AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Lydia
Alternate Title: Illusions
Director: Julien Duvivier (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Sep 1941
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 18 Sep 1941
Production Date:   14-Apr--mid-Jun 1941 at General Service Studios and Samuel Goldwyn Studios; retakes mid-Aug 1941
Duration (in mins):   103-104
Duration (in feet):   8,864
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Cast:   Merle Oberon (Lydia Macmillan)  
    Edna May Oliver (Granny)  
    Alan Marshal (Richard [Mason])  
    Joseph Cotten (Michael [Fitzpatrick])  
    Hans Yaray (Frank [Audry])  
    George Reeves (Bob [Willard])  
    John Halliday (Butler [James Fitzpatrick])  
    Sara Allgood (Johnny's mother)  
    Billy Roy (Johnny)  
    Frank Conlan (Old Ned)  

Summary: After attending the dedication of the children's home she has endowed, elderly philanthropist Lydia Macmillan receives a visit from Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, a former suitor whom she has not seen in nearly forty years. Lydia and Michael reminisce about the past, recalling the three other loves of Lydia's youth: college football star Bob Willard, musician Frank Audry, and Richard Mason, a seafaring adventurer. Agreeing to put their differences behind them, Lydia accepts Michael's invitation to tea, and when she arrives at his apartment a few days later, she is shocked, then delighted, to find Bob and Frank waiting for her with Michael. As they catch up on one another's lives, the conversation turns to Lydia's rejection of their marriage proposals. When asked why she refused to marry, Lydia cryptically responds that she truly loved only one man, Richard Mason. In answer to the men's queries, Lydia agrees to delve into her past to help the disappointed suitors understand her motivations and desires, beginning with the day in 1897 when she first met Michael: Lydia was reared in Boston by her wealthy grandmother, a crusty, but kind, dowager suffering from a severe case of hypochondria. While preparing for her first charity ball, the vivacious and stubborn young Lydia argues with her grandmother over her revealing ball gown, but the conflict is interrupted when the butler, James Fitzpatrick, proudly ushers in his handsome son Michael, who has just graduated from medical school. Michael's warmth and professionalism charm Granny, who immediately hires him on as the family physician, while Lydia talks him into buying a ticket to the ball. At the dance, the smitten Michael is disappointed to discover that Lydia's heart belongs to Yale football hero Bob Willard. Later, Lydia brings Bob home to meet Granny, but Granny disapproves of his drunken and foolish behavior and orders Lydia to stop seeing him. Lydia makes plans to elope with Bob to the nearby hamlet of Quincy and goes to Michael for help with carrying out the scheme, but Michael instead arranges for the justice of the peace to be called away that evening. Their plans disrupted, Bob and Lydia return to Boston to eat the wedding dinner Bob has ordered for them at a local hotel. After Bob drinks too much champagne and makes a pass at her, Lydia, sobbing, flees the hotel and refuses to see Bob again. In the present, Bob, now a nightclub owner, declares to the others with great shame that he has been repenting his actions for the last forty years, but Lydia reminds him that they were both equally foolish. Next, Lydia remembers the day when, shortly after the declaration of the Spanish American War, she accompanied Michael, who had enlisted, to the docks to bid him farewell. As the ship pulled out, Richard Mason, who had offered Lydia assistance on the night she left Bob, waved to her, but Lydia did not yet know the handsome stranger's name. When Michael asks if Richard was the man who changed Lydia's life, Lydia replies that it was not Richard, but Johnny, a blind boy she met that day, who determined the course of her future: After seeing the poverty and degradation in which Johnny lives, Lydia establishes a school for blind children. Hearing of her success with the children, the famous concert pianist Frank Audry, who unknown to the public is almost completely blind, arrives at the school to offer his services as a music teacher. Frank falls in love with Lydia, and Michael returns safely from the war, but Lydia nonetheless announces her intention to remain single so that she can devote herself to her work. However, Lydia changes her mind after she finally meets Richard and dances with him at a ball. At this point, Lydia breaks off her story, but at the men's urging she agrees to continue, expressing her desire to confess her "sin": Telling Granny that she must travel to New York on business, Lydia leaves Boston with Richard and heads for Macmillansport, the desolate and windswept ancestral home of the Macmillan family. After two passion-filled weeks together, Richard departs, leaving behind a note stating that he must settle another woman's "claim" on him and promising to return to marry Lydia. As Lydia is about to give up hope, she receives a ring from Richard and a note asking her to meet him in a Boston church on New Year's Eve for a midnight wedding. Lydia waits alone for hours in her wedding gown, but Richard never arrives. As the months pass, Lydia remains haunted by the memory of Richard, but keeps the love affair a secret. Frank, realizing that Lydia will never be his wife, leaves the school to pursue a career as a composer. Although Michael senses that Lydia loves another, he proposes marriage, and Lydia, craving stability, accepts. However, their happiness proves fleeting when Granny, in the act of toasting the couple, suffers a seizure and dies. Devastated, Lydia goes to Macmillansport in an attempt to free herself of her desperate love for Richard. Unsuccessful, she breaks off her engagement to Michael and spends the next forty years working with the blind. As Lydia ends her story, Michael's butler announces the arrival of Capt. Richard Mason. Lydia is overcome with emotion, but it soon becomes apparent that Richard neither recognizes nor remembers her. Lydia declares to Michael that the crumbling of her illusions about her love affair with Richard represent the "perfect punishment," and she sadly remarks that none of the four men ever really knew her. When Michael asks who the real Lydia was, Lydia responds that there never existed any one true Lydia. Rather, like all women, she was a mass of contradictions, representing different things to different people. 

