AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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House by the River
Alternate Title: Floodtide
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Mar 1950
Production Date:   early Jun--early Jul 1949
Duration (in mins):   88
Duration (in feet):   7,930
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Cast:   Louis Hayward (Stephen Byrne)  
    Jane Wyatt (Marjorie Byrne)  
    Lee Bowman (John Byrne)  
    Dorothy Patrick (Emily Gaunt)  
    Ann Shoemaker (Mrs. Ambrose)  
    Jody Gilbert (Flora Bantam)  
    Peter Brocco (Coroner)  
    Howland Chamberlin (District Attorney)  
    Margaret Seddon (Mrs. Whittaker)  
    Sarah Padden (Mrs. Beach)  
    Kathleen Freeman (Effie Ferguson)  
    Will Wright (Inspector Sarten)  
    Leslie Kimmell (Mr. Gaunt)  
    Effie Laird (Mrs. Gaunt)  
    George Taylor (Court clerk)  
    Alex Gerry (Mr. Miller)  
    Watson Downs (Older man)  
    Frank Dae (Col. Davis)  
    Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (Office boy)  
    William Fawcett (Elmer)  
    Candy McDowell (Girl)  
    Judy Sochor (Girl)  
    Edgar Caldwell (Square dancer)  
    Ethel Greenwood (Square dancer)  
    Edythe Elliott    
    Frank Jacquet    
    Edward Clark    

Summary: In the 1890s, in the back garden of his elegant Victorian house on the banks of a river, unsuccessful novelist Stephen Byrne struggles with his latest manuscript. When the maid, Emily Gaunt, asks Stephen for permission to use the upstairs bath, he blithely agrees as his wife Marjorie has gone out. Emily finishes her bath, borrows one of Marjorie's bathrobes and begins down the dark stairwell. From his place in the shadows, Stephen suddenly emerges and begins kissing Emily. When Emily begins to scream, Stephen notices that his gossipy neighbor, Mrs. Ambrose, has wandered close to the front door. Fearing a scandal, Stephen grabs Emily's throat to prevent her from screaming, but strangles her instead. A few minutes later, Stephen's lame brother John arrives, and Stephen begs him for help. Together, they wrap the body in an old wood sack and dump it into the flood-prone river. That evening, at a party hosted by socialite Mrs. Whittaker, John watches with disgust as Stephen amuses the guests with his drunken merriment. By the time Stephen and Marjorie, who is pregnant, return from the party, their housekeeper, Mrs. Beach, has already informed the police of Emily's disappearance. To create suspicion against Emily, Stephen hides a pair of Marjorie's earrings and she later reports them missing. Weeks later, John's housekeeper, Flora Bantam, repeats the rumor that Emily stole the earrings before quitting and leaving town. In town, John sees a display in a bookstore window featuring Stephen's new novel, Night Laughter , a thinly veiled account of Emily's murder. Later, Mrs. Bantam phones John at the office and asks him to retrieve the wood sack that he lent to Stephen. Realizing that she is referring to the sack in which they wrapped Emily's body, John gives her an excuse. Then Mrs. Bantam tells John that before he lent the sack to Stephen, she had his name stenciled on it. Sometime later, after Mrs. Ambrose spots the sack floating in the river, Stephen frantically boards his rowboat and chases after it. The sack floats away, however, and the next day, when police inspector Sarten visits his house holding the sack in his hand, Stephen tells him that it was stolen from his shed. When the case goes to court, Marjorie testifies that around the time of Emily's disappearance, she noticed that a pair of earrings had been taken. The next witness, Mrs. Bantam, testifies that after Emily's disappearance, John became so irritable that she was forced to leave his employment. Later, because of the evidence mounting against him, Marjorie fears that John may try to commit suicide. She begs Stephen to speak with him, and the brothers meet at the boat launch. There, Stephen tells John that the notoriety of Emily's murder has turned his novel into a bestseller. Fearing that his brother will reveal their secret, Stephen beats John with a section of heavy chain link, dumps his unconscious body into the river and returns home to begin work on Death in the River . When Stephen calmly tells Marjorie that he was unable to prevent John's suicide, she realizes that her own life is in danger. Just then, John arrives, still dripping water from the river, and Stephen believes that he is seeing John's ghost. Stephen is so terrified that he becomes tangled in a heavy curtain at the top of the stairs and falls to his death below. 

Production Company: Fidelity Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Republic Pictures Corp.  
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
  John Grubbs (Asst dir)
Producer: Howard Welsch (Prod)
  Robert Peters (Assoc prod)
Writer: Mel Dinelli (Scr)
Photography: Edward Cronjager (Dir of photog)
  Henry Cronjager (Cam op)
  Sid Swaney (Gaffer)
  Tad Gillum (Stills)
Art Direction: Boris Leven (Art dir)
Film Editor: Arthur D. Hilton (Film ed)
  Arthur Roberts (Film ed)
Set Decoration: John McCarthy Jr. (Set dec)
  Charles Thompson (Set dec)
Costumes: Adele Palmer (Cost des)
Music: George Antheil (Mus)
  R. Dale Butts (Orch)
Sound: Dick Tyler (Sd)
  Howard Wilson (Sd)
Special Effects: Howard Lydecker (Spec eff)
  Theodore Lydecker (Spec eff)
  Consolidated Film Industries (Opt eff)
Make Up: Bob Mark (Makeup supv)
  Howard Smit (Makeup)
  Peggy Gray (Hairstylist)
  Louise Landmeir (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Joe Dill (Prod mgr)
  Dorothy Yutzi (Scr supv)
  Nels Mathias (Grip)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel The House by the River by A. P. Herbert (New York, 1921).
Authors: A. P. Herbert

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Republic Pictures Corp. 23/5/1950 dd/mm/yyyy LP13 Yes

PCA NO: 14101
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Film noir
 
Subjects (Major): Brothers
  Murder
  Novelists
 
Subjects (Minor): Baths and showers
  Boats
  Booksellers and bookselling
  Corpses
  Curtains
  Drunkenness
  Earrings
  Gardens
  Gossip
  Handicapped
  Housekeepers
  Kisses
  Maids
  Manuscripts
  Marriage
  Missing persons
  Neighbors
  Parties
  Police inspectors
  Pregnancy
  Rivers
  Socialites
  Strangling
  Suicide
  United States--History--Social life and customs
  Witnesses

Note: The working title of this film was Floodtide . Although Arthur Hilton is credited onscreen as editor, HR production charts list Arthur Roberts as the editor. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   1 Apr 1950.   
Daily Variety   24 Mar 50   p. 56.
Film Daily   4 Apr 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 1949.   
Hollywood Reporter   24 Mar 50   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   1 Apr 50   p. 246.
New York Times   2 May 50   p. 25.
Variety   29 Mar 50   p. 11.

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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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