AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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House of Strangers
Alternate Title: East Side Story
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Jul 1949
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 30 Jun 1949
Production Date:   21 Dec 1948--23 Feb 1949; retakes in Mar 1949
Duration (in mins):   101
Duration (in feet):   9,075
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Edward G. Robinson (Gino Monetti)  
    Susan Hayward (Irene Bennett)  
    Richard Conte (Max Monetti)  
    Luther Adler (Joe Monetti)  
    Paul Valentine (Pietro Monetti)  
    Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Antonio Monetti)  
    Debra Paget (Maria Domenico)  
    Hope Emerson (Helena Domenico)  
    Esther Minciotti (Theresa Monetti)  
    Diana Douglas (Elaine Monetti)  
    Tito Vuolo (Lucca)  
    Sid Tomack (Waiter)  
    Thomas Browne Henry (Judge)  
    David Wolfe (Prosecutor)  
    John Kellogg (Danny)  
    Ann Morrison (Woman juror)  
    Dolores Parker (Nightclub singer)  
    Tommy Garland (Pietro's opponent)  
    Charles J. Flynn (Guard)  
    Howard Mitchell (Guard)  
    Phil Tully (Guard)  
    Gaza De Rosner (Guard)  
    Peter Mamakos (Guard)  
    Joseph Mazzuca (Boy)  
    John Pedrini (Policeman)  
    George Magrill (Policeman)  
    Michael Stark (Policeman)  
    Charles McClelland (Policeman)  
    James Little (Policeman)  
    Argentina Brunetti (3rd applicant)  
    Bob Castro (Preliminary fighter)  
    Edward Saenz (Preliminary fighter)  
    Dick Ryan (Announcer)  
    Mushy Callahan (Referee)  
    Herbert Vigran (Neighbor)  
    Rhoda Williams (Girl)  
    George Spaulding (Doorman)  
    Donna La Tour (Chorus girl)  
    Maxine Ardell (Chorus girl)  
    Sally Yarnell (Chorus girl)  
    Jeri Jordan (Chorus girl)  
    Donna Hamilton (Chorus girl)  
    Marjorie Holliday (Chorus girl)  
    William Janssen (Chorus boy)  
    Neil Carter (Chorus boy)  
    John "Red" Kullers (Taxi driver)  
    Guy Thomajan (Taxi driver)  
    Scott Landers (Detective)  
    Fred Hillebrand (Detective)  
    Arthur Space (Bank examiner)  
    Roger Moore (Architect)  
    Walter Lawrence (Vendor)  
    Joe Rubino (Vendor)  
    John Butler (Bartender)  
    Dolores Castle (Secretary)  
    Lelia Goldoni (Italian girl)  
    Russ Cheever (Alto sax, offscreen)  
    Mario Siletti    
    Maurice Samuels    
    Frank Jacquet    
    Larry Arnold    
    Charles Faris    
    Ford Rush    
    Vickie Vann    
    Tony Merlo    
    Ernesto Morelli    
    Nick Borgani    
    Mike Macy    
    Paul Bradley    
    Steve Cavaliere    
    Steve Soldi    
    Bob St. Angelo    
    Martin Begley    
    Carlo Tricoli    
    Petra Silva    
    Theresa Testa    
    Rena Marlin    
    Emma Palmese    
    Frank Wilcox    
    Gilda Oliva    

Summary: In 1939, after serving seven years in prison, attorney Max Monetti returns to his deceased father Gino's trust and loan association in the East Side New York Italian neighborhood in which he grew up. His brothers, Joe, now the president of the bank, and Antonio and Pietro, the vice-presidents, welcome him with champagne, a cigar and a thousand dollars. Max refuses his brothers' offer of friendship and throws the money in the trash. After Max leaves, Tony is about to call a hit man, but Joe says they will keep it in the family. Max goes to the chic apartment of Irene Bennett, who is overjoyed when she comes home to find him in the shower. When she learns that he plans to carry out a vendetta against his brothers, however, Irene implores him to start over with her in San Francisco. The couple quarrel, after which Max returns to the old family house, where he sits beneath a portrait of Gino. As he plays his father's favorite opera record, Max remembers the past: In 1932, Gino acts like a beneficent despot to the neighborhood folk, making snap decisions concerning loans and terms of interest without maintaining sufficient written records. He treats Joe like a servant and insults the weak-willed Tony and Pietro, who works as a guard. During a family dinner, Max receives a call from Irene Bennett, a sultry new client who hired him that afternoon to take care of a matter involving an ex-lover. When she tells him it is an emergency, he goes to her apartment, where she attempts to get him to go to San Francisco with her. Although he is engaged to a beautiful Italian girl, Maria Domenico, Max soon begins an affair with Irene. When Maria's mother complains before the family about Max's affair, Gino counters that what a man does before marriage is nobody else's business. Maria vows never to marry anyone else and agrees to Gino's suggestion of a wedding the week after Easter, then kisses Max passionately. That night, Irene feels Max is preoccupied and tells him it will be their last night together. After not hearing from Irene for a