Private Number (1936)

75 or 79 mins | Melodrama | 5 June 1936

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Confessions of a Servant Girl . The play Common Clay was originally copyrighted in 1914 under the title Hush Money . A book based on the play was published in 1916. Var noted that the story was billed as having been adapted from a play by Cleves Kinkead without specifically mentioning Common Clay . A HR news item in Jan 1936 stated that Gene Markey was working from a story by Wilson Collison and from the play Servant Girl by Kinkead, and that play is listed as the source of the film in the HR production chart, but no information about the play or Collison's story has been found. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the studio owned the silent motion picture rights to Common Clay , having produced an earlier film based on the play, and before Private Number was made, they acquired the sound rights. Var commented that many of the film's characters are not in the original play. This was the first feature film of comedian Joe Lewis, better known as Joe E. Lewis. According to the legal records, Joseph Tozer was originally cast as "Frederick," but he was replaced by Billy Bevan, and Hale Hamilton was originally cast as "Perry Winfield," but he was not feeling well after a rehearsal and was replaced by Paul Harvey. Information in the legal records states that some scenes were shot at the pier in Venice, CA and that ... More Less

The working title of this film was Confessions of a Servant Girl . The play Common Clay was originally copyrighted in 1914 under the title Hush Money . A book based on the play was published in 1916. Var noted that the story was billed as having been adapted from a play by Cleves Kinkead without specifically mentioning Common Clay . A HR news item in Jan 1936 stated that Gene Markey was working from a story by Wilson Collison and from the play Servant Girl by Kinkead, and that play is listed as the source of the film in the HR production chart, but no information about the play or Collison's story has been found. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the studio owned the silent motion picture rights to Common Clay , having produced an earlier film based on the play, and before Private Number was made, they acquired the sound rights. Var commented that many of the film's characters are not in the original play. This was the first feature film of comedian Joe Lewis, better known as Joe E. Lewis. According to the legal records, Joseph Tozer was originally cast as "Frederick," but he was replaced by Billy Bevan, and Hale Hamilton was originally cast as "Perry Winfield," but he was not feeling well after a rehearsal and was replaced by Paul Harvey. Information in the legal records states that some scenes were shot at the pier in Venice, CA and that in early Apr 1936, a second unit and process crew was waiting until snow cleared at Lake Arrowhead, CA before they commenced filming long shots and plates. In 1919, Pathé released a film based on the same source, entitled Common Clay , produced by Astra Film Corp., directed by George Fitzmaurice, and starring Fannie Ward (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0765); in 1930, Fox produced an English-language film based on the same source, also entitled Common Clay , directed by Victor Fleming and starring Constance Bennett (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0986) and a Spanish-language film entitled Del mismo Barro , directed by David Howard and starring Mona Maris. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6-Jun-36
---
Daily Variety
16 May 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Jun 36
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 36
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 36
sect. II, p. 69.
Motion Picture Daily
18 May 36
p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Apr 36
p. 45.
Motion Picture Herald
30 May 36
p. 36.
New York Times
12 Jun 36
p. 19.
Variety
17 Jun 36
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Settings
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Common Clay by Cleves Kinkead (New York, 26 Aug 1915).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Confessions of a Servant Girl
Release Date:
5 June 1936
Production Date:
26 March--30 April 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
5 June 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6662
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
75 or 79
Length(in feet):
7,100
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2249
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ellen Neal, a beautiful and upstanding girl of seventeen, arrives at the Winfield home to take a job as a maid, her first foray into the domestic profession. Ellen quickly receives a promotion to Mrs. Winfield's personal maid, and when Dick Winfield arrives home from college, he falls in love with the graceful and charming Ellen. At the family's vacation home in Maine, Dick asks Ellen out on a date, but Ellen refuses on the grounds that the two are not social equals. Dick finally convinces Ellen that her ideas about social class are old-fashioned, and she begins to fall in love with her employers' son. They eventually secretly marry before he departs to finish his senior year at college. Wroxton, the Winfield's manipulative and calculating butler, confesses to Ellen that he is obsessed with her and wants to marry her, but she informs him that she loves another. In revenge, Wroxton, suspecting that his rival is Dick, tells the Winfields that Ellen is pregnant, which he has heard from another maid. The Winfields confront Ellen, who admits that she is pregnant but also that she is married. However, Ellen refuses to divulge the name of her husband, and when Mr. Winfield is about to fire her because he does not believe her story, Ellen's friend Gracie, who is also a servant, reveals that Ellen is married to the Winfields' son. Wroxton then tells the Winfields that Ellen engineered the marriage in order to blackmail them and, to prove his charge, reveals that Ellen has a police record for an arrest that occurred when she was innocently taken to a gambling ... +


Ellen Neal, a beautiful and upstanding girl of seventeen, arrives at the Winfield home to take a job as a maid, her first foray into the domestic profession. Ellen quickly receives a promotion to Mrs. Winfield's personal maid, and when Dick Winfield arrives home from college, he falls in love with the graceful and charming Ellen. At the family's vacation home in Maine, Dick asks Ellen out on a date, but Ellen refuses on the grounds that the two are not social equals. Dick finally convinces Ellen that her ideas about social class are old-fashioned, and she begins to fall in love with her employers' son. They eventually secretly marry before he departs to finish his senior year at college. Wroxton, the Winfield's manipulative and calculating butler, confesses to Ellen that he is obsessed with her and wants to marry her, but she informs him that she loves another. In revenge, Wroxton, suspecting that his rival is Dick, tells the Winfields that Ellen is pregnant, which he has heard from another maid. The Winfields confront Ellen, who admits that she is pregnant but also that she is married. However, Ellen refuses to divulge the name of her husband, and when Mr. Winfield is about to fire her because he does not believe her story, Ellen's friend Gracie, who is also a servant, reveals that Ellen is married to the Winfields' son. Wroxton then tells the Winfields that Ellen engineered the marriage in order to blackmail them and, to prove his charge, reveals that Ellen has a police record for an arrest that occurred when she was innocently taken to a gambling house by a rakish gentleman named Coakley. The Winfields decide that she is an unfit wife for their son and offer to give her a cash settlement, which she turns down in disgust. Ellen leaves and has her baby, which she cares for in a secluded farmhouse belonging to friends of hers. Wroxton, with Mr. Winfield's consent, intercepts and destroys Ellen's letters to Dick, who, after learning that his parents drove Ellen away, has left them in anger. When detectives come to the farmhouse and bring Ellen a letter, which states that Dick wants to annul the marriage on the grounds of fraud, Gracie convinces Ellen to fight back, if only for the sake of her baby's name. Sam Stapp, Ellen's lawyer, suggests that they seek a countersuit. To establish Ellen as Mrs. Richard Winfield, Stapp sets her up in a fancy Park Avenue apartment and sends the bills to Dick, who has refused to sign the annulment papers. Now that he knows her address, Dick visits Ellen, but when he asks her about the raid, she becomes upset that he doubts her and does not deny his charges. Dick then agrees to sign the annulment papers. At the trial, Coakley lies on the witness stand and says that Ellen propositioned him. After Gracie informs Stapp that Ellen was only seventeen on the night in question, Stapp asks the judge for Coakley's arrest. Fearing a jail sentence, Coakley admits to Dick that Wroxton paid him to lie, and after Dick knocks Wroxton over a table, he gives the courtroom a moving speech in which he requests that the case be dismissed. Dick finds Ellen back at the farmhouse, and after he reiterates his pledge of love, they embrace. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.