|The Amazing Mrs. Holliday|
|Directed by||Bruce Manning|
|Story by||Sonya Levien|
|Produced by||Bruce Manning|
|Edited by||Ted J. Kent|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$1.4 million (US rentals)|
The Amazing Mrs. Holliday is a 1943 American comedy drama film produced and directed by Bruce Manning and starring Deanna Durbin, Edmond O'Brien, and Barry Fitzgerald.
Based on a story by Sonya Levien, the film is about a young idealistic missionary who smuggles a group of Chinese war orphans into the United States posing as the wife of a wealthy commodore who went missing after their ship was torpedoed and sunk. After safely sequestering the orphans in the commodore's family mansion, her plans start to unravel when she falls in love with commodore's grandson and the commodore himself turns up alive and well.
Originally intended as Durbin's dramatic debut, Universal insisted on adding songs. The original director of the film was Jean Renoir, and though most of his completed footage was retained, final directorial credit was given to Bruce Manning, the film's producer.
Frank Skinner and Hans J. Salter were nominated for an Oscar for Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
A young idealistic schoolteacher named Ruth Kirke is transporting a group of war orphans from South China to Calcutta when their steamship Tollare is torpedoed and sunk in the Pacific. Along with sailor Timothy Blake, they are the only passengers to survive the enemy attack. They are picked up by the steamship Westonia and taken to San Francisco, where immigration officials inform Ruth that the orphans will be held until a $500 bond ($7,800 today) is posted for each child.
With no money of their own, Ruth and Timothy go to the home of Commodore Thomas Spencer Holliday, the wealthy owner of their sunken cargo ship, who perished during the torpedo attack. When they appeal for financial assistance for the orphans, the commodore's family refuses. Desperate to help the children, Timothy tells the commodore's family that Ruth and the commodore were married aboard the Tollare before it was attacked. With the children's future at stake, Ruth reluctantly goes along with the deception.
Ruth, Timothy, and the eight orphans move into the Holliday mansion, where they soon meet the commodore's grandson, Thomas Spencer Holliday III. When a sceptical Tom questions Ruth about how she became his grandmother, Ruth explains that her Christian mission was destroyed in a Japanese bombing raid, and that she was sent south with eight European children, entrusted with their safety. Along the way, they encountered a dying Chinese woman, and Ruth agreed to care for her child as well. Moved by her personal story and her beautiful singing voice, Tom is soon smitten with the young woman.
After learning that she, as the commodore's "widow", will inherit his vast shipping fortune, and faced with pressure from the family and press, Ruth gathers the children and attempts to sneak away during the night, but Tom discovers them. Wanting to end the deception, Ruth confesses to Tom that she smuggled the orphans aboard the commodore's ship, believing it was headed to Calcutta. During the voyage, they were discovered by the commodore who promised to help Ruth get the orphans into the United States, even if it meant adopting them. After their ship was torpedoed, Ruth and Timothy put the children into a lifeboat—losing only one child, a boy named Pepe—and were later picked up by another steamship. Angered by the deception, Tom insists that Ruth stay and continue the charade until the publicity about her "marriage" dies down, after which he will care for the orphans at the mansion once she leaves.
In the coming days, as she watches Tom caring for the children, Ruth falls in love with him. When the children's immigration papers finally arrive, Ruth prepares to leave as promised, despite her feelings for Tom and the children. Later at the station, while Ruth waits for her train to Philadelphia, Tom arrives at Timothy's request, unaware that Ruth is preparing to leave. Timothy lies to Tom, telling him that the stranger sitting next to her is her fiancé—intending to make Tom jealous and prevent her from leaving. The ploy works, as Tom congratulates the stranger on his upcoming marriage. In the ensuing commotion, Tom escorts Ruth away from the train station and they return to the mansion.
Sometime later, at a China relief ball held at the mansion, Ruth sings an aria, Puccini's Vissi d'arte, to the assembled guests while Tom looks on with loving admiration. By now they have expressed their love for each other. Suddenly, the commodore steps forward, having been rescued along with Pepe following the torpedo attack. Knowing what Ruth has done for the children, he plays along with the deception, telling the guests how happy he is that fate spared his "dear wife". Afterwards the commodore tells Ruth that he'll marry her for real and raise the orphans as his own children, unaware she is in love with Tom. The commodore's plans change when he learns that Ruth and Tom are in love. Addressing the guests, the commodore confesses that he and Ruth were never really married, but that in three days she is going to become Mrs. Holliday—Mrs. Tom Holliday—the wife of his grandson.
