AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Dragonwyck
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
Release Date:   Apr 1946
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 10 Apr 1946
Production Date:   mid-Feb--early May 1945
Duration (in mins):   103
Duration (in feet):   9,176
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Gene Tierney (Miranda Wells)  
    Walter Huston (Ephraim Wells)  
    Vincent Price (Nicholas Van Ryn)  
    Glenn Langan (Dr. Jeff Turner)  
    Anne Revere (Abigail Wells)  
    Spring Byington (Magda)  
    Connie Marshall (Katrine Van Ryn)  
    Henry ["Harry"] Morgan (Klaas Bleeker)  
    Vivienne Osborne (Johanna Van Ryn)  
    Jessica Tandy (Peggy O'Malley)  
    Trudy Marshall (Elizabeth Van Borden)  
    Reinhold Schunzel (Count De Grenier)  
    Jane Nigh (Tabitha Wells)  
    Ruth Ford (Cornelia Van Borden)  
    Scott Elliott (Tom Wells)  
    Boyd Irwin (Tompkins)  
    Keith Hitchcock (Mr. McNab)  
    Maya Van Horn (Countess De Grenier)  
    Francis Pierlot (Dr. William Brown)  
    Arthur Thompson (Servant)  
    Al Winter (Servant)  
    Larry Steers (Servant)  
    Wallace Dean (Servant)  
    Tom Martin (Servant)  
    Edwin Davis (Black boy dancer on boat deck)  
    Shelby Bacon (Black boy dancer on boat deck)  
    Ruth Cherrington (Dowager)  
    Elizabeth Williams (Dowager)  
    John Chollot (French count)  
    Nenette Vallon (French countess)  
    Virginia Lindley (Helena von der Hyde)  
    Mickey Roth (Nathaniel)  
    Jaime Dana (Seth)  
    Robert "Buzz" Henry (Messenger boy)  
    Dudley Dickerson (Black porter)  
    J. Louis Johnson (Black porter)  
    Walter Baldwin (Farmer)  
    Harry Humphrey (Farmer)  
    Robert Malcolm (Farmer)  
    Clancy Cooper (Farmer)  
    Trevor Bardette (Farmer)  
    Arthur Aylsworth (Farmer)  
    Tom Fadden (Farmer)  
    Addison Richards (Farmer)  
    Jane Porter (Little girl)  
    Betty Fairfax (Mrs. McNab)  
    Michael Garrison (Zack Wilson)  
    Grady Sutton (Hotel clerk)  
    Walter Tetley (Bellhop)  
    Buddy Gorman (Bellhop)  
    Gertrude Astor (Nurse)  
    Charles Waldron (Minister)  
    Steve Olsen (Vendor)  
    Douglas Wood (Mayor Kravitz)  
    George Ford    
    Alexander Sacha    
    Nestor Eristoff    
    Ted Jordan    
    William Carter    

Summary: In 1844, lovely, young Miranda Wells lives on a farm near Greenwich, Connecticut and often escapes her mundane existence through daydreams of a romantic, luxury-filled life. Miranda is thrilled when her mother Abigail receives a letter from Nicholas Van Ryn, a distant cousin whose extensive lands and mansion, Dragonwyck, are the envy of his fellow Hudson River landholders. Abigail explains to Miranda that Nicholas is descended from the original Dutch patroons, but despite his wealth, she is wary of his request that one of her daughters serve as governess to his eight-year-old daughter Katrine. Miranda's religious father Ephraim is opposed to the idea, until Miranda shows him a Bible passage that convinces him. Soon after, Ephraim and Miranda meet Nicholas, who passes Ephraim's inspection despite his arrogant attitudes toward the tenant farmers working the Van Ryn lands. Upon reaching Dragonwyck, Nicholas introduces Miranda, with whom he has shared an instant attraction, to Katrine and Johanna, his gluttonous wife. One afternoon, Miranda and Katrine hide in the woods to watch the kermess, an annual ceremony at which Nicholas receives the rents of his tenants, and are discovered by Dr. Jeff Turner. Jeff expresses interest in seeing Miranda again, but warns her that he dislikes Nicholas, whose autocratic policies are antipathetic to his own democratic principles. At the kermess, farmer Klaas Bleeker asserts that his family has paid Nicholas the value of their land many times over and refuses to pay more rent. Nicholas then evicts him, after which Jeff prevents Klaas from attacking Nicholas, while continuing to defend Klaas's political position. At a ball hosted by Nicholas that evening, some of the high society guests snub Miranda due to her humble background. Soon after, Jeff comes to Dragonwyck to ask for help in defending Klass, who has been falsely accused of murder. Nicholas is disinterested at first but then promises to help and asks Jeff to examine Johanna, who has a head cold. Jeff assures her that the cold will pass, then joins Miranda for dinner, while Nicholas, who has brought his favorite oleander plant to Johanna's room to cheer her, stays to give her some cake. Later that night, Johanna dies suddenly, much to Jeff's astonishment. Nicholas meets Miranda downstairs and tells her that he was never happy with Johanna, who could not bear him a much longed-for son. Miranda can no longer fight her feelings either and the couple admit their love, although Miranda returns to Connecticut the next day. At the farm, Ephraim is irritated by Miranda's distant behavior, but her reserve is explained two months later when Nicholas arrives to ask for her hand in marriage. Ephraim and Abigail reluctantly consent, and a few months later, Nicholas is away on business when Miranda discovers that she is pregnant. Despite their quarrels over Nicholas' lack of religious faith and his fury over Miranda's hiring of a lame maid, Peggy O'Malley, Nicholas is thrilled by the news. Nicholas' joy is tempered by new laws permitting tenant farmers to buy their lands, but despite the threat to his historic rights, he anticipates passing Dragonwyck on to the baby, who he is sure will be a son. Nicholas asks Jeff to attend Miranda when she gives birth, and although Jeff is pleased to see Miranda, whom he still loves, he must tell her that her newborn son has a defective heart. Miranda has the baby baptized before he dies, but Nicholas is enraged and heartbroken by his son's death. As the months pass, Nicholas grows more distant and embittered, and informs Miranda that he has become a drug addict. Fearing for her mistress' life, Peggy begs Jeff for help and reveals that Nicholas has brought the oleander plant to Miranda's room. Jeff rushes to Dragonwyck and there accuses Nicholas of poisoning Johanna with oleander and attempting to do the same to Miranda. Much to Miranda's horror, Nicholas admits his crime and begins to fight with Jeff. Nicholas is knocked out during the struggle, but after Jeff and Miranda leave, the addled Nicholas staggers to the kermess grounds and calls for the farmers to bring their tributes. As Nicholas waves his pistol, the farmers assemble with Jeff, Miranda, the mayor and sheriff, and Nicholas is shot when he takes aim at Jeff. The farmers doff their caps as Nicholas dies, and later, Miranda prepares to return to Greenwich, which she now realizes is her true home. Jeff bids her farewell and promises to visit her the following week. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
  Johnny Johnson (Asst dir)
  Arthur Pierson (Dial dir)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (Pres)
  Ernst Lubitsch (Prod)
Writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Wrt for the scr)
Photography: Arthur Miller (Dir of photog)
  Paul Lockwood (2d cam)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  Russell Spencer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Paul S. Fox (Assoc)
  A. E. Lombardi (Props)
  Lorry Haddock (Props)
Costumes: Renè Hubert (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus)
  Edward B. Powell (Orch arr)
Sound: W. D. Flick (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
  Charles Althouse (Mus mixer)
  Paul Neal (Mus mixer)
  Murray Spivack (Mus mixer)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
  Ralph O. Hammeras (Miniatures)
  Sol Halprin (Transparency projection shots)
  J. O. Taylor (Transparency projection shots)
Dance: Arthur Appel (Dances staged by)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Frances C. Richardson (Research dir)
  Katherine Lambert (Research asst)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Dragonwyck by Anya Seton (Boston, 1944).
Authors: Anya Seton

