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HISTORY

       George Bernard Shaw’s opening credit reads, “Based on a play by Bernard Shaw.” After the opening credits a written prologue states: "General John Burgoynes Punitive Expedition Against the Rebels in New England." The prologue is followed by a voice-over narration spoken over animated figures of toy British soldiers and Indians fighting with American Colonists positioned on top of a map of New Hampshire. The narration sets the time as 1777 and indicates that the British viewed the conflict as quelling a rebellion whereas the Colonists saw the war as a defense of liberty. The film also utilized the toy soldiers in the opening credits and during segues between Springtown and Websterbridge, dissolving from the toy figures into battle sequences. At the film’s conclusion, a voice-over narration reveals that Gen. Burgoyne surrendered three weeks later, “the details being a matter of history.”
       As noted in an Aug 1938 LAEx article, noted Hungarian producer-director Gabriel Pascal bought the screen rights to numerous plays by George Bernard Shaw, including “The Devil’s Disciple,” which Pascal announced he would produce with M-G-M in 1939. A 1950 HR news item indicates that actor-producer Emlyn Williams had arranged to produce The Devil’s Disciple through Gloria Films. According to a Jul 1952 LAT news item, Pascal, who had already produced and directed two Shaw adaptations, Major Barbara , United Artists, 1941 and Caesar and Cleopatra , UA, 1945 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), again announced plans to produce The Devil’s Disciple in 1952, with Marlon Brando as “Richard Dudgeon” and Rex Harrison ... More Less

       George Bernard Shaw’s opening credit reads, “Based on a play by Bernard Shaw.” After the opening credits a written prologue states: "General John Burgoynes Punitive Expedition Against the Rebels in New England." The prologue is followed by a voice-over narration spoken over animated figures of toy British soldiers and Indians fighting with American Colonists positioned on top of a map of New Hampshire. The narration sets the time as 1777 and indicates that the British viewed the conflict as quelling a rebellion whereas the Colonists saw the war as a defense of liberty. The film also utilized the toy soldiers in the opening credits and during segues between Springtown and Websterbridge, dissolving from the toy figures into battle sequences. At the film’s conclusion, a voice-over narration reveals that Gen. Burgoyne surrendered three weeks later, “the details being a matter of history.”
       As noted in an Aug 1938 LAEx article, noted Hungarian producer-director Gabriel Pascal bought the screen rights to numerous plays by George Bernard Shaw, including “The Devil’s Disciple,” which Pascal announced he would produce with M-G-M in 1939. A 1950 HR news item indicates that actor-producer Emlyn Williams had arranged to produce The Devil’s Disciple through Gloria Films. According to a Jul 1952 LAT news item, Pascal, who had already produced and directed two Shaw adaptations, Major Barbara , United Artists, 1941 and Caesar and Cleopatra , UA, 1945 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), again announced plans to produce The Devil’s Disciple in 1952, with Marlon Brando as “Richard Dudgeon” and Rex Harrison as “Gen. Burgoyne.” Pascal died in 1954.
       A HR news item indicates that actor-producer Burt Lancaster's company with producer Harold Hecht, Hecht-Lancaster, purchased the rights to The Devil's Disciple in Aug 1955 from Pascal’s estate. According to a Jan 1956 LAT news item, Anthony Asquith was in discussions to direct. The film was originally slated to be shot in color in Hollywood, and 1956 HR items stated the film would star Lancaster, Laurence Olivier and Montgomery Clift. In addition, an Oct 1956 Rambling Reporter item mentioned Hecht-Lancaster's interest in casting Gene Tierney. A Jan 1957 HR item noted that the film had been postponed in order to give the script an additional polish by writer John Dighton. A later item noted that the heavy production schedule at Hecht and Lancaster’s newly formed company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, would postpone the production even longer. An undated news item added Carroll Baker to the cast and indicated that scheduling difficulties due to the production delay would likely cause her and Clift to withdraw from the project.
       By the time of production in Jul 1958, The Devil's Disciple was a co-production between Hecht-Hill-Lancaster and co-star Kirk Douglas' Bryna Productions. According to an article on the film's production in Beverly Hills Citizen and a biography on Lancaster, early in the film's production, director Alexander Mackendrick was replaced by Guy Hamilton. The Beverly Hills Citizen piece, paraphrasing from an article in London's Daily Express , indicated that the change was due to Mackendrick's difference of opinion with the screenplay turning the play into a "swashbuckling adventure spiced with sex." The producers and Lancaster insisted that concern over the pace of Mackendrick's direction prompted his firing. Mackendrick had clashed earlier with Lancaster on the 1957 production of The Sweet Smell of Success (for more information on the dispute, see record below). The Devil's Disciple was shot on location in England, according to Lancaster's biography at the Rothschild estate and at Trig Park in Hertfordshire, as well as Elstree Studios.
