AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Secret Beyond the Door
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   Jan 1948
Production Date:   early Feb--mid Apr-1947
Duration (in mins):   91 or 98-99
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Cast:   Joan Bennett (Celia [Barrett] Lamphere)  
    Michael Redgrave (Mark Lamphere)  
    Anne Revere (Caroline ["Carey"] Lamphere)  
    Barbara O'Neil (Miss Robey)  
    Natalie Schafer (Edith Potter)  
    Paul Cavanaugh (Rick Barrett)  
    Anabel Shaw (Intellectual sub-deb)  
    Rosa Rey (Paquita)  
    James Seay (Bob Dwight)  
    Mark Dennis (David [Lamphere])  
    Virginia Brissac (Sarah)  
    Houseley Stevenson (Andy)  
    Marie Harmon (Sub-deb)  
    Kay Morley (Sub-deb)  
    Crane Whitley (Lavender Falls man)  
    Virginia Farmer (Lavender Falls woman)  
    Eddy C. Waller (Lem)  
    Lucio Villegas (Priest)  
    Paul Fierro (Fighter)  
    Julian Rivero (Proprietor)  
    Paul Scardon (Owl eyes)  
    Danny Duncan (Ferret-faced man)  
    Frank Dae (Country squire)  
    Pedro Regas (Waiter)  
    Dona de Mario (Young Mexican girl)  
    David Cota (Small Mexican knife fighter)  
    Tom Chatterton (Judge)  
    Ralph Littlefield (Gothio man)  
    Nolan Leary (Station agent)  
    Wayne Tredway (Beefy man)  
    Watson Downs (Conductor)  
    Jesse Graves (Porter)  
    Donald Kerr (Ticket man)  
    Robert Espinoza (Altar boy)  
    Robert Barber (Altar boy)  
    Tony Rodriguez (Altar boy)  
    Peggy Remington (Dean of women)  
    Harry Denny (College president)  

Summary: On her wedding day, Celia Barrett reflects upon the events that brought about her hasty marriage: When Celia's older brother Rick dies, she is left a large trust fund which the family lawyer, Bob Dwight, manages. Although Bob is romantically interested in Celia, she decides to go to Mexico with her friend, Edith Potter. One afternoon Celia and Edith witness a knife fight between two men over a woman. Celia is enthralled with the scene and attracts the attention of an American architect, Mark Lamphere. They find themselves drawn to each other and within days are preparing to marry. After the wedding, Mark tells Celia about his work managing an architectural journal and his fascination with reproducing in exact detail rooms in which brutal murders were committed. The couple's honeymoon is abruptly interrupted when Mark tells Celia he has received a telegram summoning him back to New York City. Mark asks Celia to go ahead to his family estate in Lavender Falls, where he will meet her later. That night the maid disconcerts Celia by telling her Mark received no telegram. Puzzled, Celia nevertheless proceeds to her new home, where she is met not by Mark, but by his sister, Caroline "Carey" Lamphere, who informs her that Mark has been delayed. Once at the house, Celia is shocked to discover Mark has a young teenage son, David. Carey introduces Celia to Mark's secretary, Miss Robey, who wears a scarf to cover the side of her face that was burned years before when she rescued David from a mysterious fire. When Celia meets Mark at the train station, he reacts oddly to her lilac corsage. Later he tells Celia he is worried about money, as his journal is failing. During a large party thrown by the Lampheres, Bob tells Celia he believes that Mark may have married her for her money. Mark then takes the guests through his recreated rooms, which feature shocking murders of wives by their husbands, and Celia is mystified when he angrily refuses to show her the last room, which remains locked. A few days later Celia breaks up an argument between Mark and David. David later tells her not to interfere, as he will never get along with Mark, who he believes murdered his mother. When Celia asks Mark how his first wife died, he refuses to tell her and grows detached and cold. Determined to get into the locked room, Celia searches for the key in Mark's workroom, where she discovers Miss Robey without her scarf and with no sign of a scar. Miss Robey admits she had the scar removed years earlier, but feared being fired by Mark, who knew she was in love with him, if he realized she was no longer disfigured. Later, Celia finds the key to the locked room and makes a wax impression of it and has a copy made. When Celia enters the mysterious room she realizes it is an exact replica of her own bedroom, and is certain Mark means to murder her. She tries to run away, but returns the next morning determined to help her husband. Mark, meanwhile, fires Miss Robey and Carey decides to move into town. Shortly thereafter, when David has left for school and Celia and Mark are alone, Celia goes to the locked room and awaits Mark, who soon arrives, set upon killing her. Celia forces him to recollect a series of traumatic events from his childhood that have led him to this mental breakdown. As Mark comes to the realization he is not a murderer, the two find that the house is on fire, having been set ablaze by a jealous Miss Robey. Mark and Celia just manage to escape and, freed of their suspicions of each other, determine to start a new life together. 

