The Story of Esther Costello (1957)

102 or 104 mins | Drama | October 1957

Director:

David Miller

Writer:

Charles Kaufman

Cinematographer:

Robert Krasker

Editor:

Ralph Kemplen

Production Designers:

George Provis, Tony Masters

Production Company:

Romulus Films, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were The Esther Costello Story and The Golden Virgin . The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The scene in which "Esther" is injured in the explosion occurs before the opening credits roll. According to a Jul 1955 HR news item, Samuel Fuller was originally to have written the screenplay and directed the film, but when production was delayed due to the fact that the actresses whom Fuller had planned to star were unavailable, Fuller began negotiations to sell his script to Howard Hughes. A Jan 1954 HR news item adds that Jean Simmons was one of the actresses whom Fuller considered for the lead. According to Feb and Apr 1956 HR news items, Susan Strasberg, Joan Collins and Natalie Wood were all considered for leads in the film.
       A HR production chart adds Lee Seidl, Evelyn Dove, John Pike, Dino Galvani, Tucker McGuire and Yvonne Anders to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Although the Var review and several HR news items state that The Story of Esther Costello marked Sears's screen debut, Sears had previously appeared in the 1956 British film Dry Rot . The Var review adds that Joan Crawford and Sears learned sign language for their roles. Sears won a British Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. ... More Less

The working titles of this film were The Esther Costello Story and The Golden Virgin . The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The scene in which "Esther" is injured in the explosion occurs before the opening credits roll. According to a Jul 1955 HR news item, Samuel Fuller was originally to have written the screenplay and directed the film, but when production was delayed due to the fact that the actresses whom Fuller had planned to star were unavailable, Fuller began negotiations to sell his script to Howard Hughes. A Jan 1954 HR news item adds that Jean Simmons was one of the actresses whom Fuller considered for the lead. According to Feb and Apr 1956 HR news items, Susan Strasberg, Joan Collins and Natalie Wood were all considered for leads in the film.
       A HR production chart adds Lee Seidl, Evelyn Dove, John Pike, Dino Galvani, Tucker McGuire and Yvonne Anders to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Although the Var review and several HR news items state that The Story of Esther Costello marked Sears's screen debut, Sears had previously appeared in the 1956 British film Dry Rot . The Var review adds that Joan Crawford and Sears learned sign language for their roles. Sears won a British Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Sep 1957.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Sep 57
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1955
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1956
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1956
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1958
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Sep 57
p. 538.
New York Times
6 Nov 57
p. 43.
Variety
21 Aug 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
The David Miller Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Dubbing ed
COSTUMES
Miss Crawford's gowns by
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd recordist
Sd recordist
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
In charge of prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Story of Esther Costello by Nicholas Monsarrat (New York, 1953).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Esther Costello Story
The Golden Virgin
Release Date:
October 1957
Premiere Information:
London opening: 15 August 1957
Chicago opening: 2 October 1957
Production Date:
20 August--early December 1956 at the London Films Studio, Isleworth, England
Copyright Claimant:
Valiant Films, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 October 1957
Copyright Number:
LP9471
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
102 or 104
Length(in reels):
10
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18370
SYNOPSIS

In the small village of Cloncraig, Ireland in 1948, young Esther Costello leads a band of children on a treasure hunt. In a ruined old house, they find a box of grenades, and as the children wrestle one another for possession of one of the explosives, Esther’s mother calls her, sending the children into hiding. When Esther puts the grenade down, the pin slips out, causing it to explode, killing Mrs. Costello and rendering Esther blind and deaf. Five years later, Margaret Landi, a rich, American socialite, visits Cloncraig, the town in which she was born, where Father Devlin, the village priest, introduces her to the now adolescent, blind and deaf Esther, who is living with her alcoholic aunt. Although Margaret feels pity for Esther’s situation, she refuses the priest’s entreaties to become the girl’s benefactor. Margaret changes her mind, however, that night when she stops at the Costello house and finds Esther groveling in the dirt with a dog. Horrified, Margaret agrees to take Esther to the London Medical Institute for evaluation. There, the girl is diagnosed as having experienced a psychological trauma from the shock of seeing her mother killed. Although the doctors assure Margaret that Esther can be taught to adapt to her condition, Margaret, unable to communicate with the girl, decides to send her back to Cloncraig. When Esther finally responds to her, however, Margaret takes the girl home with her to Boston, where, at the airport she meets Harry Grant, an inquisitive young reporter. When Margaret tries to leave her charge at a school for the blind and deaf, Esther runs away and ... +