week, Max goes to her apartment, where he meets Danny, to whom she has become engaged. Irene stops Danny and Max from fighting and tells Max that his father has been calling. At the bank, Gino tries to explain to a mob of customers that the state has closed it because he did not require collateral for the loans he has made. Although he promises that they will get their money, he is beaten until Max arrives and hurries him into the building. Max learns that Gino could be indicted on twenty-two counts, each of which carries a one-year sentence, because he has not recorded many of his transactions. Gino vows to sell everything to pay back his customers, but Max says that will not be enough to clear him. Max gets the idea to divide responsibility for the bank between Gino and the other three brothers, so that nothing definite can be pinned on any of them. Joe bitterly complains that Gino has always treated him as a servant and refuses. Pietro, upset that Gino has always called him "dumbhead," and Tony, who does not want to stick his neck out, go along with Joe. Gino berates them and agrees with Max that he has a "house of strangers," not sons. In court, Max represents Gino, who loses his temper when the prosecutor calls him a "lecherous moneylender and a disgrace to decent Italian Americans." Later, Max gives Joe an envelope filled with money to bribe the one seemingly sympathetic juror, but Joe refuses. Afterwards, Irene tells Max that she does not love Danny and used him because she was hurt. Max kisses her and she drives him to the juror's apartment in a run-down part of town. The juror is tempted by the bribe, as she is a widow with children, but she ultimately refuses the envelope. As he walks out the door, Max is placed under arrest by police for attempted bribery. At the bank, Gino learns that his wife, to whom he signed the bank over for protection, has herself signed it over to the three brothers. When Joe laughs at him in derision, Gino tries to choke him, but Pietro pulls him off. Swearing a vendetta, Gino visits Max in prison and tells him that Joe informed the police about the bribe and that Tony now plans to marry Maria. Max then reluctantly agrees to Gino's pleas that he take revenge upon his brothers. When Gino dies in 1934, Max is given a pass to visit the house, where the family surrounds Gino's body as it lies in state. Under Gino's portrait, Max stares intently at Joe, then bites his thumb, the sign of the vendetta. Theresa rebukes him, saying she now has no husband or family, and in Italian orders him to go. His reminiscences ended, Max converses with Gino's portrait and suggests a way to get back at his brothers: he could entice Maria, who has married Tony, to leave him and take their child with her, then create a scandal at the bank so that Joe would be indicted. Joe's wife would then leave him and Pietro would be lost. Max decides, however, that Joe can have the bank, Tony can have Maria, and Pietro, his job, as Max now has Irene. Max calls Irene as she is preparing to go to the airport, and she cries when he asks her to pick him up so they can go together. The brothers then arrive and Joe says he does not want to live with the worry that Max will take revenge on their families or the business. On Joe's orders, Pietro brutally beats Max until Tony says to stop. Joe then has Pietro carry Max upstairs, saying he learned from Gino to finish off the other guy while he is down. When Joe orders him to throw Max off the balcony, however, Pietro hesitates. Joe repeatedly calls Pietro "dumbhead," until Pietro puts Max down and chokes Joe. Max convinces him not to force Joe over the side by saying that he will be doing what Gino wants if he kills Joe. Irene soon arrives, and Max, smiling, gets into her convertible and they drive off. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
  William Eckhardt (Asst dir)
  Tito Vuolo (Dial dir)
Producer: Sol C. Siegel (Prod)
  Darryl F. Zanuck (Exec prod)
Writer: Philip Yordan (Scr)
  Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Wrt of retakes)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
  Paul Lockwood (Cam op)
  J. V. Brown (Gaffer)
  Jerry Milligan (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George W. Davis (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harmon Jones (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof (Mus)
  Maurice de Packh (Orch)
Sound: W. D. Flick (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
  Dick Smith (Makeup)
  Irene Brooks (Hairstylist)
  Stephanie Garland (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Sid Bowen (Prod mgr)
  R. L. Hough (Prod mgr)
  Mushy Callahan (Tech adv)
  Weslie Jones (Scr supv)
  Logan Brown (Grip)
Stand In: Fred Lambert (Double)
Country: United States

Music: Overture from the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia , music by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini.
