Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CMBA Blogathon Movies of 1939: We Are Not Alone (1939)

[The following is the Skeins' contribution to the Classic Movies Blog Association's Classic Films of 1939 Blogathon, which runs from May 15th to May 17th. The inspiration behind this blogathon came from ClassicBecky of ClassicBecky's Brain Food and Page of My Love of Old Hollywood. For a list of the participants and all the movies to be reviewed, the CMBA has a list available here.]

"We must love one another or die..." ~ September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

Seven decades since 1939, the glow from the films released that year still inspires admiration. As the world faced the advent of World War II in September, audiences flocked to see the Romances, Gangsters, Westerns, Adventures, Musicals and Comedies that dominated the screen in a series of imaginative and masterful movies such as Love Affair, Stagecoach, Gunga Din, The Wizard of Oz, and Ninotchka, among others. With such a surfeit of creativity to choose from in these beautifully crafted films, dominated by the overwhelming Gone With the Wind, how could a small movie about the events in one fictional family compete with all that glamour?

We Are Not Alone was a Warner Brothers film that slipped into theaters two days after Thanksgiving and just three weeks before the blockbuster GWTW opened in New York. Not surprisingly, it was lost in the shuffle, despite opening at the high profile Radio City Music Hall, though I'm not sure if that cavernous theater was the ideal locale for such an intimate story. Today this little-known, flawed, but engrossing movie still awaits re-discovery by audiences. Not available on VHS or DVD commercially, this film is occasionally broadcast on TCM. In order to examine We Are Not Alone, plot details will be discussed below, so please expect some spoilers.

Above: Paul Muni in We Are Not Alone (1939).
Based on a book by James Hilton, (Lost Horizon, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Random Harvest), We Are Not Alone was a thoughtful story set in 1914 in a small English village. The central character was a gentle, introspective doctor, David Newcombe, played by Paul Muni, an actor who was regarded by studio head Jack Warner as a temperamental, demanding contract player, but whose talent was undeniable. The actor was the first choice for the role of the doctor, whose circumstances were partially inspired by the notorious Dr. Crippen case, though We Are Not Alone was not essentially a whodunit.  

Muni's doctor is a vaguely whimsical figure, pedaling around his parochial world, almost another "Mr. Chips," a man whose life seems to be happening to him while he woolgathers. Between patients, who include an inebriated lower class crone and his own wife, he proceeds dreamily, going about his business on his bicycle and amusing his beloved son and playing his violin in his spare time. His air of vagueness becomes most acute when he interacts with his taller, more assertive wife, who dictates to her family while quoting her Archdeacon brother's pronouncements as though they were gospel. The tenderness in Newcombe blooms in the presence of his son, and when he encounters a lost girl in need of protection.   

Muni's character endures a tense domestic life that becomes more complex when he treats a waifish young Austrian dancer appearing with a third rate troupe in a regional theater. Leni Krafft (Jane Bryan), who has attempted suicide after falling and hurting herself, exudes a forlorn but infectious gaiety, responding warmly to any kindness extended to her. Touched by her lonely situation, the doctor tries to coax her back to life by offering her a position as a governess to his young son, Gerald (Raymond Severn). The boy's life has been overshadowed by his domineering mother, Jessica (Flora Robson), whose continual criticism of the sensitive boy has left the under-sized child high-strung and nervous. Young Gerald responds instinctively to the playful, sweet-tempered girl and the change in his father since she came to stay in their home.
Above: Jane Bryan with Paul Muni in We Are Not Alone (1939).

Unfortunately, for all, the young woman's presence in her household aggravates her naturally suspicious nature. When Jessica Newcombe learns of Leni's theatrical background, her sense of propriety is offended. She prepares to send her son to stay with a relative, an Archdeacon in the church, until Leni is "removed from the household."  In an ironic twist, as the anxious boy learns that he will be separated from his new friend and his understanding father, he knocks over a bottle of his mother's aspirin by accident, smashing it. Afraid that he will be chided for his clumsiness when his mother discovers his mistake, the overwrought child transfers the spilled pills into another bottle, unaware that it already contains strong sleeping pills.
Above: Jane Bryan and Flora Robson in We Are Not Alone (1939).

