The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955)

108-109 mins | Biography | October 1955

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HISTORY

The opening credits of this film contain the following written prologue: “In 1906, the Thaw-White murder case rocked America. Because it involved a man of great consequence, another of great wealth, and a girl of extraordinary beauty, it remains unique in the annals of crime….What follows is taken from actual reports of the trial, and from personal interviews with Evelyn Nesbit.” The picture is based on the murder of socially prominent architect Stanford White (1853—1906) by millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw (1871—1947), who was consumed with jealousy over White’s past affair with his wife, famed beauty Evelyn Nesbit Thaw (1884—1967). Evelyn became involved with the older, married White in 1901 when she was a member of the popular “Floradora Sextette” and a favorite subject for artist Charles Dana Gibson. His portrait of her entitled “The Eternal Question,” in which Evelyn’s long hair forms a question mark, is one of the best-known examples of the “Gibson Girl” motif popularized by the artist. During her affair with White, Evelyn began to be called “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” because of the swing in which she liked to sit in White’s apartment. Thaw, well-known for his mental instability, began romantically pursuing Evelyn and married her in 1905. Infuriated by the notion that White had “ruined” Evelyn, Thaw shot and killed him in the Roof Garden of Madison Square Garden on 24 Jun 1906.
       Thaw’s first trial for the murder ended in a deadlocked jury; the second trial, featuring testimony by Evelyn that White had drugged and raped her, ended in Thaw being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw was placed in a mental institution until 1915, when he was ... More Less

