Sog.: dall’omonima opera teatrale di Margaret Kennedy e Basil Dean. Scen.: Margaret Kennedy, Basil Dean, Alma Reville, Angus McPhail. F.: David W. Gobbett. Scgf.: Bertram Evans, Georgie Harris. Int.: Ivor Novello (Lewis Dodd), Mabel Poulton (Tessa Sanger), Frances Doble (Florence), Dorothy Boyd (Pauline Sanger), Mary Clare (Linda Sanger), Heinrich George (Albert Sanger), Tony de Lungo (Roberto), Benita Hume (Antonia Sanger), Peter Evan Thomas (Ike), Yvonne Thomas (Kate Sanger), J.H. Roberts (Dr Churchill), Clifford Heatherley (Sir Berkeley), Elsa Lanchester (cantante), Robert Garrison (Trigorin), Erna Sturm (Susan). Prod.: Gainsborough Pictures. Pri. pro.: 20 febbraio 1928 Digibeta. D.: 110’. Bn.
One of the finest British films of the silent period, The Constant Nymph tells the story of Lewis Dodd (Ivor Novello), a young composer who comes to stay in the Austrian Tyrol with the unconventional family of his musical mentor who dies leaving his daughters to make their way in the unfamiliar and stifling atmosphere of middle class London society. After the open spaces and informality of the mountains the dark and cloying drawing rooms of the city are oppressive to the free spirits of Tessa (Mabel Poulton), the younger daughter, and to Lewis, who has rashly married Tessa’s cousin, a woman with social ambitions for him. Tessa and Lewis find solace in their mutual and passionate longing for freedom, palpably expressed in the performance of Lewis’s romantic symphony and in their tragic attempt to escape the inevitable. This progressive ‘closing in’ makes the work feel like a film of two halves but is precisely intentional. This is spelt out in a surviving script held by the BFI from which we can deduce something of Alma Reville’s role in the production, which was firstly to adapt Margaret Kennedy’s popular play and novel and later to arrange the continuity. From the script we can see that her ambitions for the symphony sequence in which the ‘music’ would evoke imagery of the alpine idyll on screen, were reined back by handwritten comments from co-writer Angus McPhail, probably to cut costs. If it seems strange that her work should be checked, it is worth noting that even the director, Adrian Brunel, was being supervised by the cautious producers. The screenplay credits went to Margaret Kennedy herself and Basil Dean who had helped adapt her novel for the stage.