Of Human Hearts (1938)

100 or 105 mins | Drama | 11 February 1938

Director:

Clarence Brown

Writer:

Bradbury Foote

Cinematographer:

Clyde De Vinna

Editor:

Frank E. Hull

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of the film and the title of the novel on which it was based, Benefits Forgot was taken from a quotation in William Shakespeare's As You Like It , Act II, Scene 7: "Freeze, Freeze, thou bitter sky, Thou dost not bite so nigh as Benefits Forgot." According to the Var review and the film's presskit, the final title of the picture Of Human Hearts was selected by M-G-M after a nation-wide contest was advertised on the studio's radio program, "Good News of 1938," to determine who could select the best title. The prize, $5,000, was awarded to Greenville, SC high school student Ray Harris; in addition to the prize money, Harris was also a specially invited guest at the film's world premiere, which was held in his hometown. Information in the SAB in the AMPAS Library file on the film includes telegrams and letters indicating that at one time writer Conrad Richter had considered going to arbitration to receive screenplay credit on the picture. After reading the script, however, he sent a telegram stating: "Mr. Foote entitled to sole credit please give it to him." Richter was subsequently given credit for his contribution to the treatment, but his name was not included in the onscreen credits.
       Portions of the film were shot on location in Agoura Ranch, Agoura, CA and Lake Arrowhead, CA. According to information in news items and the presskit, over seven hundred people worked at the Arrowhead location for more than two weeks on a specially built village, the largest special location site built by M-G-M since ... More Less

The working title of the film and the title of the novel on which it was based, Benefits Forgot was taken from a quotation in William Shakespeare's As You Like It , Act II, Scene 7: "Freeze, Freeze, thou bitter sky, Thou dost not bite so nigh as Benefits Forgot." According to the Var review and the film's presskit, the final title of the picture Of Human Hearts was selected by M-G-M after a nation-wide contest was advertised on the studio's radio program, "Good News of 1938," to determine who could select the best title. The prize, $5,000, was awarded to Greenville, SC high school student Ray Harris; in addition to the prize money, Harris was also a specially invited guest at the film's world premiere, which was held in his hometown. Information in the SAB in the AMPAS Library file on the film includes telegrams and letters indicating that at one time writer Conrad Richter had considered going to arbitration to receive screenplay credit on the picture. After reading the script, however, he sent a telegram stating: "Mr. Foote entitled to sole credit please give it to him." Richter was subsequently given credit for his contribution to the treatment, but his name was not included in the onscreen credits.
       Portions of the film were shot on location in Agoura Ranch, Agoura, CA and Lake Arrowhead, CA. According to information in news items and the presskit, over seven hundred people worked at the Arrowhead location for more than two weeks on a specially built village, the largest special location site built by M-G-M since The Good Earth (see above). A Life magazine article noted that the film's battle scene, which was not based on a specific battle, cost $50,000, and required 2,000 men to film. Life also noted that the picture was one of a "new cycle of interest in the Civil War aroused by the novel Gone With the Wind ." Early HR production charts include Ted Healy in the cast, however, Healy died on 21 Dec 1937, shortly before the end of filming for Of Human Hearts . Although he is visible very briefly in one scene, he is not credited in the CBCS or in any post-production sources. According to news items, Healy was forty-one when he died of a heart attack after a party subsequent to the press preview of the Warner Bros. film Hollywood Hotel , in which he had a featured role. His last completed film was Love Is a Headache (see above).
       Robert McWade, who portrayed Dr. Lupus Crumm in the picture, died after completing his role. According to news items in HCN and MPD , director Clarence Brown had told McWade, "Well, Bob, you played your last scene. You might as well go home," just before McWade died of heart failure.
       John Miljan was listed in the CBCS as Captain Griggs, however, that role was played by Minor Watson. Because Miljan was not seen in the viewed print, or mentioned in any other source, it is possible that he was erroneously included in the CBSC. News items and reviews variously note that John Carradine was borrowed from Fox for his role, Beulah Bondi was borrowed from Paramount, and the film marked the screen debut of child actress Leatrice Joy Gilbert, the daughter of silent screen stars Leatrice Joy and John Gilbert. The HR review and some news items incorrectly noted that Charles Coburn was making his motion picture debut in Of Human Hearts . Although Coburn had not appeared in films for several years, he made his debut in Boss Tweed (1933), and had also appeared in The People's Enemy in 1935 (see entries above and below). Marjorie Main was identified in a production still, but is not seen in the released film. Apparently, her part was cut before the film's release. Of Human Hearts received one Academy Award nomination, for Bondi as Best Supporting Actress, however, she lost to Fay Bainter for Jezebel (see above). Bondi portrayed James Stewart's mother for the first time in Of Human Hearts . She subsequently portrayed his mother in the 1938 film Vivacious Lady , the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (see below and above), and the 1947 film It's a Wonderful Life . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Feb 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Feb 38
p. 9.
Hollywood Citizen-News
4-Feb-38
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 37
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 38
p. 1.
Life
28 Feb 38
pp. 30-31
Motion Picture Daily
20 Jan 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
5 Feb 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
4 Dec 38
p. 38.
Motion Picture Herald
12 Feb 38
p. 46, 48
New York Times
18 Feb 38
p. 23.
Variety
22-Dec-37
---
Variety
9 Feb 38
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Clarence Brown's Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mont eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Benefits Forgot by Honoré Morrow (New York, 1917).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Benefits Forgot
Release Date:
11 February 1938
Premiere Information:
World premiere, Greenville, SC: 5 February 1938
Production Date:
18 October--20 December 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 February 1938
Copyright Number:
LP7996
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100 or 105
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4018
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In the early 1850s, Rev. Ethan Wilkins moves from a prosperous parish in Maryland to an impoverished village on the banks of the Ohio River. Though his devoted wife Mary knows that a minister's family must make sacrifices, their son Jason cannot adjust to their austere new life. He idolizes Dr. Charles Shingle, the alcoholic local physician, and is resentful when Ethan refuses to let him accept the magazines that Shingle offers. When Mary sells some silver spoons to buy the boy a subscription to Harper's Monthly , Ethan finds even that magazine inappropriate for a minister's son and creates a serious breach between himself and Jason. Ten years later, the now-grown Jason is still resentful of his father. When Ethan insists that his son accompany him on a backwoods tour of distant parishoner's cabins, Jason refuses to wear a shabby second-hand coat that an elderly woman kindly gives to him. After a bitter argument, Jason leaves home and goes to study medicine in Virginia. Over the years, the broken-hearted Mary sells all of her family mementoes to send money to Jason, but she never complains, nor does Ethan, whose health gradually deteriorates. Just before Jason becomes a doctor, Mary writes to him that Ethan is dying, but by the time Jason returns home, his father is dead. Now an impoverished widow whose only happiness is her son's infrequent letters, Mary must take in sewing to survive. One winter, Jason writes to say that he is coming home for Christmas, then sends another letter saying that he must stay in Virginia during the holidays and needs more money. Mary sells her last ... +


