AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Age of Innocence
Director: Philip Moeller (Dir)
Release Date:   14 Sep 1934
Production Date:   mid-Jun--16 Jul 1934
Duration (in mins):   71 or 81-82
Duration (in reels):   9
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Irene Dunne (Ellen [Countess Olenska])  
    John Boles (Newland Archer)  
    Lionel Atwill (Julius Beaufort)  
    Helen Westley (Granny [Manson] Mingott)  
    Laura Hope Crews (Mrs. [Augusta] Welland)  
    Julie Haydon (May Welland)  
    Herbert Yost (Mr. [Howard] Welland)  
    Theresa Maxwell Conover (Mrs. Archer)  
    Edith Van Cleve (Jane Archer)  
    Leonard Carey (The butler)  

Summary: When the illicit affair of his grandson Dallas makes headlines in the New York newspapers, lawyer Newland Archer relates to him the story of his own romantic past: At his 1875 engagement party, Newland is re-introduced to Ellen, a childhood friend and the cousin of his fiancĂ©e, May Welland. Because she has left her husband in Paris, Ellen, whose married title is Countess Olenska, is considered a social liability but is treated with respect and civility by Newland and his conservative family. When the liberal-minded Ellen, who has moved into a house in Greenwich Village, asks Newland to undertake divorce proceedings on her behalf, however, Newland convinces her that a divorce would ruin her reputation and would cause her family great grief. Although anxious to be free, Ellen listens to Newland's advice and drops her divorce action. However, after Newland sees how attentive Julius Beaufort, a notorious adulterer, is to Ellen, he changes his mind and recommends to her that she renew her divorce plans. Ellen resists Newland's suggestion, convinced that the tranquility of her family, in particular her grandmother, is more important than her own romantic happiness. Filled with doubt about his own upcoming marriage, Newland then visits May, who has been forced by her parents into a year-long engagement, in Florida. Although tempted to break with May, Newland instead reassures her about his feelings and returns to New York. At the urging of his mother, who senses his anxiety about Ellen, Newland soon leaves for a visit with family friends in the country. When Newland and Ellen run into each other there, they confess their mutual love but are surprised by the unexpected arrival of May and her parents, who have suddenly decided on a quick wedding. In spite of themselves, Newland and Ellen continue to see each other after the wedding and make plans to take the train together for a weekend in Washington, D.C. After Ellen leaves him waiting at the train station, Newland discovers that she has booked passage on a Europe-bound ship. Overwhelmed by Ellen's unexplained departure, Newland is about to ask May for a divorce when she reveals that she is pregnant and had told Ellen about her condition the previous day. Sobered by his approaching fatherhood, Newland embraces May and accepts the loss of Ellen. Back in the present, Newland, now a widower, concludes his story and is shocked when Dallas tells him that Ellen is waiting for him in a New York hotel. Newland, however, refuses to see her, wishing instead to remember their love "as it was." 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Pandro S. Berman Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Philip Moeller (Dir)
  Edward Killy (Asst dir)
  Jane Loring (Assoc dir)
Writer: Sarah Y. Mason (Scr)
  Victor Heerman (Scr)
Photography: James Van Trees (Photog)
  Louis Jennings (Cam op)
  James Van Trees, Jr. (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase (Art dir)
  Al Herman (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Hively (Ed)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost)
Music: Max Steiner (Mus dir)
Sound: John L. Cass (Rec)
Production Misc: John Miehle (Still photog)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (New York, 1920) and the play of the same name by Margaret Ayer Barnes (New York, 27 Nov 1928).
Authors: Margaret Ayer Barnes
  Edith Wharton

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 14/9/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4959

PCA NO: 140
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Victor System

 
Genre: Melodrama
  Melodrama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  Domestic
 
Subjects (Major): Cousins
  Infidelity
  Love
  Reputation
  Self-sacrifice
  United States--History--19th century
 
Subjects (Minor): Divorce
  Engagements
  Family relationships
  Florida
  Grandmothers
  Grandsons
  Lawyers
  New York City
  New York City--Greenwich Village
  Newspapers
  Nobility
  Ocean liners
  Parties
  Pregnancy
  Train stations

Note: Philip Moeller made his screen directing debut in the film, and Edith Van Cleve made her screen acting debut. RKO borrowed John Boles from Fox for the project. According to modern sources, photographer James Van Trees and his crew were borrowed from Twentieth Century. A HR news item states that RKO wanted Lowell Sherman to direct the film, but conflicting obligations at Universal prohibited him from accepting the job. According to a FD news item, Katharine Hepburn was considered for the part of "Ellen." HR production charts list Jane Murfin as a co-writer with Heerman. Her contribution to the final film has not been determined. In 1924, Wesley Ruggles directed Edith Roberts and Elliott Dexter in a silent Warner Bros. version of Edith Wharton's novel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0064). Edith Warton's novel also formed the basis for the 1993 Columbia film The Age of Innocence , directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   24 Aug 34   p. 3.
Film Daily   4 Jan 34   p. 11.
Film Daily   1 Sep 34   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jan 34   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jun 34   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jun 34   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jul 34   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Aug 34   p. 3.
International Photographer   1 Aug 34   p. 17.
Motion Picture Daily   25 Aug 34   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Jun 34   p. 39.
Motion Picture Herald   8 Sep 34   p. 39.
New York Times   19 Oct 34   p. 19.
Variety   23 Oct 34   p. 18.

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership
AFI honoring the masters

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.