The Magnificent Yankee (1951)

89-90 mins | Biography, Drama | 9 February 1951

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

Emmet Lavery

Producer:

Armand Deutsch

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The order of the onscreen cast credits that appear at the end of the film differ from the opening credits, which list the stars of the film, Louis Calhern and Ann Harding, first. According to a Dec 1950 LAT news item, the film was originally scheduled for a Feb 1951 general release, but had its premiere and limited release in Dec 1950 to qualify for the 1950 Academy Awards. Louis Calhern recreated his role from the Broadway production of Emmet Lavery's play which co-starred Dorothy Gish as "Fanny Holmes." Contemporary sources note that Francis Biddle, the biographer who provided the "source material" for the play, served as one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holms, Jr.'s young Harvard Law School assistants.
       Material in the M-G-M Story Department's Index Films contained at AFI's Louis B. Mayer Library indicates that in 1943, M-G-M producer Voldemar Vetluguin wrote a screen treatment of Biddle's book of essays, Mr. Justice Holmes , and submitted it to the Hays Office for review. According to a 1947 ^LAEx news item, United Artists producer Benedict Bogeaus purchased the screen rights to Lavery's play with the intention of casting "a younger actor" than Calhern in the leading role. A Jul 1947 HR news item noted that Bogeaus had actor Gregory Peck in mind for the title role at the time he purchased the film rights.
       A Jun 1949 DV news item stated that Twentieth Century-Fox writer and director Shepard Traube optioned the film rights to the play. A NYT article noted that on 29 Oct 1947, Lavery was replaced on a "contempt ... More Less

The order of the onscreen cast credits that appear at the end of the film differ from the opening credits, which list the stars of the film, Louis Calhern and Ann Harding, first. According to a Dec 1950 LAT news item, the film was originally scheduled for a Feb 1951 general release, but had its premiere and limited release in Dec 1950 to qualify for the 1950 Academy Awards. Louis Calhern recreated his role from the Broadway production of Emmet Lavery's play which co-starred Dorothy Gish as "Fanny Holmes." Contemporary sources note that Francis Biddle, the biographer who provided the "source material" for the play, served as one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holms, Jr.'s young Harvard Law School assistants.
       Material in the M-G-M Story Department's Index Films contained at AFI's Louis B. Mayer Library indicates that in 1943, M-G-M producer Voldemar Vetluguin wrote a screen treatment of Biddle's book of essays, Mr. Justice Holmes , and submitted it to the Hays Office for review. According to a 1947 ^LAEx news item, United Artists producer Benedict Bogeaus purchased the screen rights to Lavery's play with the intention of casting "a younger actor" than Calhern in the leading role. A Jul 1947 HR news item noted that Bogeaus had actor Gregory Peck in mind for the title role at the time he purchased the film rights.
       A Jun 1949 DV news item stated that Twentieth Century-Fox writer and director Shepard Traube optioned the film rights to the play. A NYT article noted that on 29 Oct 1947, Lavery was replaced on a "contempt list" of the HUAC and was called to testify against Hollywood figures purported to be Communists. Lavery refused to "name names" and questioned the committee's Constitutional right to ask such questions. After assuring the committee that he himself was not a Communist, Lavery suggested that a better approach to curtailing the rise of Communism in the United States might be to "dramatize the American way of life," like showing "how good Mr. (Justice Oliver Wendell) Holmes was than how bad Mr. Stalin is." (For more information on the HUAC hearings, see the 1940's catalog entry for Crossfire ." A Hallmark Hall of Fame television production of Lavery's play, which aired on 4 Feb 1965 and starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, received a Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. Calhern was nominated for a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award. Walter Plunkett's costumes were also nominated for an Oscar. Calhern and Ann Harding reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, which aired on 19 May 1962.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Nov 1950.
---
Box Office
25 Nov 1950.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1949.
---
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1950.
---
Film Daily
15 Nov 1950
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1947
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1950
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1950
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1950
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
16 Jun 1947.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Nov 1950
pp. 569-70.
New York Times
30 Oct 1947.
---
New York Times
19 Jan 1951
p. 21.
Variety
15 Nov 1950
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
Hairstyles des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Magnificent Yankee by Emmet Lavery, as produced and staged by Arthur Hopkins (New York, 22 Jan 1946), which was based on the book Mr. Justice Holmes by Francis Biddle (New York, 1942).
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 February 1951
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 20 December 1950
Production Date:
late June--late July 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 December 1950
Copyright Number:
LP550
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
89-90
Length(in feet):
7,955 , 7,961
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14787
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Novelist Owen Wister, tells the life story of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and begins his tale in 1902, when Holmes, at the age of 61, left his home in Boston to serve as a Supreme Court justice in Washington, D.C.: After they settle into their new home, Holmes and his wife Fanny Bowditch Holmes visit the site of the 1864 Union attack against the Bloody Angle, a Civil War battle in which Holmes bravely fought as a union soldier. Holmes revels in the idea that he will be serving on a court with confederate soldiers he fought against in the war, but his optimistic wife encourages her husband to look to the future and continue to fight for his country. The cynical congressman Adams, the great grandson of President John Adams, regularly visits the couple and warns Holmes that, though President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the court, Roosevelt is a detriment to the country. One day, despite the success of their marriage, Fanny tells her husband that she sees herself as a lesser wife because she is unable to bear him any children, but Holmes lovingly assures her that he has little interest in producing heirs. Running his office from his home, Holmes hires the top graduate of the Harvard law school as his secretary each year. Both Fanny and Holmes agree that these men, over the course of their year of tutelage under Holmes, might give them the pleasure of parenthood. Following his swearing-in ceremony, Holmes and his fellow jurists debate the significance of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and later hear arguments both for and against the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. When Holmes indicates his opposition ... +