In July 1941, while Deanna Durbin was finishing It Started with Eve, Universal announced her next film would be They Lived Alone based on a story by Sonya Levien originally bought for Margaret Sullavan about a girl reporter.It would be directed by Henry Koster. She refused to make the film unless concessions were made in terms of story and cast. Universal refused and in October 1941 they suspended her contract. The situation was exacerbated by the fact her husband, Vaughan Paul, had left the studio the previous month. Durbin was earned $125,000 a film at the time. Director William Seiter and produced Bruce Manning were assigned to other films.
In late January 1942 Durbin and Universal came to terms, with the studio saying it had made some concessions.
In April 1943 Universal said They Lived Alone became Divine Young Lady. Bruce Manning would produce and Jean Renoir would direct. Leo Townsend and Boris Ingster wrote the script. It was more dramatic type of role than Durbin had previously played, with singing put to the background (she had been fighting with the studio who wanted her to make Three Smart Girls Join Up which became Hers to Hold).
Durbin later said "the sought after new Durbin image was not meant just to show me grown up but to have a story which featured me in special and different circumstances, directed by someone exceptional, instead of which I think you'll admit, as did most people, "Eve" was handed to Charles Laughton."
In May 1942 Barry Fitzgerald joined the cast.
In May the title was changed in Forever Yours in May. Durbin's leading man was Edmond O'Brien, who contract was purchased from RKO.
According to a story in the Hollywood Reporter published on August 7, 1942, Jean Renoir was being replaced as director after forty-seven days of shooting. According to the story, the French director was fired because of his slow filming pace—he was reportedly ten weeks behind schedule.
According to the New York Times Renoir left the film because of recurring pain caused by an old World War I leg injury which was aggravated while shooting a battle sequence. Manning replaced him as a director.
In November 1942 a report said the film had a "seemingly endless schedule" due to replacing directors, illness to Manning and "story trouble".Durbin said "we were on the shooting stage for about six months with numerous script changes every day!"
In December 1942 the title was changed to The Amazing Mrs Holliday.
In his review on Allmovie, Craig Butler wrote that the film is "undeniably heartwarming and definitely has charm, even if it veers over into sentimentality."According to Butler, the film could have turned out much better had the original director, Jean Renoir, seen the project through to its conclusion.
It would have been interesting to see what Renoir might have done with the material had he seen it through from beginning to end, for his skill and delicacy might have softened some of Holliday's more awkward moments and given the final film a more consistent tone. Renoir also was quite adept at exploring the nuances that give life to individual characters and, more importantly, their relationships. As it is, Holliday hints at a greater depth that it never really plumbs.
Butler praises Barry Fitzgerald for his "fine comic relief" and Edmond O'Brien who "handles the romantic element with aplomb."Butler concludes that Durbin is in good voice and her "pleasant personality, sweet looks, and engaging way with a line build up considerable good will among viewers."
Durbin later said the film "was not good" but represents a great deal of hard work and I can't help having certain fond memories and thoughts about it... I was so enthusiastic and raring to go, the disappointment of a bad film hurt all the more and perhaps made me unfair."
Three Smart Girls is a 1936 American musical comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Barbara Read, Nan Grey, Deanna Durbin, and Ray Milland. The film's screenplay was written by Adele Comandini and Austin Parker, and is about three sisters who travel to New York City to prevent their father from remarrying. The three plot to bring their divorced parents back together again.
One Hundred Men and a Girl is a 1937 American musical comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Deanna Durbin and the maestro Leopold Stokowski. Written by Charles Kenyon, Bruce Manning, and James Mulhauser from a story by Hanns Kräly, the film is about the daughter of a struggling musician who forms a symphony orchestra consisting of his unemployed friends. Through persistence, charm, and a few misunderstandings, they are able to get famed conductor Leopold Stokowski to lead them in a concert, which leads to a radio contract. One Hundred Men and a Girl was the first of two motion pictures featuring Leopold Stokowski, and is also one of the films for which Durbin is best remembered as an actress and a singer.
Henry Koster was a German-born film director. He was the husband of actress Peggy Moran.
Edna Mae Durbin, known professionally as Deanna Durbin, was a Canadian-born actress and singer, who moved to the USA with her family in infancy. She appeared in musical films in the 1930s and 1940s. With the technical skill and vocal range of a legitimate lyric soprano, she performed many styles from popular standards to operatic arias.
Christmas Holiday is a 1944 American film noir crime film directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly. Based on the 1939 novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham, the film is about a woman who marries a Southern aristocrat who inherited his family's streak of violence and instability and soon drags the woman into a life of misery. After he is arrested, the woman runs away from her husband's family, changes her name, and finds work as a singer in a New Orleans dive. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score for Hans J. Salter.
