AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Thirteen Women
Director: George Archainbaud (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Sep 1932
Duration (in mins):   73-74
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Irene Dunne (Laura Stanhope)  
    Ricardo Cortez (Sergeant Clive)  
    Jill Esmond (Jo)  
    Myrna Loy (Ursula Georgi)  
    Mary Duncan (June Raskob)  
    Kay Johnson (Helen Frye)  
    Florence Eldridge (Grace Coombs)  
    C. Henry Gordon (Swami Yogadachi)  
    Peg Entwistle (Hazel Cousins)  
    Harriet Hagman (May Raskob)  
    Edward Pawley (Burns)  
    Blanche Friderici (Teacher)  
    Wally Albright (Bobby Stanhope)  
    Julie Haydon (Mary)  
    Elsie Prescott (Nan)  
    Marjorie Gateson (Martha)  
    Lloyd Ingraham (Inspector)  
    Edward Le Saint (Police Chief)  
    Kenneth Thomson    
    Leon Waycoff    
    Clarence Geldert    
    Violet Seaton    

Summary: After trapeze artist June Raskob receives a letter from Swami Yogodachi in which he predicts that her sister May will soon die, she becomes so obsessed with fear that she allows May to fall to her death during their circus act. Later, Hazel Cousins, a friend of the now insane June and a fellow member of the exclusive St. Albans Seminary alumnae group, who also has received a horoscope, murders her husband just as the Swami had foretold. When another sorority member, Helen Frye, receives a letter in New York warning her that she will commit suicide before Christmas, she contacts group leader Laura Stanhope, who suggests that the remaining women reunite at her home in Beverly Hills. On the train there, Helen meets Ursula Georgi, a half-Indian mystic and St. Albans alumna. Ursula, who had worked for the Swami and had used her considerable hypnotic powers to control and then murder him in order to further her revenge against the group, which had ostracized her at school because of her race, subtly influences Helen to shoot herself that night. At the news of Helen's death, the normally calm Laura begins to fret about her own horoscope, which states that her young son Bobby will meet with a terrible accident on his upcoming birthday. Laura's fears become concrete when she discovers in the nick of time that candy that was sent anonymously to Bobby is poisoned, and she seeks the aid of police detective Sergeant Clive. After Clive connects Ursula to the Swami and the prior incidents, he sets a trap for her on a train to New York on which he has planted Laura. On the train, Laura almost falls victim to Ursula's hypnosis but is saved by Clive. Trapped by the police, Ursula throws herself from the caboose, thereby fulfilling the Swami's last prediction about her own death. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: George Archainbaud (Dir)
  Tommy Atkins (Asst dir)
  Doran Cox (2nd asst dir)
Producer: David O. Selznick (Exec prod)
Writer: Bartlett Cormack (Scr)
  Samuel Ornitz (Scr)
Photography: Leo Tover (Photog)
Art Direction: Carroll Clark (Art dir)
Film Editor: Charles L. Kimball (Film ed)
Music: Max Steiner (Mus)
Sound: Hugh McDowell Jr. (Rec)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Thirteen Women by Tiffany Thayer (New York, 1932).
Authors: Tiffany Thayer

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
RKO-Radio Pictures, Inc. 1/10/1932 dd/mm/yyyy LP3298 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Photophone System

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): East Indians
  Hypnotism
  Murder
  Predictions
  Revenge
  Racism
  Astrology
 
Subjects (Minor): Aerialists
  Beverly Hills (CA)
  Circuses
  Falls from heights
  Half-castes
  Letters
  Mothers and sons
  Mysticism
  New York City
  Poisoning
  Police detectives
  Suicide
  Trains
  Traps

Note: In a foreword, the film quotes a statement from Applied Psychology by "Professors Hollingsworth and Hoffenberger of Columbia University" about the power of suggestion. According to RKO inter-department memos, Myrna Loy replaced Zita Johann during the production. Because of Johann's firing and the fact that the script was being written and rewritten during shooting, the film went over budget. British actress Peg Entwistle, who played the role of "Hazel Cousins," committed suicide on 18 Sep 1932 by throwing herself off the "Hollywoodland" sign cliff, which is located in the Hollywood Hills. Contemporary reviewers commented on the fact that only ten women, not thirteen, were featured in the story. A comparison between onscreen and trade paper cast lists and modern source cast lists suggests that a few characters were edited out of the final film. Although modern sources include Phyllis Fraser, Betty Furness and Louis Natheaux in the cast, these actors were not seen in the viewed print. FD news items note that "more than a dozen famous circus acts," including Eddie DeComa, Buster Bartell, Clayton Behee, Eddie Viera and Teddy Mangean were signed to appear in the film. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add that Teddy Mangean was a wire walker, and the rest were trapeze artists. FD also adds James Donlan, Mitchell Harris, Allen Pomeroy and Oscar Smith to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, David Selznick delayed the release of the film in order to capitalize on the expected success of Irene Dunne in Universal's 1932 production Back Street . Modern sources add the following cast members: Audrey Scott and Aloha Porter ( Equestriennes ), Cliff Herbert ( Circus act ) and Lee Phelps ( Conductor ). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   8 Jul 32   p. 21.
Film Daily   28 Jul 32   p. 7.
Film Daily   1 Aug 32   p. 6.
Film Daily   15 Oct 32   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Aug 32   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   3 Sep 32   p. 42.
New York Times   15 Oct 32   p. 13.
Variety   18 Oct 32   p. 15.

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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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