Maid of Salem (1937)

85-86 mins | Drama | 12 February 1937

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HISTORY

A written prologue that opens the film states that the story was based on "authentic records of the year 1692." According to the film's pressbook, the sermon preached by Rev. Samuel Parris was taken "almost wholly" from a rare collection of sermons by Reverend Deodat Lawson, who served with Parris at Salem Village. As reported in the pressbook from information found in the Essex Museum in Salem, in Puritan days, there were two Salems: Salem Town, on the seacoast, which is now modern Salem; and Salem Village (now called Danvers), a farming community located seven miles inland, where most of this film is set. The film was shot on location on a farm four miles outside of Santa Cruz, CA, where Paramount reproduced the Salem countryside on forty acres of land. A sailor's shanty was built on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Carmel, CA. According to the pressbook, the British Museum supplied two ancient songs for the film: a sea chanty written in 1530 and a ballad, "Bid Me But Live," ca. 1630, which was sung by Fred MacMurray in the picture. According to a 26 Jan 1937 news item in HR , an eight-hundred foot trailer was being prepared featuring director Frank Lloyd in the cutting room. "Action" scenes shot through the Moviola were also included.
       According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, on 14 May 1936, Joseph I. Breen, Director of the PCA, wrote to Paramount distribution executive John Hammell with his reaction to an outline of Bradley King's story, which was called "Between Two Worlds." Breen requested that Hammell have his research department verify whether ... More Less

A written prologue that opens the film states that the story was based on "authentic records of the year 1692." According to the film's pressbook, the sermon preached by Rev. Samuel Parris was taken "almost wholly" from a rare collection of sermons by Reverend Deodat Lawson, who served with Parris at Salem Village. As reported in the pressbook from information found in the Essex Museum in Salem, in Puritan days, there were two Salems: Salem Town, on the seacoast, which is now modern Salem; and Salem Village (now called Danvers), a farming community located seven miles inland, where most of this film is set. The film was shot on location on a farm four miles outside of Santa Cruz, CA, where Paramount reproduced the Salem countryside on forty acres of land. A sailor's shanty was built on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Carmel, CA. According to the pressbook, the British Museum supplied two ancient songs for the film: a sea chanty written in 1530 and a ballad, "Bid Me But Live," ca. 1630, which was sung by Fred MacMurray in the picture. According to a 26 Jan 1937 news item in HR , an eight-hundred foot trailer was being prepared featuring director Frank Lloyd in the cutting room. "Action" scenes shot through the Moviola were also included.
       According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, on 14 May 1936, Joseph I. Breen, Director of the PCA, wrote to Paramount distribution executive John Hammell with his reaction to an outline of Bradley King's story, which was called "Between Two Worlds." Breen requested that Hammell have his research department verify whether alleged witches were actually burned in Salem. Breen wrote, "It is our impression that there were no burnings--rather was the alleged punishment confined to hangings." The film's program included the following note: "The widely held belief that there were witch burnings doubtless arises from witchcraft annals in England and France (most notably Joan of Arc) where there were many burnings. This, however, was never true in America." In reference to a kiss between Roger and Barbara, the PCA cautioned the filmmakers in a letter dated 27 Aug 1936: "they should, of course, not be lying on the ground." Further caution was expressed about the portrayal of the clergy: "While there is of course ample historical grounds to prove that many of the clergy were caught up in the hysteria of the time, it might be well to counter-balance this in your picture by introducing briefly another minister [besides Reverend Samuel Parris] who will typify the more rational element among the clergy." On 28 Aug 1936, Breen wrote to Hammell, quoting the Production Code, "Ministers of religion in their characterizations of ministers should not be used in comedy, villains, or as unpleasant persons," and warning Hammell to "make definite changes in your script RE: Rev. Parris to bring picture in compliance with above Code provisions." An inter-office memo dated 31 Aug 1936 from Geoffrey Shurlock, Breen's assistant, outlines Hammell's response to the previous letter. The memo states: [director Frank] "Lloyd aware of danger in portrayal of the minister. Rev. Parris, played by [Ivan] Simpson, will portray him as stern upright minister, but with no tinge of the blue nose about it. They are also cutting out most, if not all, of the scenes in which minister is shown (in script) actually connected with the witch-hunting. [They also will be] introducing the character of another minister who will represent the liberal viewpoint, and who will protest against the witch-hunting hysteria of the time."
       According to a news item in HR on 29 Dec 1936, following a sneak preview of the film, Paramount decided to revise the ending, and recalled the company back for a few days of retakes. A script dated 15 Oct 1936 in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that in the preview version, after Roger saves Barbara from being hanged, Sewall calls an end to the witchhunt, and Barbara collapses into Roger's arms. Elder Goode then realizes Virginia has lied, and Sewall prays to God for forgiveness. A member of the mob then calls for the burning of the tree at Gallows Hill, and the film ends. In the script to the revised final reel dated 29 Dec 1936, the governor signs a decree abolishing the trial for witchcraft and orders the tree at Gallows Hill to be burned. (The signing of a proclamation that freed prisoners of the witchhunt appeared in an early script, but had been removed by 1 Sep 1936.) Later Barbara emerges from her dungeon cell, where she embraces Roger. The tree is then burned. In an early script dated 22 Aug 1936, John is struck by a soldier while defending Barbara at her hanging and dies. According to contemporary news items, this film was screenwriter Howard Estabrook's first producing assignment for Paramount. Some reviews erroneously credit Russell Simpson as "Rev. Samuel Parris." Russell appears as "Village marshal," and Ivan Simpson appears as "Rev. Samuel Parris." More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Jan 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
26 Jan 37
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 36
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 36
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 37
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
22 Jan 37
p. 12.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Dec 36
p. 42, 47
Motion Picture Herald
30 Jan 37
p. 47.
MPSI
1 Jul 37
p. 11.
New York Times
4 Mar 37
p. 27.
Variety
10 Mar 37
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Thomas L. Brower
Ricca K. Allen
Frank H. Hammond
Carol Holloway
Allen D. Sewall
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Unit casting dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
Contr to dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orig mus
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech res
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 February 1937
Production Date:
late August--early November 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 February 1937
Copyright Number:
LP6932
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85-86
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2715
SYNOPSIS