In the early 1850s, Rev. Ethan Wilkins moves from a prosperous parish in Maryland to an impoverished village on the banks of the Ohio River. Though his devoted wife Mary knows that a minister's family must make sacrifices, their son Jason cannot adjust to their austere new life. He idolizes Dr. Charles Shingle, the alcoholic local physician, and is resentful when Ethan refuses to let him accept the magazines that Shingle offers. When Mary sells some silver spoons to buy the boy a subscription to Harper's Monthly , Ethan finds even that magazine inappropriate for a minister's son and creates a serious breach between himself and Jason. Ten years later, the now-grown Jason is still resentful of his father. When Ethan insists that his son accompany him on a backwoods tour of distant parishoner's cabins, Jason refuses to wear a shabby second-hand coat that an elderly woman kindly gives to him. After a bitter argument, Jason leaves home and goes to study medicine in Virginia. Over the years, the broken-hearted Mary sells all of her family mementoes to send money to Jason, but she never complains, nor does Ethan, whose health gradually deteriorates. Just before Jason becomes a doctor, Mary writes to him that Ethan is dying, but by the time Jason returns home, his father is dead. Now an impoverished widow whose only happiness is her son's infrequent letters, Mary must take in sewing to survive. One winter, Jason writes to say that he is coming home for Christmas, then sends another letter saying that he must stay in Virginia during the holidays and needs more money. Mary sells her last possession of value, her gold wedding ring, to greedy general store-owner George Ames in order to send Jason the money. When Dr. Shingle finds out, however, he convinces Ames that his health requires a "bleeding" by leeches, and slips the ring off Ames' finger and gives it back to Mary. Some time later, as the Civil War rages, Jason is called to duty and stops writing to his mother. One day, he receives a summons to the White House and is astonished to meet President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln tells Jason that Mary had written to him asking for information on her son's grave; because Jason had not written for so long she was certain he was dead. Lincoln then admonishes Jason for being such a selfish son and makes him promise to write to his mother every week. As Jason returns to his post, he sees Pilgrim, his family's faithful old horse, and finally realizes how dire his mother's straits must be to have sold the animal. When Jason saves the arm of his superior, Captain Griggs, his reward is a leave to see Mary. Jason then rides home on Pilgrim and is reunited with his grateful mother. At supper, Jason dines with Mary, Dr. Shingle and his childhood sweetheart, Annie Hawks, and Mary thanks God for her blessings. +

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.