In the small village of Cloncraig, Ireland in 1948, young Esther Costello leads a band of children on a treasure hunt. In a ruined old house, they find a box of grenades, and as the children wrestle one another for possession of one of the explosives, Esther’s mother calls her, sending the children into hiding. When Esther puts the grenade down, the pin slips out, causing it to explode, killing Mrs. Costello and rendering Esther blind and deaf. Five years later, Margaret Landi, a rich, American socialite, visits Cloncraig, the town in which she was born, where Father Devlin, the village priest, introduces her to the now adolescent, blind and deaf Esther, who is living with her alcoholic aunt. Although Margaret feels pity for Esther’s situation, she refuses the priest’s entreaties to become the girl’s benefactor. Margaret changes her mind, however, that night when she stops at the Costello house and finds Esther groveling in the dirt with a dog. Horrified, Margaret agrees to take Esther to the London Medical Institute for evaluation. There, the girl is diagnosed as having experienced a psychological trauma from the shock of seeing her mother killed. Although the doctors assure Margaret that Esther can be taught to adapt to her condition, Margaret, unable to communicate with the girl, decides to send her back to Cloncraig. When Esther finally responds to her, however, Margaret takes the girl home with her to Boston, where, at the airport she meets Harry Grant, an inquisitive young reporter. When Margaret tries to leave her charge at a school for the blind and deaf, Esther runs away and is nearly hit by a car, prompting Margaret to decide to stay at the school with her. With Margaret’s patience and fortitude, Esther gradually learns to communicate to the world through a form of sign language, Braill, and touching a person’s throat to feel the vibrations given off by vocal chords. Once Esther’s education is complete, they leave the school. One day in the park, Harry encounters Esther and is pleased to find that she has become an attractive, communicative young woman. After Harry writes a touching story about Esther, contributions begin to flood in to start a fund for the disadvantaged. One day, Margaret receives a check from her estranged husband Carlo, whom she has not seen for five years. Tracing Carlo to the art gallery in which he works, Margaret tries to return the check, but the suave Carlo wants to rekindle their romance. Margaret avoids Carlo’s constant calls until one night, he unexpectedly appears at her apartment and seduces her with his charm. The next morning, Margaret explains to Esther that Carlo has come home to stay. Although Carlo professes love for Margaret, in reality, he has returned to exploit Esther’s charity. To accomplish this, he introduces Margaret to Wenzel, a cheap hustler who devises a plan to establish the Esther Costello Fund, complete with rag dolls and pitiful posters. Although Margaret is troubled by Wenzel’s tactics, Carlo overcomes her reservations and they embark upon a grueling campaign of personal appearances in which the innocent Esther is placed in vulgar spectacles to raise money from gullible audiences. As the tour prepares to leave for Europe, Margaret learns from her loyal assistant Tammy that Wenzel has been skimming money from the proceeds. When Margaret confronts Carlo with the accusation, however, Carlo lashes out at her. As Carlo begins to drink heavily, he becomes incapable of concealing his attraction to Esther. Soon after the tour leaves for Europe, Ryan, Harry’s editor, begins to suspect that money is being skimmed from the Esther Costello Fund, and Harry asks to accompany him to Europe to investigate. In Venice, Margaret sees Carlo leering at the disrobing Esther and begs him to cancel the tour and return home. To placate his wife, Carlo agrees to disband the tour in London. There, Carlo learns that Margaret is traveling to Brighton, thus leaving Esther alone for the night. Sneaking into Esther’s bedroom, Carlo rapes her, severely traumatizing the girl, thus causing her sight and hearing to return. Upon returning to London, Margaret finds Esther in tears and Carlo’s cufflink discarded on her bed. As Margaret tries to comfort the distraught girl, Esther begins to speak to her. Margaret then immediately phones Father Devlin and asks him to join them in London. Harry, meanwhile, has uncovered fraud in the fund, and suspecting that Margaret is involved, goes to confront her. Margaret sends Harry to see Esther, and after the girl speaks to him, Margaret extracts a pistol from a cabinet and drives to the airport to meet Carlo, who is flying in from Scotland. After throwing down Carlo’s cufflink, Margaret points the gun hidden in her coat pocket at him and orders him into her car. Soon after, a newspaper headline trumpets the story of Margaret and Carlo’s death. When Wenzel is asked for an explanation, he lies that the couple were killed in an automobile accident. Father Devlin then arrives and persuades Esther to carry on with her good works despite the tragedy. As Esther steels herself to face the waiting crowd, Ryan decides to suppress Harry’s exposé.



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

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