marries Andrew, and after they return to Nashville, the couple spend two happy years together. Rachel is sad that they do not have children, but is content to be with Andrew. One day, John arrives with news that he had been mistaken, as Lewis had only petitioned for a divorce without actually obtaining one. Now, however, Lewis has divorced Rachel on grounds of adultery. Rachel begs Andrew to marry her again, although he believes that holding another ceremony will be an admission that they were in the wrong. After the wedding, Rachel and Andrew go to town, where Lewis' cousin Jason makes a crude remark about Rachel. Andrew almost beats Jason to death before being pulled away, then, during the drive home, Andrew and Rachel learn that Rachel's brother has been killed by Indians. Heading a militia troop, Andrew leaves to fight the Indians, and Rachel and her slave Moll work the fields alone for a year and a half until Andrew returns. Rachel is delighted to see her husband, and overjoyed that he has brought her an orphaned Indian infant, whom they name Lincoya. Andrew was forced to sell their home to equip his men, although he soon builds Rachel a fine new home in Nashville, which they call "The Hermitage." Rachel spends the next eight years happily, although Andrew is often gone fighting Indians or serving in Congress. One day, Rachel is invited to join a ladies' club, but is upset to learn that most of the women, still believing that Rachel is an adultress, have refused to allow her admittance. Humiliated, Rachel returns home, where she is horrified to discover that Lincoya has died suddenly during her brief absence. Andrew finally comes home, and soon makes a large gentleman's wager on a horse race. Rachel is thrilled when Andrew wins and is told that he has been appointed the general of the state militia. Jealous Charles Dickinson makes a cutting remark about Andrew stealing another man's wife, however, and Andrew again loses his temper and challenges Dickinson to a duel. Rachel begs Andrew not to fight, but he insists on defending her honor. During the duel, Andrew is seriously wounded but manages to kill Dickinson. Although she is glad to have her husband home, Rachel is heartbroken that their lives have again been disrupted by scandalmongers. Andrew promises Rachel that he will lift her so high that no one will dare whisper a word against her, but his promise is delayed by the war of 1812, during which he is away fighting for two years. Andrew returns home a hero, but when politics call again, he returns to Washington, leaving Rachel home alone. Finally, in 1825, Andrew is persuaded to run for president, although John warns him that his enemies will run a virulent campaign against him and he will have to control his temper. Rachel, who is in failing health, sneaks out one night to listen to Andrew speak at a rally, and is crushed to hear the jeering crowd yell out that they will not have a murderer for a president or a prostitute as the first lady. Rachel collapses as she stumbles through the streets, and Andrew stays by her bedside night and day. When Andrew receives word that he has won the election, Rachel tearfully acknowledges that he kept his promise to raise her to grand heights. She then tells him that she will not be able to accompany him, and with her dying breath, asks him not to carry spite with him. Soon after, in Washington, just before his inaugural speech, Andrew gazes at a miniature of Rachel and vows that his memories will keep him company for the rest of his life. +

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

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