Written on the Wind (1957)

99 mins | Melodrama | January 1957

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HISTORY

According to contemporary sources, Robert Wilder’s novel Written on the Wind was inspired by the notorious 1932 death of Zachary Smith Reynolds, millionaire son of tobacco tycoon R. J. Reynolds, and husband of torch singer Libby Holman. Holman was accused of his murder, and, although the case was never brought to court, it inspired several films, beginning with the 1935 M-G-M production Reckless , starring Jean Harlow (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). In 1945, RKO bought the rights to Wilder’s novel, then sold them in 1946 to International. In 1951, International, which had by then merged with Universal, produced the adaptation, entitled Thunder on the Hill , directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Claudette Colbert and Anne Blyth. Although that picture's working title was Written on the Wind , the film was about a nun who shelters a society beauty accused of poisoning her pianist brother, and is unrelated to the 1956 Sirk film.
       According to a May 1955 “Rambling Reporter” item in HR , Universal considered Anne Baxter for a starring role. Studio production materials add the following information: New York's "21" club was reproduced on the set through the use of photographs and items such as menus and napkins lent by the club's owners; and the staircase used in scenes at the "Hadley" home was the same set used in Universal's 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera and in the 1936 picture My Man Godfrey (see AFI Feature Film Catalog, 1921-30 and 1931-40 , respectively).
       Many modern sources consider this picture to be Sirk’s finest, including ... More Less

According to contemporary sources, Robert Wilder’s novel Written on the Wind was inspired by the notorious 1932 death of Zachary Smith Reynolds, millionaire son of tobacco tycoon R. J. Reynolds, and husband of torch singer Libby Holman. Holman was accused of his murder, and, although the case was never brought to court, it inspired several films, beginning with the 1935 M-G-M production Reckless , starring Jean Harlow (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). In 1945, RKO bought the rights to Wilder’s novel, then sold them in 1946 to International. In 1951, International, which had by then merged with Universal, produced the adaptation, entitled Thunder on the Hill , directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Claudette Colbert and Anne Blyth. Although that picture's working title was Written on the Wind , the film was about a nun who shelters a society beauty accused of poisoning her pianist brother, and is unrelated to the 1956 Sirk film.
       According to a May 1955 “Rambling Reporter” item in HR , Universal considered Anne Baxter for a starring role. Studio production materials add the following information: New York's "21" club was reproduced on the set through the use of photographs and items such as menus and napkins lent by the club's owners; and the staircase used in scenes at the "Hadley" home was the same set used in Universal's 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera and in the 1936 picture My Man Godfrey (see AFI Feature Film Catalog, 1921-30 and 1931-40 , respectively).
       Many modern sources consider this picture to be Sirk’s finest, including the Village Voice , which in Oct 1987 referred to the film as "the original Technicolor noir." Although the film's official release date was Jan 1957, Universal scheduled 25 Dec 1956 openings in Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans and Tulsa, OK in order to qualify the film for the 1956 Academy Awards. Although the NYT review refers to “Mr. Stack’s absurd performance and another even more so by Miss Malone,” Stack was nominated for an Academy Award and Malone won the 1956 Best Supporting Actress award. The title song “Written on the Wind” was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Sep 1956.
---
Box Office
29 Sep 1956.
---
Daily Variety
28 Dec 1945.
---
Daily Variety
20 Sep 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Sep 56
p. 47.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 1955
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1956
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 56
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Sep 56
p. 73.
New York Times
12 Jan 57
p. 12.
Variety
26 Sep 56
p. 6.
Variety
7 Nov 1956.
---
Village Voice
27 Oct 1987
p. 70.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Dial coach
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Written on the Wind by Robert Wilder (New York, 1946).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Written on the Wind," music by Victor Young, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, sung by The Four Aces.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1957
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles, Chicago, IL, New Orleans, LA and Tulsa, OK opening: 25 December 1956
New York opening: 11 January 1957
Production Date:
late November 1955--early January 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
4 December 1956
Copyright Number:
LP8124
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
2:1
Duration(in mins):
99
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17432
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Texas in November 1956, drunken millionaire Kyle Hadley speeds through the town named after his father, oil tycoon Jasper Hadley, to their mansion home. Inside, a shot rings out and both Kyle and his wife, Lucy Moore Hadley, fall to the ground. Over one year earlier, Lucy is working for the Hadley Company in New York when she is noticed by Mitch Wayne, Kyle’s best friend since childhood. Mitch invites Lucy to lunch with him and Kyle, who has flown from Texas with Mitch merely to have a sandwich at the “21” club. When Lucy expresses her distaste for the men’s highly publicized playboy lifestyle, an impressed Mitch agrees with her assessment. She continues to earn Mitch's respect at the restaurant, while rejecting Kyle’s advances. Her coldness motivates Kyle to invite her to fly to Miami on his private jet, and Lucy, overwhelmed by the adventure, agrees. Although uninvited, Mitch joins them on the plane, where Kyle finds himself willingly confessing his past to Lucy: As a child, troublemaker Kyle earned his father’s contempt, while Mitch remained a bastion of good conduct and bravery. Believing he could never fill his father’s shoes, Kyle turned to alcohol and a wanton lifestyle, as did his sister Marylee. Kyle’s candor charms Lucy, but once they reach their Miami hotel, she realizes that the lavish gifts Kyle has heaped in her suite are payment for her company for the night, and leaves for the airport in secret. While Mitch revels in this confirmation of Lucy’s virtue, Kyle races to her plane and begs her to allow him to court her properly, and confesses that he loves and wants to marry her. ... +