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 2/4/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP442

PCA NO: 10831
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  Suspense
 
Subjects (Major): Class distinction
  Dutch Americans
  Land rights
  Marriage
  Mental illness
  Murder
 
Subjects (Minor): Balls (Parties)
  Bible
  Childbirth
  Cousins
  Drug addicts
  Faith
  Family relationships
  Ghosts
  Greenwich (CT)
  Handicapped
  Hudson River (NY)
  Maturation
  Parentage
  Physicians
  Poisoning
  Servants
  Superstition
  Tenant farmers
  United States--History--Social life and customs
  Upper classes

Note: Anya Seton's novel was first published in Ladies Home Journal between Aug and Dec 1943. According to a 6 Jun 1944 HR news item, Gregory Peck was first considered for the "co-star role" of this picture, and a modern source reveals that studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck intended to feature Peck as "Nicholas" and John Hodiak as "Dr. Jeff Turner." HR production charts indicate that Michael Francis and then William Eythe were assigned to play "Dr. Jeff Turner." According to a 4 Apr 1945 HR news item, actor Albert Van Antwerp suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Addison Richards, and actor Alec Craig was replaced by Walter Baldwin when Craig became ill with influenza. A 20 Apr 1945 HR news item includes Stuart Holmes in the cast, but his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Some scenes in the film were shot at Sherwood Forest, CA.
       Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library discloses that the film was originally to end with a fire in which "Nicholas" died. The Breen Office ordered that the sequence be changed, however, to avoid any implication that "Nicholas" committed suicide "in order to escape justice." [A 4 Mar 1945 NYT article stated that the ending was changed by studio officials due to its resemblance to previous films Rebecca and Jane Eyre .] The PCA also discouraged "showing Nicholas resorting to opium as an escape." Although "Nicholas" clearly states that he is a drug addict in the finished film, he does not indicate to which drug he is addicted. The PCA also advised: "Because of the prevalence of Oleander in this country, and as a detail of crime which could be easily imitated, we must ask that this dialogue referring to being poisoned by Oleander be rewritten in such a way as to confuse the method."
       Numerous pre-release sources credit Ernst Lubitsch as the producer of the film. According to a modern source, Lubitsch withdrew from the project due to his poor health and conflicts with director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Dragonwyck marked Mankiewicz' first directorial effort. Another modern source states that Lubitsch demanded the removal of his name as producer after Zanuck ordered the elimination of one of his favorite sequences, in which "Nicholas" discusses his philosophy of life. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, contain an 11 Dec 1945 letter from Lubitsch to the studio requesting "that no screen or advertising credit be given me in connection with the motion picture Dragonwyck ." Some reviews credit Zanuck as the film's producer. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   23 Feb 1946.   
Daily Variety   18 Feb 46   p. 3.
Film Daily   28 Feb 46   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 44   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Feb 45   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Feb 45   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 45   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 45   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Apr 45   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Apr 45   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Apr 45   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 45   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 46   p. 12.
Motion Picture Daily   18 Feb 1946.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   14 Apr 45   p. 2403.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   23 Feb 46   p. 2857.
New York Herald Tribune   11 Apr 1946.   
New York Times   4 Mar 1945.   
New York Times   11 Apr 46   p. 35.
Time   1 Apr 1946.   
Variety   20 Feb 46   p. 8.

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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.
 
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