Blockade (1938)

73 or 84-85 mins | Drama | 17 June 1938

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HISTORY

Pre-production titles of the film included The River Is Blue , Castles in Spain and The Loves of Jeanne Ney . Other titles by which the film was known during production, but prior to release, included The Rising Tide and The Adventuress . According to news items in HR in late Feb and early Mar 1937, the production was scheduled to begin filming as The River Is Blue in late Feb, under Lewis Milestone's direction, based on a script by noted playwright Clifford Odets. The items mentioned that a male lead had not been cast opposite Madeleine Carroll, but that Milestone was testing actors Willy Costello, Alan Marshall and Elia Kazan. Finally, on 4 Mar, a news item announced that the production was being postponed and the sets were to be struck. Filming under William Dieterle's direction did not begin until almost a year later, on 16 Feb 1938, with Henry Fonda as the male lead. All sources after 1937 only credit John Howard Lawson with original screenplay, and it appears that Odets' script was abandoned before the 1938 production began.
       Portions of the film were shot on location in Brent's Craig, CA. Just prior to the release of the film, NBC radio broadcast a program featuring the musical score, accompanied by a voice over narration by Fonda and Carroll providing explanatory background on the film. Although the setting of the film is established as Spain in the spring of 1936 by a title card appearing on screen after the opening credits, no specific mention is made in the film ...

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Pre-production titles of the film included The River Is Blue , Castles in Spain and The Loves of Jeanne Ney . Other titles by which the film was known during production, but prior to release, included The Rising Tide and The Adventuress . According to news items in HR in late Feb and early Mar 1937, the production was scheduled to begin filming as The River Is Blue in late Feb, under Lewis Milestone's direction, based on a script by noted playwright Clifford Odets. The items mentioned that a male lead had not been cast opposite Madeleine Carroll, but that Milestone was testing actors Willy Costello, Alan Marshall and Elia Kazan. Finally, on 4 Mar, a news item announced that the production was being postponed and the sets were to be struck. Filming under William Dieterle's direction did not begin until almost a year later, on 16 Feb 1938, with Henry Fonda as the male lead. All sources after 1937 only credit John Howard Lawson with original screenplay, and it appears that Odets' script was abandoned before the 1938 production began.
       Portions of the film were shot on location in Brent's Craig, CA. Just prior to the release of the film, NBC radio broadcast a program featuring the musical score, accompanied by a voice over narration by Fonda and Carroll providing explanatory background on the film. Although the setting of the film is established as Spain in the spring of 1936 by a title card appearing on screen after the opening credits, no specific mention is made in the film of the Spanish Civil War, or of the two opposing sides, the Loyalists and the Fascists. The "enemy" to the character Marco's people is never named and the action and dialogue of the film vaguely infer a foreign invasion rather than a civil war. At the end of the film, Fonda delivers his last few lines, including the question "Where's the conscience of the world?" directly to the audience. The review in Var criticized Lawson for not making his script more explicit, but according to contemporary news items and information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office refused to allow references to the actual combatants in Lawson's original script, entitled Castles in Spain , to remain in the released film.
       Other information in the file and contemporary news items document protests throughout the United States against the film. Various groups, including the Roman Catholic men's organization, The Knights of Columbus, accused the filmmakers of leftist sympathies. The Knights of Columbus Bulletin of 1938 said that the "director has ambition to glorify Karl Marx." In Boston, groups of protesting Catholics sought to have the film banned, but the mayor refused to comply and the film remained on exhibition. Pickets also protested the film at its Radio City Music Hall showing in New York. Editorials in several newspapers and magazines argued the political merits of the film. Box condemned the Knights of Columbus campaign to have the film banned and in the publication Hollywood Now: A Journal in Defense of American Democracy , director John Ford praised the film saying, "I am not going to speak as a Catholic, nor as a member of the Knights of Columbus for twenty years, nor in the name of Francis Ford, my nephew in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in Spain, nor as a member of the Screen Directors Guild, but as a private citizen...Great entertainment...great human document." A decade after Blockade was released, screenwriter Lawson was sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was one of the "Hollywood Ten," a group of filmmakers who refused to reveal information about alleged Communist affiliations of themselves or others.
       Blockade received Academy Award nominations in the Music (Original Score) and Writing (Original Story) categories.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11-Jun-38
---
Box Office
30 Jul 38
p. 3.
Cue
18 Jun 38
p. 10.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Jun 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Now
22 Jul 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 38
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
22 Apr 38
p. 7.
Motion Picture Daily
24 May 38
p. 10.
Motion Picture Daily
6 Jun 38
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
20 Jun 38
p. 14.
Motion Picture Daily
21 Jun 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
22 Jun 38
p. 1, 9
Motion Picture Daily
16 Aug 38
p. 14.
Motion Picture Herald
26 Mar 38
p. 47.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Jun 38
p. 35, 38
New York Times
17 Jun 38
p. 25.
Variety
8 Jun 38
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Carroll's gowns
Cost des
Miss Carroll's hats
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orch cond
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Still photog
Still photog
SOURCES
SONGS
"Beloved," music by Werner Janssen, lyrics by Ann Ronell
"Folk Song," music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ann Ronell.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Castles in Spain
The Adventuress
The Loves of Jeanne Ney
The Rising Tide
The River Is Blue
Release Date:
17 June 1938
Production Date:
16 Feb--31 Mar 1938
Copyright Info
Claimant
DATE
CopyrightNumber
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.
7 June 1938
LP8068
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
73 or 84-85
Length(in feet):
7,753
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4216
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Spain, in the spring of 1936, farmer Marco, who is devoted to his land, looks forward to the day he will be able to buy a tractor. When a woman named Norma, who is on the way to Castelmare, crashes her expensive car near Marco and his friend Luis, they tow her there with their cattle. Norma is going to meet her father Basil, an art and antiques dealer. Though Marco is a simple farmer, he has learned poetry and admires beauty such as Norma's. Norma is also attracted to Marco, but the differences in their lives makes a romantic relationship impossible, even though Norma yearns for Marco's simple life. Returning from Castelmare, Marco and Luis hear guns in the background, signalling the beginning of a war. While Norma, Basil and his associate, Andre, try to drive out of the war zone, Marco emotionally urges his neighbors to fight for their land rather than give it up. They take his advice and resist, and as a reward for his bravery in organizing the fight, Marco is made a lieutenant in the army of resistance. Some time later, in a tavern, Marco encounters Basil dressed as a peasant, but wearing expensive shoes, and is suspicious, unaware that he is Norma's father. Basil is a secret agent, and when Marco follows him home, Basil shoots at him, but is killed by Marco in self-defense. When Norma returns home, she is shocked that Marco has killed her father and doesn't believe that Marco will help her at her interrogation. During an air raid, Marco takes her to shelter and they are trapped until Luis ...