Ultimately, when war between Britain and Germany is declared in July, 1914, the Austrian girl faces imprisonment as an enemy alien since she is a native of one of the Central Powers countries. The doctor, appalled to see people he has known all his life suddenly turning on their neighbors of Germanic descent, hastily tries to take Leni to a train that would carry her to a boat going away from English shores, but they are eventually intercepted by the police. Tragically, Jessica Newcombe, when suffering from a headache, has taken the pills in the bottle. Thanks in part to prejudice against the Austrian girl whipped up by wartime hatred, the doctor and the governess are accused of conducting an affair and murdering his wife so that they can be together. The film, which takes its time building to this pivotal moment, avoids sentimental melodrama throughout the sometimes talky script. All the characters are remarkably articulate, though they are not always aware of their real feelings, an aspect of the film underpinned by the effective restraint of each member of the cast. 

This restraint is especially welcome in the beautifully nuanced, understated work of Paul Muni in this film, since he is sometimes an actor who could fall into a hamminess that makes him difficult to watch for modern viewers. The actor, whose reputation in the '30s and '40s classified him as one of the few seriously respected figures in movies, wears a mustache for his role of the provincial doctor, but in large part he is much more effective here without any of the cumbersome makeup he donned in other roles. The sometimes fustian manner that Muni adopted when playing great men of science, letters and history such as Pasteur, Zola and Juarez is also happily absent, as the actor gives one of his most direct, naturalistic performances playing a man whose self-discovery undoes him even as he frees himself from all the pettiness he has lived with for so long. Muni, who would leave Warner Brothers after making this movie, was one of the few actors in that period who had script approval. This role was one he would always cite as his favorite part in films.

When producer Henry Blanke first presented the notoriously picky Muni with the script in its draft state, the actor dismissed the treatment with the comment, "It's chicken shit," as he returned it with disgust. After allowing James Hilton, who had recently signed a three year contract with the studio, to go to work on the screenplay with veteran scenarist Milton Krims, Muni was heartened by the results, commenting "Ah! Now--chicken salad!" Ultimately, the literate script that was translated to film could be interpreted on several levels: as a personal tragedy or as an allegory for the situation that society faced in 1939, just as it did in 1914. 
Above: James Hilton at work on the script for We Are Not Alone (1939).
The casting of the other roles in the story was fraught with behind-the-scenes machinations and studio politics. Muni's Dr. Newcombe lives with his domineering, rigidly pious and deeply unhappy wife, Jessica, who was played by the British character actress Flora Robson, a relatively new face in Hollywood, though she was a veteran of stage and screen, having trained for the theatre from the age of 5. Her part as Mrs. Newcombe required her to play a repellent character--but one whose caustic manner and judgmental attitudes reveal the woman's depth of pain, which comes out of her unconscious understanding that she is essentially unlovable.
Above: Flora Robson as Jessica Newcombe in We Are Not Alone (1939).

The brilliant character actress, who would be offered a seven year contract by Warner Brothers that she would refuse, had appeared in British films, gracing several prestigious Alexander Korda films such as Fire Over England, playing a fiery and intelligent Elizabeth I, as she would later do in Warner's The Sea Hawk as part of a three picture deal with the studio. Incredibly, Robson eventually played George Raft's mother in the crime flick, Invisible Stripes, as part of this agreement, even though she was one year younger than Raft.  "I'm the sort who never looked young," she explained, "and it was quite obvious I would not be successful until I was past 30." (She was 36 and 37 during the filming of Invisible Stripes and We Are Not Alone).

With her plain features and wolfish blue eyes that could easily change from tenderness to venomous, Robson understood that she was not to be a star in films, though she found more leading and supporting roles on stage, which gave her more scope and satisfaction. "The people in Hollywood," she discovered, "find it very difficult to understand the English actor's off-hand attitude towards the film industry." While she was eager to return to Britain, the dearth of theater offers she encountered there led her to consider work in the film capital again, leading to this film. The actress was also actively pursuing stage roles, and made her critically hailed Broadway debut in Ladies in Retirement* in 1940, shortly after completing filming of We Are Not Alone.
Above: Flora Robson & Paul Muni in We Are Not Alone (1936).

Her previous American film role had been in the well-received Wuthering Heights (1939), playing the part of the housekeeper, Ellen. It is her voice that narrates the story, blending her character's compassion and insight into Heathcliff and Cathy's tormented lives into the film's narrative. That experience, which she described as "not pleasant," impressed her with the status consciousness and stratification dividing leading and supporting players as well as the crews in Hollywood. Most distressing of all, when trying to enter the Goldwyn lot when scheduled to film, Robson had been refused entry more than once by guards who assumed that the ordinary looking woman in front of him was a "gatecrasher." Just prior to accepting the role of Paul Muni's wife in We Are Not Alone, Robson had turned down an offer to play Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) due to her desire to avoid being typecast as a domestic in the future. The actress would regret her choice ultimately, since, as she recalled, "Mr. Hitchcock never called again." While she regretted that missed opportunity, Flora cited Muni as her favorite co-star on film, (she named Robert Donat as her finest partner on stage).