Production Company: Diana Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
  William Holland (Asst dir)
Producer: Walter Wanger (Pres)
  Fritz Lang (Prod)
Writer: Silvia Richards (Scr)
Photography: Stanley Cortez (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Max Parker (Prod des)
Film Editor: Arthur Hilton (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  John Austin (Set dec)
Costumes: Travis Banton (Gowns)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Glenn E. Anderson (Sd)
Make Up: Bud Westmore (Makeup)
  Carmen Dirigo (Hairstylist)
Animation: Walt Disney (Anim)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen by Rufus King (New York, 1946).
Authors: Rufus King

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Diana Productions, Inc. 8/3/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1656

PCA NO: 12621
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound

 
Genre: Melodrama
Sub-Genre: Psychological
 
Subjects (Major): Architects
  Insanity
  Marriage
  Murder
  Newlyweds
 
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  Brothers and sisters
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Dreams
  Estates
  Family relationships
  Fires
  Flowers
  Jealousy
  Keys
  Knife fighting
  Mexico
  New York (State)
  Psychoanalysis
  Publishers and publishing
  Scars

Note: Rufus King's novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen , upon which the film was based, also appeared in the Dec 1945 issue of Red Book magazine under the title The Secret Beyond the Door . The film opens with a voice-over narration spoken by Joan Bennett. Contemporary sources indicate that British actor Michael Redgrave made his U.S. film debut in the picture, although RKO's production of Mourning Becomes Electra (see above), which Redgrave filmed immediately afterward, was released just prior to Secret Beyond the Door . According to contemporary sources, director Fritz Lang wanted Milton Krasner as director of photography, but Bennett, a partner with Lang and producer Walter Wanger in Diana Productions, insisted that Stanley Cortez be used. Contemporary sources reveal Lang's first choice for Mark Lamphere was James Mason. In addition, modern sources note that Ring Larder, Jr. was initially considered as the film's screenwriter and that the final script, by Silvia Richards and Lang (uncredited), took nearly a year to complete.
       As a result of the formation of Universal-International in the summer of 1946, executives Leo Spitz and William Goetz were put in charge of studio production, a fact that significantly influenced post-production of this film. After what contemporary sources indicate were "disastrous previews" of Secret Beyond the Door , Goetz took over the film and made cuts (as much as seventeen minutes worth) and had Bennett dub the entire voice-over track, which was originally recorded by actress Colleen Collins. Lang had no part in the re-editing and modern sources disclose that Lang attempted to take legal action against Bennett, as a partner in Diana Productions, for dubbing the voice-over. According to a HR news item, Lang appealed to the Screen Director's Guild regarding the changes and cuts and their executive committee ruled that recutting rights did not extend to adding new scenes or narration shot by other directors, especially when the new material replaced scenes for arbitrary reasons. The news item mentioned that the matter of these eliminations was settled to Lang's satisfaction, but did not reveal any details.
       Files at the USC Cinema-Television Library note that animator Walter Lantz was originally assigned to do the film's opening dream sequence. Later the sequence was given to abstract visual artist and animator Oskar Fischinger, but his tests were considered unsatisfactory and work was eventually produced entirely by the Walt Disney studios. Secret Beyond the Door was Diana Productions' final film. According to HR , the film lost almost its entire production cost of $1.5 million. In 1953, Bank of America foreclosed mortgages on ten independently produced pictures on which money was still owed, one of which was Secret Beyond the Door

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   10 Jan 1948.   
Film Daily   13 Jan 48   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jul 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Aug 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   7 Feb 47   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 47   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jan 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jan 48   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Nov 1953.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Jan 48   p. 4009.
New York Times   16 Jan 48   p. 25.
Variety   31 Dec 48   p. 10.

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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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