In 1692, in a milieu of Puritan ethics which are strictly enforced by church elder Nathaniel Goode, the women of Salem, Massachusetts become fascinated with stories about Satan told to them by Tituba, a slave in the Goode household. Meanwhile, Barbara Clarke, who lives with her widowed Aunt Ellen and her son Timothy, meets fugitive Roger Coverman, who fled Virginia after being pronounced a traitor for resisting taxation. In love with Roger's free spirit, Barbara continues to meet him in secret. As the town's fear of the occult grows, two women are arrested for witchcraft at Cape Ann. Virginia Goode then steals her father's book on witchcraft, and, caught by Tituba, she is punished by her father and schemes for vengeance against Tituba. During the height of the town's hysteria and paranoia, Virginia feigns a hallucinating fever which convinces the parish elders that she is also a victim of Tituba's witchcraft. The slave is arrested and forced to confess, implicating two other town innocents as well. Barbara boldly moves to defend Tituba until Aunt Ellen reveals that Barbara's mother was accused of witchcraft and hanged in England. To escape the frenzy of Salem, Roger leaves with his recluse uncle, Jeremiah Adams, for Florida (which is under Spanish rule) via Boston, but Jeremiah is killed by seamen who seek the reward for Roger's arrest, and he is put in jail. Back in Salem, when a harmless old woman named Rebecca Nurse is sentenced to die at "Gallows Hill" by the Cheeves, a couple who carries an old grudge against her, Barbara defends her and is accused of being a witch herself. Timothy, who saw Barbara kiss Roger ... +


In 1692, in a milieu of Puritan ethics which are strictly enforced by church elder Nathaniel Goode, the women of Salem, Massachusetts become fascinated with stories about Satan told to them by Tituba, a slave in the Goode household. Meanwhile, Barbara Clarke, who lives with her widowed Aunt Ellen and her son Timothy, meets fugitive Roger Coverman, who fled Virginia after being pronounced a traitor for resisting taxation. In love with Roger's free spirit, Barbara continues to meet him in secret. As the town's fear of the occult grows, two women are arrested for witchcraft at Cape Ann. Virginia Goode then steals her father's book on witchcraft, and, caught by Tituba, she is punished by her father and schemes for vengeance against Tituba. During the height of the town's hysteria and paranoia, Virginia feigns a hallucinating fever which convinces the parish elders that she is also a victim of Tituba's witchcraft. The slave is arrested and forced to confess, implicating two other town innocents as well. Barbara boldly moves to defend Tituba until Aunt Ellen reveals that Barbara's mother was accused of witchcraft and hanged in England. To escape the frenzy of Salem, Roger leaves with his recluse uncle, Jeremiah Adams, for Florida (which is under Spanish rule) via Boston, but Jeremiah is killed by seamen who seek the reward for Roger's arrest, and he is put in jail. Back in Salem, when a harmless old woman named Rebecca Nurse is sentenced to die at "Gallows Hill" by the Cheeves, a couple who carries an old grudge against her, Barbara defends her and is accused of being a witch herself. Timothy, who saw Barbara kiss Roger good-bye in the night, tells the court Barbara had assured him she was with "no man" and the judge twists his testimony into an admission of Barbara's consorting with the Devil. Meanwhile, Roger escapes from prison, ironically on the day the new governor of Virginia arrives with his pardon, and makes his way to Salem, where fifteen people have now been hanged for witchcraft. During Barbara's trial, she refuses to confess to being a witch, but, because she must protect Roger's anonymity, is unable to prove that she was not with Satan. When Barbara's friend John rises to defend her, his wife Martha, fearing it was John whom Barbara was with, reveals the truth about the death of Barbara's mother, sealing her fate. As Barbara is about to be hanged, Roger finally arrives, solving the mystery of Barbara's lover. Virginia then admits that it was spite that made her incriminate Tituba. Finally realizing that all were wrongfully accused, Crown Justice Sewall appeals to the governor to abolish the trial for witchcraft. As Barbara is let out of prison, she and Roger embrace. The governor then orders that the tree at Gallows Hill be burned, and the villagers set fire to it. +

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

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