In her role as Muni's spouse, Robson's Jessica demonstrates her most destructive behavior with her son, whose natural ebullience was repressed by her at every turn, sometimes aided by a suspicious maid, played by the reliably pesky Una O'Connor, who regards Dr. Newcombe as an annoyance more than an employer and whose gossip about him and Leni alienates the community from their doctor. O'Connor's character of Susan, full of indignation once war is declared, is exhilarated as she flings a brick through the window of a kindly German baker's shop, dropping her insolent veneer of servility, as she joins the townspeople in an incomprehensible hatred toward people she doesn't really know. She helps to convict the doctor and Leni in the court of public opinion before their trial begins.  The Newcombes, who had shared a house but not their innermost lives, had maintained an increasingly desolate marriage defined by guilt and propriety. Their small son, Gerald (Raymond Severn), whose timid nature seems to reflect their underlying distress, remains the sole source of happiness for Newcombe, who refuses to have his boy called to appear in his trial for murder in an effort to shield him from the situation he finds himself faced with despite his innocence.
Paul Muni with Raymond Severn in We Are Not Alone (1939).
The casting of  21-year-old Jane Bryan in the role of the tragic dancer who finds herself in a seedy theater appearing with a third rate troupe was also opportune, though the young Warner Brothers contract player was not the first choice of anyone directly involved in this production. Originally slated as a vehicle for Davis, the role of Leni Krafft proved inconvenient for the busy Davis--who was actually a bit mature for the part. The casting notices in the newspapers then named the accomplished actress and  mitteleuropean Elisabeth Bergner as a shoe-in for the part, followed by Broadway sensation Julie Haydon, and finally the German-born Dolly Haas. The actress is remembered today primarily for her portrayal of a murderer's intimidated spouse in I Confess (1953), as well as the wife of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, though she had a long career on stage and was internationally known for her European films at the time of this production.
Jane Bryan in We Are Not Alone (1939).

The petite Miss Haas, whose innocent, gamine charm as a performer had enhanced numerous German films and some British productions seemed an ideal choice for the part of the vulnerable Viennese girl. After living in Hollywood for three years without working after leaving Europe to escape Nazism, the actress had been under contract to everyone from Harry Cohn to Ernst Lubitsch, living in a kind of creative limbo while waiting for a project--any project--to come to fruition. Approved by Warner Brothers, Haas actually played the role of Leni for two weeks, though the emotional demands of the part reportedly led to a nervous breakdown.** In a bind at this stage, and searching for a quick study who could hold her own opposite Muni while affecting an Austrian accent; it was Bette Davis who recommended her friend and cast mate from four films (Marked Woman, Kid Galahad, The Sisters and The Old Maid). When asked one time if she believed that the neophyte Jane Bryan could handle an emotional role, Davis was quoted as saying that "Last time I played with her, I had to hide her face in a pillow to keep her from stealing my scenes."
Jane Bryan with Paul Muni in We Are Not Alone (1939).

Fortunately for Bryan, she was also sensitively directed by Goulding, allowing her to give a shimmering performance, expressing her character's fears, warmth and deepening emotions throughout the film with her lithe movements and gentle voice. During the production, Bryan grew in the part that earned her notices that described her contribution to the film as "a surprise and a delight." Her character gradually becomes the center of the Newcombe home as she appears to warm herself before the affection she receives from Gerald and Newcombe. In her later scenes, during the murder trial that she and the doctor endure, you can see her shrinking back into herself as the case is built against her and her employer. When the Crown Counsel (Henry Daniell, who is superb and merciless as the prosecutor), bellows at Muni in the dock, "Do you or do you not love Leni Krafft?" every word seems like a blow to her trembling spirit. Yet, when Newcombe pauses, repeating "Do I...love Leni?" you realize that this is the first moment he and Leni have faced this unspoken fact. His face reflects his sudden realization. He appears to have had an inner weight lifted, and his face becoming suffused with emotion as he answers, "Why...I hadn't thought of it...but of course I love her." It is a remarkably moving yet simple moment as he finally understands his previously inarticulate feeling for Leni, tacitly shared between them as he damns them both further by telling the essential truth.
Paul Muni being cross-examined by Henry Daniell in We Are Not Alone (1939).
While Muni received little recognition for his subtlety and quiet power in this part, Jane Bryan's work was noted by several critics at the time. One review described her "Leni (who could have been overplayed so easily) not as a trouper but as Leni herself. She is charming and heartbreaking." The fresh-faced Bryan (who was born Jane O'Brien and was irked when the studio changed it), had appeared in 18 films since 1936, usually playing a naive ingenue. Not particularly beautiful but very appealing and wholesome, she was blessed with an expressive face as well as an indefinable presence that made her stand-out from a sea of other young actresses. Jane Bryan won the National Board of Review acting award for this film. According to reports in the press at the time, however, her most cherished review came from Noël Coward, who had never met her formally. Seeing the young woman walking on a street in Los Angeles, Coward reportedly stopped her to tell her that she was "the best young movie actress working today."
Jane Bryan off-camera in 1939.