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In Spain, in the spring of 1936, farmer Marco, who is devoted to his land, looks forward to the day he will be able to buy a tractor. When a woman named Norma, who is on the way to Castelmare, crashes her expensive car near Marco and his friend Luis, they tow her there with their cattle. Norma is going to meet her father Basil, an art and antiques dealer. Though Marco is a simple farmer, he has learned poetry and admires beauty such as Norma's. Norma is also attracted to Marco, but the differences in their lives makes a romantic relationship impossible, even though Norma yearns for Marco's simple life. Returning from Castelmare, Marco and Luis hear guns in the background, signalling the beginning of a war. While Norma, Basil and his associate, Andre, try to drive out of the war zone, Marco emotionally urges his neighbors to fight for their land rather than give it up. They take his advice and resist, and as a reward for his bravery in organizing the fight, Marco is made a lieutenant in the army of resistance. Some time later, in a tavern, Marco encounters Basil dressed as a peasant, but wearing expensive shoes, and is suspicious, unaware that he is Norma's father. Basil is a secret agent, and when Marco follows him home, Basil shoots at him, but is killed by Marco in self-defense. When Norma returns home, she is shocked that Marco has killed her father and doesn't believe that Marco will help her at her interrogation. During an air raid, Marco takes her to shelter and they are trapped until Luis digs them out the next morning. Norma then disappears until Andre finds her at the headquarters of General Vallejo, who lets her go. Andre, who is working for the opposition but is friendly with Vallejo, asks her to work for him. Although she does not want to, he makes her realize that she will be killed without his protection, and if she cooperates, he will help her leave the country. He sends her back to Castelmare, and on the train she encounters Marco, who pretends that he does not care what she is doing, but warns her to be careful. On the train, Norma also meets Eddie, an English journalist who is writing about the war. Eddie is a kind man who tells Norma about the enemy blockade and its effect on the people of Castelmare. Weeks later, knowing that Castelmare is crippled by lack of food and supplies, Norma feels increasingly guilty about her part in the blockade. After Eddie walks with her through the starving city, she breaks down from the strain and runs to Marco to confess her crimes. Marco lets her go so that she can convince the others that the plans have been altered, then has their headquarters raided because he does not believe that she will help him. When he arrives, however, he finds that she was planning to help him, but is now angered by his distrust. Soon a supply ship is fired upon, and as the starving people of the town watch, the ship slowly sinks into the sea. When Vallejo arrives at Castelmare, Marco requests leniency for Norma, but she asks Vallejo only to let her help the people she has hurt. She names Andre as a spy, then discovers that Vallejo has secretly been working with Andre all along. Andre reveals that he caused Basil to be caught, and tells her that she must help him again. Just then, Marco tells Vallejo that the sunken ship was a decoy and shows Vallejo that the real supply ship is coming. By Vallejo's reaction, Marco realizes the truth about him, and after Norma grabs Andre's gun in another room and shoots him, she and Marco both become Vallejo's prisoners. As the people cheer for the real relief ship, Marco and Norma are taken to the commandant for punishment, but he believes them and has Vallejo arrested. The commandant offers Marco and Norma their freedom and the chance to find peace elsewhere, but Marco knows that they can have no peace, and knowing that the world can stop the fighting, he asks, "where's the conscience of the world?"

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

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