Songs: "Largo al factotum" from the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia , music by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini, libretto by Cesare Sterbini; "M'Appari" from the opera Martha, oder Der Markt von Richmond , music by Friedrich von Flotow, libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese; "La donna รจ mobile" from the opera Rigoletto , music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave; "Can't We Talk It Over," music by Victor Young, lyrics by Ned Washington; "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," music and lyrics by Sidney Clare, Sam H. Stept and Bee Palmer; "Was That the Human Thing to Do," music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Joe Young.
Composer: Sidney Clare
  Sammy Fain
  Friedrich von Flotow
  Bee Palmer
  Francesco Maria Piave
  Friedrich Wilhelm Reese
  Gioacchino Rossini
  Sam H. Stept
  Cesare Sterbini
  Giuseppe Verdi
  Ned Washington
  Joe Young
  Victor Young
Source Text: Based on the novel I'll Never Go There Any More by Jerome Weidman (New York, 1941).
Authors: Jerome Weidman

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 30/6/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2467

PCA NO: 13652
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Domestic
Subjects (Major): Bankers
  Fathers and sons
  Italian Americans
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Bank failures
  Class distinction
  Death and dying
  New York City--East Side
  Portraits (Paintings)

Note: The working title of this film was East Side Story . A 4 Nov 1941 HR news item announced that Warner Bros. had acquired the screen rights to the film, but a week later, it was stated that the rights were still available and that three companies were bidding for them. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Siegel took out a three-month option for Weidman's novel in Sep 1947. Jerome Cady prepared a story outline for Siegel in Oct 1947, but it is doubtful that he contributed to the finished film. Various Aug 1948 news items announced that Victor Mature was to star in the film. According to a modern source, Siegel had screenwriter Philip Yordan expand the role of "Max," the lawyer son, who was only involved in a small portion of Weidman's novel. Modern sources state that director Joseph Mankiewicz rewrote all of Yordan's dialogue, but this has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, the screen titles were to credit Yordan with the original story and both Yordan and Mankiewicz with the screenplay, but Mankiewicz objected and ultimately was not listed in the credits for any writing duties.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the first screenplay submitted was deemed "unacceptable" because of the "illicit sex relation between the two leads, Irene and Max." Correspondence relates that the script was altered to indicate that "Irene" and "Danny" were not actually married. Concerned about the depiction of Italian Americans in the screenplay, PCA Director Joseph I. Breen wrote the following in a letter on the subject to MPAA head Eric Johnston on 8 Dec 1948: "In view of the great number of protests which, I understand, you are receiving at the present time, against the alleged unfavorable portrayals of Italians and Italian-Americans in motion pictures, I desire to direct your particular attention to a script which has been received from the Twentieth Century-Fox Corporation, carrying the title, "East Side Story." This is a low-pitched story of a family of Italian-Americans, residing in what is, suggestively, the east side district of New York City....Almost all the characters in the story are either Italians or Italian-Americans, who, when they are not characterized as definitely reprehensible people, are, at least, unsympathetic....With regard to the general overall unfavorable portrayal of the Italian-Americans, it is our thought that we have no way under the Code to correct this. It occurs to us that this picture, because of these Italian characteristics, may suggest a question of industry policy and, in accordance with our long-established procedure, we are referring this question to you." No information concerning any change in industry policy regarding the depiction of Italians or Italian Americans has been found.