Despite the critical recognition and a studio buildup in high gear, during 1939, Jane was increasingly doubtful about what path she should take in the future after falling in love with industrialist Justin Dart. When her mentor Bette Davis was informed of the young woman's dilemma, she firmly advised the shy, reticent and self-critical girl to marry and forget the movies as a pursuit. Jane Bryan became Mrs. Dart on December 31, 1939, abandoning her career on the screen. Warner Brothers, in a particularly graceless moment toward an erstwhile employee who was breaking her contract, issued a statement to the press that the union would not last. They remained together for the next 45 years, parting when Dart died in 1984. Bryan never really looked back, describing her life as "one of adventure", though she disliked public speaking. "I am very shy. I think the shyness is caused by my being inarticulate. And I'm plagued by a lack of self-confidence." Despite her diffidence, Bryan did later describe something of her experiences while making this movie. Filming, which had begun in July, 1939, extended into September. By that time, the cast, featuring several English subjects, kept a radio just off the set in order to follow unfolding events following the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1st, 1939. "There was a very tense atmosphere on the set, Jane recalled. "We'd finish doing a scene that was set at the start of the First World War, then, after [Goulding] called "Cut!," go over to the radio and listen to the current war news from Europe, which paralleled the film we were doing."

When We Are Not Alone was acquired by Warner's shortly after publication of the novel in 1937, newspapers first announced that the film would be directed by Michael Curtiz, though  Edmund Goulding (Grand Hotel, The Razor's Edge, Nightmare Alley) was eventually given the task to direct, in the same year that he oversaw Dark Victory and The Old Maid, both with the reigning doyenne of the screen, Bette Davis. Strangely, today people often refer to these and other movies such as The Dawn Patrol (1938) crafted by Eddie Goulding as "a Bette Davis picture," or an "Errol Flynn movie," with little notice taken of this seamless craftsman.  Given the sometimes less than perfect scripts he was given to direct, his professionalism and talent for tastefully crafting potentially sentimental or melodramatic material into hauntingly effective films proved invaluable throughout his career.
Paul Muni with Alan Napier in We Are Not Alone (1939).
 As Goulding's biographer, Matthew Kennedy pointed out,  We Are Not Alone is close to the filmmaker's best work as he "spun an amazing tapestry of war, bigotry, circumstantial evidence, parent-child love, romantic love, and the honorable commitment to work and family, " into a dark-edged film with a remarkably somber conclusion for a studio-made film. While the pair of would-be lovers stoically face their condemnation to the gallows, despite their innocence, the world outside prepares for further pursuit of the war, when organized hatred will sacrifice more innocents. When they meet last, Newcombe tenderly tells Leni, who is as resigned to her fate as he is, to remain hopeful that they will someday be released, that "Death is not the worst thing we have to face, only the last."

The impact of this movie resonated for me long after seeing this film. When reading the lines below from British-born poet W. H. Auden's "September 1, 1939,"*** the language seemed to echo this film's somber message, written to mark the start of another world war: "Faces along the bar/ Cling to their average day/ The lights must never go out, /The music must always play, /All the conventions conspire/ To make this fort assume/ The furniture of home; /Lest we should see where we are, /Lost in a haunted wood, /Children afraid of the night /Who have never been happy or good."