       The play and film were loosely based on historical events. John Burgoyne (1723—1792) was a former member of parliament who, with a rank of major-general, fought early in the American Revolutionary War. After limited participation in the Battle of Bunker Hill, a frustrated Burgoyne returned to London only to return the following year with a large British force to Canada. Upon receiving his own command, Burgoyne successfully invaded New York, which was preceded by numerous battles in Vermont and New Hampshire. Upon taking New York, Burgoyne’s depleted forces faced strong Colonial resistance, and anticipated reinforcements by Gen. William Howe did not materialize when Howe went on to attack Philadelphia. Burgoyne was forced to surrender his army in Saratoga, a major event of the war that brought about the first foreign assistance for the Americans by the French. The film correctly notes that Burgoyne’s forces were supported by many foreign mercenaries, including Germans and Native Americans.
       Although several reviews refer to Burgoyne by his nickname of “Gentleman Johnny,” at several points in the film he is referred to as “Gentlemanly Johnny.” Reviews were mixed on The Devil's Disciple , many noting that it was not one of Shaw’s better plays. Reviews criticized the differences between the play and film, the latter of which which built up “Anthony Anderson” to be the central figure over Dudgeon and softened the romance between Dudgeon and “Judith.” Many also criticized the use of the animated toy figures as intrusive and ineffectual. Var , HR and NYT praised Olivier’s performance but were less enthusiastic about co-stars Lancaster and Douglas. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen
5 Aug 1958.
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Box Office
17 Aug 1959.
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Daily Variety
16 Apr 1958.
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Aug 59
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1958
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1958
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
8 Aug 1938.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
22 Mar 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jan 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Aug 59
p. 372.
New York Times
21 Aug 59
p. 12.
New York Times
23 Aug 1959.
---
Variety
12 Aug 1959.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MAKEUP
Chief makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw by arrangement with the estate of Gabriel Pascal (New York, 4 Oct 1897).
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 August 1959
Production Date:
late July--mid October 1958 at Associated British Studios, Elstree, England
Copyright Claimant:
Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Films, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
19 August 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14469
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19282
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1777 Springtown, New Hampshire, British armed forces under the command of Gen. John “Gentlemanly Johnny” Burgoyne prepare to hang American Colonist Timothy Dudgeon for treason. Timothy’s youngest son Christie hastens to Websterbridge village where he pleads with his family’s pastor, Rev. Anthony Anderson, to help save his father. Directing his young and pretty wife Judith to attend to Mrs. Dudgeon, Anthony accompanies Christie back to Springtown, only to find that Timothy has already been hanged. Anthony asks that Timothy’s body be turned over to him for a proper burial, but is brusquely informed by a British officer that the body must remain hanging as a deterrent to other potential traitors. When Anthony continues to protest, he is nearly arrested until lawyer Hawkins intervenes on his behalf. Later back in Websterbridge, while praying in the chapel, Anthony hears laughter outside and, upon investigating, finds Timothy’s body in a wagon accompanied by Richard, the eldest Dudgeon son who has long been estranged from the family. Richard thanks the pastor for his efforts on behalf of his father, yet ridicules Anthony’s religion and pacifism. Claiming that he happily embraces his image as the “devil’s disciple,” Richard mocks Anthony’s sanguine attitude as impractical in a time of war, then rides away. After the burial the following day, the reading of Timothy’s will is interrupted by Richard’s appearance. To Mrs. Dudgeon’s fury, Richard receives all of Timothy’s estate except for fifty pounds left to Christie. Cursing her eldest son, Mrs. Dudgeon immediately moves out of the house, leaving Richard alone with young maid Essie. Sensitive to propriety, Judith ... +


In 1777 Springtown, New Hampshire, British armed forces under the command of Gen. John “Gentlemanly Johnny” Burgoyne prepare to hang American Colonist Timothy Dudgeon for treason. Timothy’s youngest son Christie hastens to Websterbridge village where he pleads with his family’s pastor, Rev. Anthony Anderson, to help save his father. Directing his young and pretty wife Judith to attend to Mrs. Dudgeon, Anthony accompanies Christie back to Springtown, only to find that Timothy has already been hanged. Anthony asks that Timothy’s body be turned over to him for a proper burial, but is brusquely informed by a British officer that the body must remain hanging as a deterrent to other potential traitors. When Anthony continues to protest, he is nearly arrested until lawyer Hawkins intervenes on his behalf. Later back in Websterbridge, while praying in the chapel, Anthony hears laughter outside and, upon investigating, finds Timothy’s body in a wagon accompanied by Richard, the eldest