Production Company: Alexander Korda Films, Inc.  
Production Text: A Julien Duvivier Film
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Julien Duvivier (Dir)
  Horace Hough (Asst dir)
Producer: Alexander Korda (Prod)
  Lee Garmes (Assoc prod)
Writer: Julien Duvivier (Orig story)
  L. Bush-Fekete (Orig story)
  Ben Hecht (Scr and dial)
  Samuel Hoffenstein (Scr and dial)
Photography: Lee Garmes (Dir of photog)
  George Barnes (Photog)
Art Direction: Vincent Korda (Prod des)
  Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Hornbeck (Supv film ed)
Set Decoration: Julie Heron (Int dec)
Costumes: Marcel Vertes (Cost des)
  Walter Plunkett (Cost des)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus)
Sound: William H. Wilmarth (Sd)
Special Effects: Lawrence Butler (Spec eff)
Make Up: The House of Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Walter Mayo (Prod mgr)
  Commander Jack Bolton (Tech adv)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Alexander Korda Films, Inc. 12/9/1941 dd/mm/yyyy LP10690

PCA NO: 7289
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound Recording

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Love affairs
  Self-sacrifice
  Reunions
  Unrequited love
 
Subjects (Minor): Balls (Parties)
  Blindness
  Boston (MA)
  Butlers
  Cads
  Children
  Child welfare
  Dowagers
  Drunkenness
  Education
  Engagements
  Football players
  Grandmothers
  High society
  Nightclub owners
  Philanthropists
  Physicians
  Pianists
  Sailors
  Spanish-American War, 1898

Note: The working title of this film was Illusions . Lee Garmes's onscreen credit reads: "Associate Producer and Director of Photography." According to a HR news item dated 16 Apr 1941, Lydia had a budget of over $1,000,000. HR news items published during production add Gertrude Hoffman, Paul Everton, Robert Greig and Tyler Brooke to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Correspondence dated 9 Jul 1941 and contained in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that PCA officials refused to approve the original script because Lydia did not suffer enough for her actions. According to a Var article dated 30 Jul 1941, the ending of Lydia was changed in order to comply with the Hays Office demand of "moral compensation" for Lydia's wrongdoing. Producer Alexander Korda was quoted as claiming that the new ending suggested by PCA officials, in which Richard fails to recognize Lydia, was an improvement over the original.
       Although a HR news item dated 10 Apr 1941 reported that Lydia marked French director Julien Duvivier's American directorial debut, he had previously directed M-G-M's The Great Waltz in 1938 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1727), and returned to the United States again after the German invasion of France. Reviewers noted similarities between Lydia and Duvivier's 1937 film Un carnet de bal (released in the U.S. as Dance of Life ), both of which feature an older woman looking back on the suitors of her youth. Bosley Crowther of NYT , in a review dated 19 Sep 1941, compared the film unfavorably to its predecessor, stating that it only "faintly parallel[ed]" the earlier film. Miklos Rozsa received an Academy Award nomination in the Music (Music Score of a Dramatic Picture) category. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Sep 41   p. 425.
Box Office   23 Aug 1941.   
Daily Variety   21 Aug 1941.   
Film Daily   21 Aug 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Apr 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 41   p. 3, 9
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 41   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Apr 41   p. 4, 12
Hollywood Reporter   9 May 41   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 1941.   
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 41   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   23 Aug 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald   23 Aug 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   13 Sep 41   p. 262.
New York Times   19 Sep 41   p. 27.
Variety   30 Jul 1941.   
Variety   20 Aug 41   p. 9.

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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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