John M. Stahl

T. it.: Vigilia d’amore; Sog.: dal racconto “A Modern Cinderella” di James M. Cain; Scen.: Dwight Taylor; F.: John J. Mescall; M.: Milton Carruth; Scgf.: Jack Otterson, Martin Obzina; Su.: Bernard B. Brown, Joe Lapis; Dir. Mu.: Charles Previn; Ass. R.: Joseph A. McDonough; Cost.: Vera West, Howard Greer; Int.: Irene Dunne (Helen), Charles Boyer (Philip André Chagal), Barbara O’Neil (Madeleine), Onslow Stevens (Holden), Nydia Westman (Lulu), Nella Walker (Mrs. Dumont), Fritz Feld (Nickolas), Harry C. Bradley (vicario), Milton Parsons (organista); Prod.: John M. Stahl Productions, Universal Pictures 35mm. L.: 2508 m. D.: 92’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Given that it repeats the idea of a couple taking shelter in a flooded church and as a result of certain imprudent declarations by Douglas Sirk, who made a fairly insipid version of the film in 1957, this movie has often been presented as an adaptation of “Serenade”. The real story, however, is that one day James Cain submitted a modern version of Cinderella to Collier’s lead editor. The magazine turned the manuscript down, probably, as the author suggests, because it gave too much space to union battles. The work was finally published as late as 1952 under the title of “The Root of His Evil”, but in 1937 Cain had already sold the rights to Universal who had appointed James Stahl to make a film of it. Making the film proved rather laborious. Over twenty writers worked on the screenplay and when shooting began, a definitive version was still not ready. Despite huge differences in tone, the director managed to maintain a reasonable degree of consistency. “Always preferring to observe his characters from a distance in the hope of explaining them, rather than draw close to them in approval or condemnation, Stahl in fact describes the conventional Hollywood vision of love as paradise, only to demonstrate that this particular paradise, adjoined by the hell of the other woman [Madeleine], can only be a limbo” (Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin, Nov. 1981). In 1939 the film won an Oscar for best soundtrack.

Jean-Marie Buchet – Cinématèque Royale de Belgique

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