Dudgeon son who has long been estranged from the family. Richard thanks the pastor for his efforts on behalf of his father, yet ridicules Anthony’s religion and pacifism. Claiming that he happily embraces his image as the “devil’s disciple,” Richard mocks Anthony’s sanguine attitude as impractical in a time of war, then rides away. After the burial the following day, the reading of Timothy’s will is interrupted by Richard’s appearance. To Mrs. Dudgeon’s fury, Richard receives all of Timothy’s estate except for fifty pounds left to Christie. Cursing her eldest son, Mrs. Dudgeon immediately moves out of the house, leaving Richard alone with young maid Essie. Sensitive to propriety, Judith invites the girl to live with the Andersons, but she refuses and Richard laughs at Judith’s shocked reaction. The following evening, a group of British soldiers ride into Websterbridge to declare martial law and announce the impending arrival of the army, which is in sore need of supplies. When Timothy’s grave is spotted, the soldiers recall the body as having been stolen from Springtown and vow revenge. Overhearing their remarks, Essie hastens to tell Anthony that Richard is in danger of arrest and certain execution. Meanwhile, some miles from the village, Burgoyne chastens his second-in-command, Maj. Swindon, for not curtailing the continual harassment by the Colonists, which has seriously impeded the army’s advance. As the British forces straggle into Websterbridge, Richard ridicules their greedy requisitioning, but Hawkins insists if he is not willing to fight to protect the material he should remain silent. Anthony then takes Richard to his home to inform him that he must flee or risk certain arrest by the British. The men are interrupted by Christie, who reveals that Mrs. Dudgeon is gravely ill and requesting Anthony’s presence. Despite Judith’s protests about being left alone with Richard, Anthony instructs her to treat their guest kindly and reminds her that Richard is safe only under their roof. Richard soon drives Judith to tears by making fun of her marriage and of Anthony’s righteous demeanor, prompting her to ask him if he has ever done anything good for another person. At that moment, a party of British soldiers arrive and, mistaking Richard for Anthony, arrest him for participating in the rebellion by burying Timothy. Judith attempts to correct their error, but to her surprise, Richard cuts her off and after advising her in a whisper to tell Anthony not to attempt to save him, departs wearing the minister’s coat. Judith hurries to the Dudgeons to tell her husband of Richard’s strange behavior and demands Anthony save him. Angered by Richard’s flippant conduct, Anthony asks Judith to pretend that Richard is her husband in order to give him time to act. Anthony then finds Hawkins and asks him to serve as an intermediary to free Richard. Preparing to attack the British with a rebel militia, Hawkins dismisses Anthony, who is amazed to see that the lawyer has taken up arms. The next morning, Judith visits Richard in jail, revealing her stunned belief that Anthony has run away. When Judith insists that she will reveal Richard’s identity to the British in order to save him, he explains that when they discover he is a Dudgeon they will hang him anyway. Later that day, an informal military court convenes to hear “Pastor Anderson’s” case. Burgoyne is amused by Richard’s quick-witted responses to Swindon’s clumsy questioning, but when Richard purposefully insults King George, his guilt is ensured. Horrified, Judith blurts out that Richard is not her husband, which prompts Bourgoyne wryly to suggest that Swindon learn Richard’s identity and locate Anthony quickly. To Judith’s dismay, Swindon announces that Richard’s treasonous statements have assured his hanging regardless of his identity. Meanwhile, Anthony has followed Hawkins and the militia to Springtown, where he watches their attack falter under the brutal assault of numerous cannons. Deeply impressed by the Colonists’ bravery, Anthony notices the British munitions stored against the church and attempts to set fire to it. Colonist chaplain Parshotter warns Anthony that he is engaging in treason, but Anthony proceeds until attacked by a British sergeant. Startled, Anthony unexpectedly responds in kind, then enthusiastically fights off several soldiers before successfully throwing a burning log into the munitions pile. Galvanized by the destruction of the armaments, the militia renews their attack. In the smoky remains of the church, Anthony intercepts a messenger carrying a crucial dispatch to Burgoyne from Gen. William Howe, dons the messenger’s leather clothes and takes his horse. Back in Websterbridge, Richard is scheduled to hang at noon, when Anthony abruptly rides up bearing a safe conduct pass from British Gen. Philips in Springtown. Identifying himself to the bemused Burgoyne, Anthony demands Richard be set free and informs Burgoyne that Philips’ troops were vastly outnumbered by the Colonists and forced to ask for a truce. When Anthony repeats his demand to free Richard and adds that the British must withdraw and leave their cannon behind, Burgoyne politely refuses, advising the minister that his weakened forces will soon be reinforced by Gen. Howe’s army. Anthony then shows Burgoyne the dispatch which reveals Howe has remained in New York, never having received orders to support Burgoyne. Realizing that he must indeed withdraw, Burgoyne sets Richard free and tells the flustered Swindon that the British soldier can withstand anything except the errors of the British War Office. As Anthony reunites with a confused Judith, Burgoyne invites Richard to tea. +

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