AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Nana
Director: Dorothy Arzner (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Feb 1934
Production Date:   mid-Aug--21 Nov 1933
Duration (in mins):   87-88
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Anna Sten (Nana)  
    Lionel Atwill (Col. André Muffat)  
    Richard Bennett (Gaston Greiner)  
    Phillips Holmes (Lt. George Muffat)  
    Mae Clark (Satin)  
    Muriel Kirkland (Mimi)  
    Reginald Owen (Bordenave)  
    Helen Freeman (Sabine Muffat)  
    Lawrence Grant (Grand Duke Alexis)  
    Jessie Ralph (Zoe)  
    Ferdinand Gottschalk (Finot)  
    Eily Malyon (Nana's employer)  
    Hardie Albright (Lt. Gregory)  
    Branch Stevens (Leon)  
    Barry Norton (Louis)  
    Lauri Beatty (Estelle)  

Summary: In 1868 Paris, Nana, a girl of the streets, buries her mother, vowing that she will never accept her mother's legacy of poverty and powerlessness. A year later, Nana is at a cafe with her friends, Mimi and Satin, when Lt. Gregory, a drunken soldier, accosts her. Nana pushes Gregory into a pond, thereby attracting the attention of elderly music hall impressario Gaston Greiner. Greiner is charmed by Nana, and decides to make her a star, declaring that "he is the potter and she is the clay." In her first performance, Nana creates a sensation by singing "That's Love" to the Grand Duke Alexis. The duke, accompanied by his friend, Col. André Muffat, visits Nana backstage and invites her to join them for dinner. André is disdainful of Nana however, and resists her charms. As Nana goes to inform the jealous Greiner of her dinner plans, she runs into Lt. George Muffat, André's brother and Lt. Gregory's friend, who has ventured backstage to settle a bet to determine if Nana was the girl who pushed him into the pond. George and Nana promise to meet another night, and as Nana leaves the theater with the Duke, she meets Satin and Mimi at the stage door and invites them to dinner. Although Nana begins to see both the duke and George, she becomes Greiner's mistress, assuaging his jealousy with protestations of innocence. That summer, when the Muffat family visits their estate in the country, Nana takes up residence in Greiner's nearby country house so that she can continue her affair with George. When André discovers his brother's affair, George announces that he plans to marry Nana and André orders him back to Paris to report to his commanding officer. André then tries to bribe Nana to forsake George, but she refuses and denounces him. Next, André visits Greiner to inform him of Nana's affair, and Greiner, in a jealous rage, tells Nana she will never perform onstage again. George is sent to Algeria, but promises to write Nana. Months pass, and Nana, lonely and unemployed, waits for letters from him, but they never come. Mimi and Zoe, Greiner's old housekeeper, have been intercepting George's letters and ripping up Nana's to him in the hope of forcing her back to the theater. One day, André visits Nana and offers to help her return to the stage. Nana reluctantly accepts and makes a triumphant return to the theater. André falls in love with her and leaves his wife, Sabine, to make Nana his mistress. Nana, who still loves George, detests André, and in her misery, turns to drink. On the night that war is declared between France and Prussia, George returns to Paris and bursts into Nana's apartment, where he confronts her about failing to write him. When Nana protests that she has written, George calls her a liar but confesses that he still loves her, not realizing that she is now his brother's mistress. André then returns home and George assumes that he has followed him to the apartment until André informs him that Nana is his mistress. As the brothers argue, Nana shoots herself, then reunites them by joining their hands as she dies. 

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Dorothy Arzner (Dir)
  Willard Mack (Dial dir)
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn (Pres)
  Samuel Goldwyn (Prod)
  Arthur Hornblow Jr. (Exec prod)
Writer: Willard Mack (Scr adpt)
  Harry Wagstaff Gribble (Scr adpt)
Photography: Gregg Toland (Photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
Film Editor: Frank Lawrence (Film ed)
Costumes: Adrian (Ward)
  Travis Banton (Ward)
  John W. Harkrider (Ward)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus score)
Sound: Frank Maher (Sd rec)
Country: United States

Songs: "That's Love," music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart.
Composer: Lorenz Hart
  Richard Rodgers
Source Text: Suggested by the novel Nana by Émile Zola (Paris, 1880).
Authors: Émile Zola

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Samuel Goldwyn 7/5/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4719 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  Lenses/Prints: Dupont.