       In Mar 1949, Twentieth Century-Fox music director Alfred Newman secured permission from opera singer Lawrence Tibbett for background use of a recording he made of the aria "Largo al Factotum" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia ( The Barber of Seville ) for the 1935 Twentieth Century-Fox film Metropolitan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2843). Tibbett agreed in exchange for the right to use the Metropolitan soundtrack for a radio series he was planning. Tibbett wrote, "If the soundtrack is properly used in your picture I would want and expect due credit and billing since these are among my finest recordings." The studio agreed and Tibbett was given appropriate screen credit.
       Publicity for the film stated that a number of supporting players came from the New York Italian theater, and commented, "The picture continued the trend toward the use of foreign language dialogue on the screen, if the part and situation call for it. At one time, Hollywood carefully deleted all phrases from the script that were not in English but The Razor's Edge broke away from the convention by permitting its French characters to speak French." Scenes were shot at a number of Manhattan locations, including the Second Avenue Baths and others in Little Italy. The Ocean Park Arena in Ocean Park, CA was used for the boxing scenes. Mushy Callahan, a former welterweight champion, played the referee in the film and trained Paul Valentine, who played "Pietro Monetti," and Susan Hayward, who in her role of "Irene" had to hit Richard Conte. Tommy Garland, who played "Pietro's" opponent in the ring, was a Los Angeles heavyweight boxer. Albert Morin played the role of "Vittoro," a man to whom "Gino" loaned money at a large rate of interest, but his appearane was cut from the final film. Edward G. Robinson was awarded the Best Actor award when the film was exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival.
       According to a modern source, production head Darryl F. Zanuck wanted the family in the film to parallel the founders of the Bank of America, the Giannini family. The Gianninis objected, as did Twentieth Century-Fox's president, Spyros P. Skouras, who thought that his own family was the source of the "Monettis." Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio version of the film on 16 Oct 1950, starring Richard Conte, Anne Baxter and Hazel Shaw. A radio version was also broadcast by the Screen Guild Players on 25 Jan 1951, starring Victor Mature, Edward G. Robinson and June Havoc. In 1954, Twentieth Century-Fox based the film Broken Lance on Yordan's screenplay, without crediting Weidman. That film was directed by Edward Dmytryk and starred Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner (see above). A television version, entitled "The Last Patriarch," was broadcast on the 20th Century Fox Hour on 30 Nov 1956. It starred Walter Slezak, John Cassavetes and Vince Edwards. The 1961 Twentieth Century-Fox production The Big Show , directed by James B. Clark and starring Esther Williams, Cliff Robertson and Nehemiah Persoff, is said by modern sources to be based on the same novel. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   18 Jun 1949.   
Cue   2 Jul 1949.   
Daily Variety   15 Jun 49   p. 3.
Down Beat   27 Jan 50   p. 8.
The Exhibitor   22 Jun 49   p. 2640.
Film Daily   16 Jun 49   p. 7.
Harrison's Reports   18 Jun 49   p. 98.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 1941.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 1941.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 Aug 1948.   
Hollywood Reporter   17 Dec 1948.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 1949.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 49   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   2 Dec 1948.   
Los Angeles Times   1 Jul 1949.   
Motion Picture Daily   15 Jun 49   1, 16
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Jun 49   p. 4649.
Newsweek   1 Aug 1949.   
New Yorker   16 Jul 1949.   
New York Times   9 Aug 48   p. 11.
New York Times   2 Jul 49   p. 8.
Time   18 Jul 1949.   
Variety   15 Jun 49   p. 13.

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