The opening credits of this film contain the following written prologue: “In 1906, the Thaw-White murder case rocked America. Because it involved a man of great consequence, another of great wealth, and a girl of extraordinary beauty, it remains unique in the annals of crime….What follows is taken from actual reports of the trial, and from personal interviews with Evelyn Nesbit.” The picture is based on the murder of socially prominent architect Stanford White (1853—1906) by millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw (1871—1947), who was consumed with jealousy over White’s past affair with his wife, famed beauty Evelyn Nesbit Thaw (1884—1967). Evelyn became involved with the older, married White in 1901 when she was a member of the popular “Floradora Sextette” and a favorite subject for artist Charles Dana Gibson. His portrait of her entitled “The Eternal Question,” in which Evelyn’s long hair forms a question mark, is one of the best-known examples of the “Gibson Girl” motif popularized by the artist. During her affair with White, Evelyn began to be called “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” because of the swing in which she liked to sit in White’s apartment. Thaw, well-known for his mental instability, began romantically pursuing Evelyn and married her in 1905. Infuriated by the notion that White had “ruined” Evelyn, Thaw shot and killed him in the Roof Garden of Madison Square Garden on 24 Jun 1906.
       Thaw’s first trial for the murder ended in a deadlocked jury; the second trial, featuring testimony by Evelyn that White had drugged and raped her, ended in Thaw being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw was placed in a mental institution until 1915, when he was released after being determined sane. Evelyn bore Thaw a son, Russell, but was divorced by Thaw after his release. Without the support of the Thaw family, Evelyn was forced to use her notoriety to obtain work, appearing in vaudeville and nightclubs, as well as several silent films, including the 1917 Triumph Film Corp. release Redemption , which also featured Russell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ).
       A studio publicity release and the HR review stated that The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing was partially based on the book of the same title by Charles Samuels (New York, 1953). A 9 Jan 1954 LADN news item referred to the book as a “fictionalized, paperback biography,” and in a 28 Jun 1955 LAT interview, Evelyn claimed that the unauthorized biography was “incorrect in many details.” Samuels is not listed in the onscreen credits of the film, and it is likely that Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the rights to his book merely to obtain rights to the title. Numerous contemporary sources reported that Evelyn cooperated fully with the filming of the picture, and several reviews surmised that her participation led to a portrayal of her, and of her affair with White, that differed substantially from her testimoney during her husband’s trials for White’s murder. According to the Time and Life reviews, Evelyn was paid between $45,000 and $50,000 for acting as a consultant on the film.
       Several 1954 news items reported that Marilyn Monroe would play “Evelyn Nesbit,” and according to Joan Collins’ autobiography, Terry Moore and Debra Paget were tested for the role after Monroe rejected it. On 5 May 1955, HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column speculated that Fox was considering casting Robert Montgomery as “Stanford White.” Although HR news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Marie Roe, Denise Lemley, Joseph Wagner, Tommy Ladd , Robert Calder, Jimmy Brooks, Casse Jaeger, Irene Austin, Patsy Bangs, Iris Burton, Patricia Byrne, Patsi Donahue, Dolores Ellsworth, Heather Hopper, Peggy Mae O’Connell, Patricia Peters, Edna Ryan, Audrey Saunders, Rita Stetson, Mitzi Sutherland, Jeanne Warren, Moshe Lazrah, Edna Holland, Dinah Ace, Kathaleen Ellis, Stuart Holmes, Luther Adler, Sally Yarnell and Foster Finey. According to a 6 Jul 1955 HR news item, the beach sequence of the film was shot on location at Zuma Beach near Malibu, CA. The White-Thaw-Nesbit triangle was also portrayed in the 1981 Paramount release Ragtime , which was directed by Milos Forman and starred Elizabeth McGovern as Evelyn, Robert Joy as Thaw and Norman Mailer as White. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen
17 Oct 1955.
---
Box Office
15 Oct 1955.
---
Cue
22 Oct 1955.
---
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1954.
---
Daily Variety
12 Oct 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Oct 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
24 Jun 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1955
p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1955
p. 3, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1955
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1955
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1955
pp. 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 55
p. 3.
Life
12 Sep 1955.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
9 Jan 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Oct 55
p. 651.
New York Times
20 Oct 55
p. 41.
New Yorker
29 Oct 1953.
---
Publisher's Weekly
5 Dec 1953.
---
The American Weekly
14 Aug 1955
p. 4, 6, 28.
Time
7 Nov 1955.
---
Variety
12 Oct 55
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
MUSIC
Vocal supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styling
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Unit mgr
Joan Collins' dial coach
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"My Heart Still Clings to the Old First Love" by Paul Dresser.
SONGS
"It's the Syme, the Whole World Over," music and lyrics by John Paul Lock Barton and Bert Massee, special lyrics by Harry Seymour
"Men-Men-Men" and "I Challenge You," music and lyrics by Lionel Newman and Ken Darby.
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 12 October 1955
New York opening: 19 October 1955
Production Date:
1 June--mid July 1955
addl seq early August 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
18 October 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5693
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
108-109
Length(in feet):
9,787
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17584
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On 12 Jun 1901, prominent New York architect Stanford White takes his ailing wife Elizabeth to lunch before she leaves for a long vacation. Their lunch is interrupted by Harry Kendall Thaw, an arrogant, wealthy young man from Pittsburgh who deeply resents White’s higher placement in New York’s rigid social structure. White reprimands Harry for his childish behavior, and after Harry leaves, he and Elizabeth are greeted by publisher Robert Collier, who shows them the latest issue of his magazine. Elizabeth admires the cover illustration, drawn by famed artist Charles Dana Gibson, of a lovely young woman whose long hair forms a question mark. Later, in a music hall, Evelyn Nesbit, the woman in the illustration, visits her mother, who works there as a seamstress. The overprotective Mrs. Nesbit tells Eveyln that she will be unable to chaperone her session with Gibson that day, but Eveyln’s disappointment is tempered when the stage manager asks her to become one of the chorus girls in the famed "Floradora" musical revue. Sometime later, White is visited by a friend, Gwen Arden, who asks him to arrange a meeting for her with Collier. When White spots Evelyn in Gwen’s carriage, he is struck by her beauty and agrees to a luncheon, provided that Gwen brings Evelyn. Soon after, Gwen, Evelyn and the other girls are invited by Harry to his birthday party the following day. At the party, Harry is infuriated when he learns that Gwen and Evelyn are not in attendance because they are with White. Meanwhile, the women have gone to White’s private apartment, and there, the naïve Evelyn is overwhelmed by the luxurious surroundings, especially an extravagent arboretum containing a ... +