Elwood Bailey Bredell was an American cinematographer and child silent screen actor. He is sometimes credited as Woody Bredell or Elwood Dell. Although he worked in many genres, mostly at Universal, Bredell is best known for his film noir cinematography on such movies as Phantom Lady (1944), Lady on a Train (1945) The Killers (1946), and The Unsuspected (1947). Famed Warner Bros. editor George Amy said Bredell could “light a football stadium with a single match.”
Can't Help Singing is a 1944 American musical Western film directed by Frank Ryan and starring Deanna Durbin, Robert Paige, and Akim Tamiroff. Based on a story by John D. Klorer and Leo Townsend, the film is about a senator's daughter who follows her boyfriend West in the days of the California gold rush. Durbin's only Technicolor film, Can't Help Singing was produced by Felix Jackson and scored by Jerome Kern with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg.
"Mighty Lak' a Rose" is a 1901 song with lyrics by Frank Lebby Stanton and music by Ethelbert Nevin. The lyrics are written in an approximation of an African American accent as a "dialect song", and the title thus means "mighty like a rose". It is sung by a black woman called "Mammy" to a newborn blue-eyed white boy in her care. It was common at the time for white families to hire trusted black women to care for their children.
Three Smart Girls Grow Up is a 1939 American musical comedy film directed by Henry Koster, written by Felix Jackson and Bruce Manning, and starring Deanna Durbin, Nan Grey, and Helen Parrish. Durbin and Grey reprise their roles from Three Smart Girls, and Parrish replaces Barbara Read in the role of the middle sister. Durbin would reprise her role once more in Hers to Hold.
Mad About Music is a 1938 American musical film directed by Norman Taurog and starring Deanna Durbin, Herbert Marshall, and Gail Patrick. Based on a story by Marcella Burke and Frederick Kohner, the film is about a girl at an exclusive boarding school who invents an exciting father. When her schoolmates doubt his existence, she has to produce him. Mad About Music received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Music, and Best Original Story.
It Started with Eve is a 1941 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Deanna Durbin, Robert Cummings, and Charles Laughton. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score. The film is considered by some critics to be Durbin's best film, and the last in which she worked with the producer and director who groomed her for stardom. It Started with Eve was remade in 1964 as I'd Rather Be Rich.
I'll Be Yours is a 1947 American musical comedy film directed by William A. Seiter and starring Deanna Durbin. Based on the play A jó tündér by Ferenc Molnár, the film is about a small-town girl who tells a fib to a wealthy businessman, which then creates complications. The play had earlier been adapted for the 1935 film The Good Fairy by Preston Sturges.
Up in Central Park is a 1948 American musical comedy film directed by William A. Seiter and starring Deanna Durbin, Dick Haymes and Vincent Price. Based on the play Up in Central Park by Herbert Fields with a screenplay by Karl Tunberg, the film is about a newspaper reporter and the daughter of an immigrant maintenance man who help expose political corruption in New York City in the 1870s.
First Love is a 1939 American musical film directed by Henry Koster and starring Deanna Durbin. Based on the fairy tale Cinderella, the film is about an orphan who is sent to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle after graduating from boarding school. Her life is made difficult by her snobby cousin who arranges that she stay home while the rest of the family attends a major social ball. With the help of her uncle, she makes it to the ball, where she meets and falls in love with her cousin's boyfriend. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Music.
Nice Girl? is a 1941 American musical film directed by William A. Seiter, and starring Deanna Durbin, Franchot Tone, Walter Brennan, Robert Stack, and Robert Benchley. Based on the play Nice Girl? by Phyllis Duganne, the film is about a young girl who finds herself attracted to one of her father's business partners who comes to town to give her father a scholarship for his dietary studies.
His Butler's Sister is a 1943 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Borzage and starring Deanna Durbin. The supporting cast includes Franchot Tone, Pat O'Brien, Akim Tamiroff, Evelyn Ankers and Hans Conried. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Recording.
For the Love of Mary is a 1948 American romantic comedy film directed by Frederick de Cordova and starring Deanna Durbin, Edmond O'Brien, Don Taylor, and Jeffrey Lynn. Written by Oscar Brodney, the film is about a young woman who takes a job at the White House as a switchboard operator and soon receives help with her love life from Supreme Court justices and the President of the United States. For the Love of Mary was the last film by Deanna Durbin, who withdrew from the entertainment business the following year to live a private life in France.
Felix Jackson was a German-born American screenwriter and film producer.
Hers to Hold is a 1943 American romantic musical comedy film and is the third film in the unofficial Three Smart Girls trilogy. In Hers to Hold, Deanna Durbin reprises her role as Penny Craig, who is the only sister remaining at home.
Frank Ryan was an American writer and director of films, best known for his films with Deanna Durbin. In 1942 he was given a producer-director-writer contract at Universal.