Novelist Owen Wister, tells the life story of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and begins his tale in 1902, when Holmes, at the age of 61, left his home in Boston to serve as a Supreme Court justice in Washington, D.C.: After they settle into their new home, Holmes and his wife Fanny Bowditch Holmes visit the site of the 1864 Union attack against the Bloody Angle, a Civil War battle in which Holmes bravely fought as a union soldier. Holmes revels in the idea that he will be serving on a court with confederate soldiers he fought against in the war, but his optimistic wife encourages her husband to look to the future and continue to fight for his country. The cynical congressman Adams, the great grandson of President John Adams, regularly visits the couple and warns Holmes that, though President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the court, Roosevelt is a detriment to the country. One day, despite the success of their marriage, Fanny tells her husband that she sees herself as a lesser wife because she is unable to bear him any children, but Holmes lovingly assures her that he has little interest in producing heirs. Running his office from his home, Holmes hires the top graduate of the Harvard law school as his secretary each year. Both Fanny and Holmes agree that these men, over the course of their year of tutelage under Holmes, might give them the pleasure of parenthood. Following his swearing-in ceremony, Holmes and his fellow jurists debate the significance of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and later hear arguments both for and against the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. When Holmes indicates his opposition to the anti-trust act, Roosevelt, a supporter, launches a personal attack on Holmes, saying that he could "carve a judge with more backbone out of a banana." Although the act is voted into law by a majority of five to four, Roosevelt continues his grudge against Holmes and vows to have him thrown out of the White House if he ever catches him there. Managing his staff with unyielding authority, Holmes issues an order prohibiting his secretaries from marrying while in his service. The edict is put to a test when Baxter, one of the judge's secretaries, resigns so that he can marry his sweetheart. Fanny, who believes that "a lonely heart is not the best heart to serve the law," urges Holmes to reconsider his rule and reject Baxter's resignation. Holmes eventually concedes that Fanny is right and decides to keep Baxter. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominates Holmes's friend Judge Louis Brandeis to a seat on the court, the first Jewish judge to be considered. During the six months of congressional hearings and fierce debate over the nomination, Holmes defends the nominee and facilitates Brandeis' confirmation. Holmes is soon dubbed "The Great Dissenter," but together with Brandeis, he builds a reputation for progressive judicial thought. Their friendship deepens as they defend legalizing labor unions and help define freedom of speech. While the majority of the court often votes against him, over the years Holmes enjoys the privilege of seeing many cases reversed in favor of his original vote. In 1921, many years after his arrival in Washington, Holmes, now a distinguished justice, celebrates his eightieth birthday with his many secretaries, whom he calls his "sons," but the celebration is soured by the fact that Holmes, despite his seniority, is passed over for the appointment of Chief Justice. In 1929, just before her death, Fanny secures a promise from her husband that he will continue his work on the court after her death. Holmes remains on the court until he reaches the age of ninety. Soon after Holmes retires, the stock market crashes, forcing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to close the country's banks for the first time in the nation's history. Roosevelt makes an appointment to visit Holmes to consult with the departing justice after the crisis. As Holmes proudly prepares to receive the president, he rehearses the only advice he knows to give the president, that in times of war one must "fight like hell" for one's country. As a final tribute to his faith in jurisprudence and his country, Holmes bequeaths the majority of his estate to the United States government.
+

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

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