 
Genre: Melodrama
 
Subjects (Major): Jealousy
  Mistresses
  Nobility
  Paris (France)
  Suicide
 
Subjects (Minor): Cafés
  Franco-Prussian War, 1870--1871
  Friendship
  Jewelry
  Letters
  Love affairs
  Ponds

Note: According to a news item in HH in May 1933, Nathanael West had been signed to work on the screenplay for Nana . HR news items in Aug 1933, during the film's production, noted that Marion Orth was to collaborate on the script, and that writers Allen Rivkin and P. J. Wolfson were borrowed from M-G-M to work on the picture. An MPH article on the film also noted that producer Samuel Goldwyn hired writers Edwin Justus Mayer and Leo Birinski to work on the script when George Fitzmaurice was to be the director. None of these writers were credited onscreen, in reviews or in the SAB , and the extent of their participation in the released film has not been determined. Another Aug 1933 news item in HR noted that Harry Wagstaff Gribble was to drop his writing job for the picture and become the director of dialogue. Onscreen, however, Gribble is only credited with screenplay adaptation, and Willard Mack is listed as dialogue director.
       Nana was director Dorothy Arzner's only film for Samuel Goldwyn, and marked the American motion picture debut of Russian-born actress Anna Sten. A number of articles appeared in trade papers and popular magazines about Sten prior to her appearance in Nana . Modern sources have noted that Goldwyn was determined to find a popular European star in the mold of Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich. Previously, Sten had been announced as the lead in Barbary Coast , which was released in 1935, but had initially been planned for production prior to Nana . Sten made two additional films for Goldwyn, We Live Again in 1934 and The Wedding Night in 1935. Modern sources indicate that her lack of popularity with American audiences finally made Goldwyn realize that she would never become the new Garbo or Dietrich, and he terminated her contract. After leaving Goldwyn, Sten appeared sporadically in films until the early 1960s.
       News items in FD and HR indicate that actor Warren William was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the role of Andre Muffat, which eventually went to Lionel Atwill, and that the services of composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were borrowed from M-G-M. Other news items and production charts note that actress Pert Kelton was borrowed from RKO for the role of "Satin," but after several weeks of filming she was replaced by Mae Clark and much of the film shot prior to Kelton's departure was scrapped. A 9 Sep 1933 article in HR said that there was "some talk around that Pert was in danger of pulling a picture-stealing act." HR news item include Moffat Johnson and Byron von Brecht in the cast, however, their participation in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in Aug 1931, Josef von Sternberg considered doing a version of Nana with Dietrich, and early in 1932 Universal was investigating the possibility of doing an adaptation of the novel, which was in the public domain. The Goldwyn production met with no serious opposition from the Hays Office. Changes suggested by the office were minimal and confined to nuances in certain lines of dialogue. On 23 Aug 1933, James Wingate of the Hays Office praised the adaptation for turning the nature of Nana and George Muffat's relationship into genuine love. The picture was approved without eliminations in most territories, although censors in Spokane, WA tried to ban the picture according to a 4 Apr 1934 DV news item because "Sten should have suffered more for her wrongdoing." A news item in HR on 6 Jun 1934 noted that Goldwyn was taking a heavy loss on the film because audiences were not enthusiastic about it. Modern sources include Lucille Ball, Clarence Wilson, Albert Conti, Gino Corrado, Bramwell Fletcher, Wilson Benge, Tom Ricketts and Charles Middleton in the cast. Other filmed adaptations of Émile Zola's novel include a 1912 Danish version, a 1923 German version, a French/Italian version in 1955 and a British made-for-television version in 1974. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   21 Nov 33   p. 11.
Daily Variety   28 Dec 33   p. 3.
Daily Variety   4 Apr 34   p. 1.
Film Daily   20 Jun 33   p. 3
Film Daily   2 Feb 34   p. 8.
HH   18 May 33   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jun 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jun 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Aug 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Aug 33   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Aug 33   p. 2, 7
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 33   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Sep 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Sep 33   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Jan 34   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 34   p. 1.
Motion Picture Daily   5 Jan 34   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   13 Jan 34   p. 38.
New York Times   2 Feb 34   p. 3.
Variety   6 Feb 34   p. 6.

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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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