On 12 Jun 1901, prominent New York architect Stanford White takes his ailing wife Elizabeth to lunch before she leaves for a long vacation. Their lunch is interrupted by Harry Kendall Thaw, an arrogant, wealthy young man from Pittsburgh who deeply resents White’s higher placement in New York’s rigid social structure. White reprimands Harry for his childish behavior, and after Harry leaves, he and Elizabeth are greeted by publisher Robert Collier, who shows them the latest issue of his magazine. Elizabeth admires the cover illustration, drawn by famed artist Charles Dana Gibson, of a lovely young woman whose long hair forms a question mark. Later, in a music hall, Evelyn Nesbit, the woman in the illustration, visits her mother, who works there as a seamstress. The overprotective Mrs. Nesbit tells Eveyln that she will be unable to chaperone her session with Gibson that day, but Eveyln’s disappointment is tempered when the stage manager asks her to become one of the chorus girls in the famed "Floradora" musical revue. Sometime later, White is visited by a friend, Gwen Arden, who asks him to arrange a meeting for her with Collier. When White spots Evelyn in Gwen’s carriage, he is struck by her beauty and agrees to a luncheon, provided that Gwen brings Evelyn. Soon after, Gwen, Evelyn and the other girls are invited by Harry to his birthday party the following day. At the party, Harry is infuriated when he learns that Gwen and Evelyn are not in attendance because they are with White. Meanwhile, the women have gone to White’s private apartment, and there, the naïve Evelyn is overwhelmed by the luxurious surroundings, especially an extravagent arboretum containing a red velvet swing suspended from the ceiling. Sitting in the swing, Evelyn innocently asks White to kiss her, and the couple is surprised when what they intended to be a platonic kiss becomes passionate. Realizing that he could easily fall in love with Evelyn, White tells Gwen never to bring her to see him again, although he does pay to have her chipped tooth repaired. Mrs. Nesbit reprimands her daughter for seeing the much older, married White, but Evelyn protests that he is the greatest man she has ever met. Hoping to see White, Evelyn goes to his apartment but he warns her that the attraction between them is too strong for them to meet again. Later, Evelyn is at the beach, posing for Gibson, when Harry races by in his carriage to impress her. Soon after, White arrives at his club for a stag party and is upset to learn that Evelyn has been hired to jump out of an oversized pie. White sternly tells her that he will be nothing more to her than a “Dutch uncle,” and that she must behave more decorously. White’s honorable intentions fail, however, as they spend more time together and fall in love. Later, Evelyn and Mrs. Nesbit, who knew Harry as child, are shopping when Harry attempts to buy Evelyn a fur coat. Evelyn again rejects Harry’s overtures, but Harry pleads with Mrs. Nesbit to support his suit. Soon after, Evelyn, who has become a success on the stage and is being pursued by many men, eagerly awaits a visit from White. When he arrives backstage, however, he is met by Mrs. Nesbit, who criticizes him for his infidelity. Ashamed, White tells Evelyn that they must end their affair, and that she must go away to boarding school. Although she is deeply hurt, Evelyn agrees to go, but after a few weeks, has an emotional breakdown because of her longing for White. Evelyn is visited by Harry, who suggests to Mrs. Nesbit that she needs a complete rest and offers to escort them to Europe. Mrs. Nesbit agrees, but when White learns of the plans, he attempts to intervene. Before he can complete his arrangements, White learns that Elizabeth is coming home, and so instead sends a letter of credit to Evelyn so that she will be financially secure in case Harry abandons her. While on vacation, Harry repeatedly proposes to Evelyn, but when she admits that she was White’s mistress, he slaps her. Harry’s remorse over his outburst makes Evelyn see him in a new light and she agrees to marry him. White is glum upon hearing of the impending marriage, and when he learns that Harry is insisting that Evelyn’s repaired tooth be restored to its former chipped state, he arranges to meet Evelyn at the dentist’s office. There, White begs her not to marry the mentally unstable Harry, but Evelyn maintains that she cannot spend the rest of her life as White’s mistress, even though she still loves him. During Evelyn and Harry’s honeymoon, Harry’s persistent questioning of her relationship with White drives Evelyn to the brink of another collapse, and she wearily allows Harry to think that White drugged and raped her. Harry refuses to believe Evelyn’s insistence that her affair with White is over, and one night, when they visit the nightclub on the roof of Madison Square Garden and Harry spots White, he assumes that White is following Evelyn. Overcome by jealousy, Harry shoots and kills White, then yells that he committed the crime because White “ruined” his wife. After Harry’s arrest, the district attorney announces that he will seek the death penalty if Harry is convicted, and Harry’s overbearing mother hires lawyer William Travers Jerome to defend him. Mrs. Thaw and Delphin Dalmas, Harry’s sister, pressure Evelyn to testify on Harry’s behalf, and to besmirch White’s reputation. Gibson begs Evelyn not to testify, and despite her reluctance to refute her love for White, the fear that Harry will be put to death prompts Evelyn to testify on his behalf. The district attorney viciously attacks Evelyn, bringing up such facts as White’s letter of credit to paint her as a gold-digger. Despite the damage to her reputation, Evelyn’s testimony sways the jury, which returns a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Later, when Harry is being transferred to a mental institution, he harshly rejects Evelyn’s offer to move near him. As Evelyn leaves the jail, she is accosted by reporters, after which a seemingly friendly stranger rescues her. The man then reveals that his name is Hunchbacher and that he runs a vaudeville theater in Atlantic City. Warning Evelyn that she will be deserted by the Thaws, Hunchbacher offers Evelyn a job, but, unwilling to be exploited, she runs off. When Evelyn goes to see Mrs. Thaw, however, the matron’s attempts to pay Evelyn off and force her to leave the country make her realize that Hunchbacher was correct. Soon after, in Atlantic City, Hunchbacher introduces Evelyn as “the babe who left one guy pushing up daisies and the other in the bug house.” Her heart broken, Evelyn then swings in a red velvet swing over the heads of the roaring crowd. +

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

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