In Texas in November 1956, drunken millionaire Kyle Hadley speeds through the town named after his father, oil tycoon Jasper Hadley, to their mansion home. Inside, a shot rings out and both Kyle and his wife, Lucy Moore Hadley, fall to the ground. Over one year earlier, Lucy is working for the Hadley Company in New York when she is noticed by Mitch Wayne, Kyle’s best friend since childhood. Mitch invites Lucy to lunch with him and Kyle, who has flown from Texas with Mitch merely to have a sandwich at the “21” club. When Lucy expresses her distaste for the men’s highly publicized playboy lifestyle, an impressed Mitch agrees with her assessment. She continues to earn Mitch's respect at the restaurant, while rejecting Kyle’s advances. Her coldness motivates Kyle to invite her to fly to Miami on his private jet, and Lucy, overwhelmed by the adventure, agrees. Although uninvited, Mitch joins them on the plane, where Kyle finds himself willingly confessing his past to Lucy: As a child, troublemaker Kyle earned his father’s contempt, while Mitch remained a bastion of good conduct and bravery. Believing he could never fill his father’s shoes, Kyle turned to alcohol and a wanton lifestyle, as did his sister Marylee. Kyle’s candor charms Lucy, but once they reach their Miami hotel, she realizes that the lavish gifts Kyle has heaped in her suite are payment for her company for the night, and leaves for the airport in secret. While Mitch revels in this confirmation of Lucy’s virtue, Kyle races to her plane and begs her to allow him to court her properly, and confesses that he loves and wants to marry her. The next morning, at the same time that a saddened Mitch learns that the couple has eloped, Lucy discovers a pistol underneath her new husband's pillow. Five weeks later, Mitch is discussing business with Jasper when the newlyweds finally return from their whirlwind honeymoon. Based solely on Mitch’s endorsement, Jasper receives Lucy warmly, and is even more heartened after she tells him that Kyle no longer drinks or carries a gun. Just then, bar owner Dan Willis calls Mitch and Kyle to rescue Marylee from sleeping with ruffian Roy Carter. At the bar, Kyle starts a fight with Roy, but after Roy knocks him out, Mitch steps in and beats up the thug. Marylee laughs bitterly as Kyle stumbles out, and later tells Mitch that she despises Kyle’s weakness, and will never give up her childhood dream of marrying Mitch. After Mitch turns down her offer to be with him as wife or mistress, Marylee visits the river where they used to play, and weeps. In October, Kyle throws a party for his first wedding anniversary, where Marylee attempts once again to seduce Mitch, who is upstairs hiding from the festivities. Meanwhile, Kyle, concerned that Lucy has not become pregnant, questions their guest, physician Paul Cochrane, who reluctantly informs Kyle that he has “weak” sperm that may never impregnate Lucy. Devastated, Kyle resumes drinking, and the next night becomes so drunk at the country club that Lucy must put him to bed. Downstairs, just as Jasper tells Mitch that he blames himself for his children’s shortcomings, the police bring home Marylee, who has spent the evening in a hotel with a gas-station attendant. Jasper struggles upstairs, but suffers a heart attack on the way and dies. By November, Kyle, who blames himself for his father’s death, is still drinking and refuses to reveal his feelings to Lucy. Mitch tells Lucy that he is planning to take a job in Iran, and although she asks him to stay, he agrees only to drive her to Dr. Cochrane’s. Marylee jealously watches them leave together and then lies to Kyle that the two are having an affair. When Mitch picks Lucy up later, he confesses his love, and Lucy kisses him passionately but reveals that she is pregnant and must stay with Kyle. That night, Lucy divulges her condition to Kyle, who wrongly suspects that the baby is Mitch’s, and punches her. Mitch bursts into the room and threatens Kyle, who flees, and within hours Lucy miscarries. Kyle, meanwhile, goes to Dan’s bar and announces that he must buy a gun to protect himself from Mitch, and then speeds home drunkenly. There, he finds his father’s gun and aims it at Mitch, who calmly convinces Kyle that he has never touched Lucy, and informs him about his lost child. Drunk and confused, Kyle condemns Mitch for stealing the love of his father, sister and wife, and raises the gun. Marylee lunges for the gun in a desperate attempt to save Mitch, and the pistol discharges into Kyle’s chest. He collapses, and hearing the gun go off, Lucy falls to the ground in grief. At the inquest for Kyle’s death, Marylee tries to force Mitch to marry her by pointing out that, as his wife, she cannot present damning testimony against him. Mitch refuses, but at the trial, the servants and Dan bear witness that Mitch threatened to kill Kyle, and when Marylee takes the stand, she confirms the evidence. Stricken by her conscience, however, she finally reverses her story, stating that Kyle, who needed so much and had so little, was killed accidentally. Later, Marylee, dressed in a business suit and seated in her father’s home office, cries as she watches Mitch and Lucy bid farewell to Hadley. +

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

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