AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Sign of the Ram
Director: John Sturges (Dir)
Release Date:   Mar 1948
Production Date:   14 Jul--23 Aug 1947
Duration (in mins):   84 or 88
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Cast:   Susan Peters (Leah St. Aubyn)  
    Alexander Knox (Mallory St. Aubyn)  
    Phyllis Thaxter (Sherida Binyon)  
    Peggy Ann Garner (Christine St. Aubyn)  
    Ron Randell (Dr. Simon Crowdy)  
    Dame May Whitty (Clara Brastock)  
    Allene Roberts (Jane St. Aubyn)  
    Ross Ford (Logan St. Aubyn)  
    Diana Douglas (Catherine Woolton)  
    Margaret Tracy (Emily)  
    Paul Scardon (Perowen)  
    Gerald Hamer (Reverend Woolton)  
    Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Woolton)  
    Gerald Rogers (Station master)  

Summary: The peaceful setting of the St. Aubyn family estate, known as Bastions, on England's western coast, masks the troubled state that exists within its walls. It is to this estate that Sherida Binyon has been summoned to serve as personal secretary to the wheelchair-bound poet Leah St. Aubyn. Soon after arriving at Bastions, Sherida is introduced to Leah's husband Mallory and her three stepchildren, Jane, Christine and Logan. As Sherida settles into her new home, Leah continues her flirtation with her physical therapist, Dr. Simon Crowdy. Simon, however, is in love with Jane. Prompted by the gossipy ramblings of her friend, Clara Brastock, Leah begins to have delusions that Sherida and her husband are having an affair. Later, when Leah denies Simon's request for permission to marry Jane, she is subjected to a frank analysis of her problems by the doctor. He tells her that she is exhibiting obsessions that are typical of those born under the astrological sign of the ram, Aries. He also accuses Leah of conditioning Jane to cling to her out of a perverse need to keep her "band of slaves intact." Stung by Simon's words, Leah exacts her revenge by lying to Jane and telling her that Simon confided in her that he thought Jane was getting too serious about their relationship. After attempting to destroy Jane and Simon's relationship, Leah next tries to drive a wedge between Logan and his new love, Catherine Woolton. She does not succeed, however, and the couple eventually announce their betrothal and intention to move to London. One day, while Logan is gone on a trip, Leah summons Catherine to the house and tells her lies about her estranged parents. This time, Leah succeeds in breaking up the couple when Catherine believes her claim that Logan fled to London after learning that there was insanity in her family. Devastated by Leah's words, Catherine vows never to see Logan again, then disappears. Her disappearance is soon explained by a suicide note that she wrote, which is delivered to Bastions by Catherine's stepfather. A search for Catherine leads Mallory and others to Echo Cove, where she is rescued from death by Mallory. Logan eventually discovers his stepmother's lies, and he and Jane both vow never to return to Bastions. Meanwhile, the confused Christine, having been told by Leah that Sherida is the source of the family's troubles, attempts to kill Sherida by poisoning her with an overdose of pills. With the extent of Leah's sinister machinations obvious to all, Christine is sent away to boarding school and the St. Aubyn family lies in ruin. Now driven to desperation by her family's rejection, Leah wheels herself to the edge of an oceanside cliff and falls to her death. 

Production Company: Signet Productions  
Production Text: An Irving Cummings Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: John Sturges (Dir)
  James Nicholson (Asst dir)
Producer: Irving Cummings Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Charles Bennett (Scr)
Photography: Burnett Guffey (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Stephen Goossón (Art dir)
  Sturges Carne (Art dir)
Film Editor: Aaron Stell (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Wilbur Menefee (Set dec)
  Frank [A.] Tuttle (Set dec)
Costumes: Jean Louis (Gowns)
Music: Hans J. Salter (Mus)
  M. W. Stoloff (Mus dir)
Sound: Jack Goodrich (Sd eng)
Make Up: Clay Campbell (Makeup)
  Helen Hunt (Hair)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel The Sign of the Ram by Margaret Ferguson (Philadelphia, 1945).
Authors: Margaret Ferguson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 4/3/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1486

PCA NO: 12616
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Psychological
 
Subjects (Major): England
  Handicapped
  Hereditary tendencies
  Jealousy
  Paranoia
  Stepmothers
  Suicide
 
Subjects (Minor): Astrology
  Attempted murder
  Engagements
  False accusations
  Mansions
  Missing persons
  Physicians
  Poets
  Rescues
  Secretaries

Note: This film marked the return of actress Susan Peters to the screen after a three-year absence due to an accident in 1945 that left her wheelchair-bound. It was also her final film. In the early 1940's, Peters was billed as Suzanne Carnahan, her real name. Peters' last previous picture was the 1945 film Keep Your Powder Dry (see above). According to a contemporary article in NYT , producer Irving Cummings and his son Irving Cummings, Jr. formed the independent production company Signet Productions in conjunction with the Orsatti Agency, which represented Susan Peters. The article also notes that Signet signed a distribution deal with Columbia, which provided production facilities for them. Peters reportedly received thirty-three percent of the film's profits. According to a pre-production HR news item, some background filming was set to take place at Lizard's Head, in Cornwall, England. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Feb 1948.   
Daily Variety   2 Feb 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Feb 48   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jun 47   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 48   pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 48   p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Feb 48   p. 4050.
New York Times   10 Aug 1947.   
New York Times   4 Mar 48   p. 30.
New York Times   7 Mar 1948.   
Variety   4 Feb 48   p. 13.

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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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