The Trailer for We Are Not Alone:

* Edward Percy and Reginald Denham's Broadway hit, Ladies in Retirement ran from March to August in 1940, earning Flora Robson stellar reviews for her portrayal of a woman who murders her employer to ensure that her mentally disturbed sisters kept a roof over their heads. The actress, who hoped to be considered for the film when the rights were purchased by Columbia Pictures, was reportedly crushed when her role was taken by a youthful powerhouse, Ida Lupino, who was brilliant in the part.  

**Dolly Haas recovered from her breakdown, going on to a long theatrical career with only occasional film and television appearances. A good account of her career and private life can be found here.

***The full text of Auden's "September 1, 1939" can be seen here.

An earlier post found here on this blog reviews the film adaptation of James Hilton's Knight Without Armour (1937).


 Babington, Bruce, British Stars and Stardom: from Alma Taylor to Sean Connery, Manchester University Press, 2001. 
Cinema: The New Pictures, Time Magazine, Dec. 4, 1939.
Jane Bryan Obituary, The Independent, May 22, 2009.
Kennedy, Matthew, Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.
Movies: Jane Bryan, Life Magazine, Nov. 27, 1939.
Nugent, Frank S.Paul Muni and Jane Bryan in We Are Not Alone, The New York Times, Dec. 1, 1939.
Nissen, Axil, Actresses of a Certain Character, McFarland, 2006.
Sellmer, Robert, Super Druggist Dart, Life Magazine, Aug. 5, 1946.


Judy said...

I really enjoyed this detailed review with all the background information you have included, and would love to see the film - maybe it will be a future release in Warner Archive, or even turn up on TCM in the UK some time. It sounds as if there are some similarities between the plot and 'All This and Heaven Too', though I may be completely wrong!

I haven't seen very many of Muni's films, but think he is brilliant in 'I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang', though I find him rather over the top in 'Scarface'. Anyway, Moira, this is a great review which hopefully I will read again after tracking down the film.

Moira Finnie said...

Judy, thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Like you, I believe that Muni is at his best in his modern roles, when he allows audiences to see his intelligent, expressive face, as he did in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

His simple and eloquent performance in this film, while quite different from the gritty classic directed by Mervyn LeRoy, deserves to be seen along side that exceptional movie. I haven't been able to find any DVD copies of We Are Not Along yet, (and my VHS copy is almost worn out) but let's hope that the Warner Archive can unearth it soon.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Lovely, job, Moira. I've never seen this film, but your detailed background and supporting anecdotes are terrific. I do like James Hilton stories. His gentle, fey characters and the wistful tragedies he paints for them could have been terribly overdone and maudlin, I suppose, but old Hollywood handled them quite deftly and with laudable sensitivity. Great post.

Grand Old Movies said...

Thanks for your excellent post on a film that seems deserved to be better-known. I really enjoyed your detailed background info both on the historical context, and on the actors, especially Jane Bryan, who was a very talented young actress, and the great Flora Robson (I didn't know she had been offered the Mrs Danvers part! Wonder what she would have been like in it). Edmond Goulding showed, in such films as The Old Maid, what a sensitive and eloquent director he was, and I would love to see his work in this film. I echo the other comments in saying that I hope this film will come out on DVD; a Warner Archive release sounds perfect for it. Thanks again for highlighting an obscure treasure.

Caftan Woman said...

Thank you for putting the spotlight on a movie lost in the shadow of more famous 1939 titles. "We Are Not Alone" sounds like a movie to cherish.

You drew me into the world of the film and the world of the making of the film.

Page said...

I'm kicking myself for almost missing this review!
I am so happy that you chose a film I hadn't even heard of before the Blogathon. With your well thought out and passionate review I'll be adding this one to my must see list straight away.
A beautifully done and important contribution to the Blogathon.

Moira Finnie said...

Good Day, Jacqueline,
I'm not entirely sure how James Hilton created the worlds he made in his novels, though Frances Marion, (with whom he was "involved" for some time in Britain & Hollywood, according to Cari Beauchamp's bio of Marion), found him to be a world class woolgatherer, blissfully unaware of the sometimes awkward situations he presented to driven American career builders!

I do love revisiting his books and I've been surprised at the sadness at the core of most relations between men and women in his stories, the spiritual struggles felt by his agnostics, and the way he could make it all seem worthwhile when two people find themselves surprised by love. Thank you for your generous remarks.

Hi Grand Old Movies,
I was also startled to learn of Flora Robson's possible casting as Mrs. Danvers too. I think that Flora might well have portrayed a very different "Danny" in Rebecca than the one that the flinty Judith Anderson so brilliantly brought to life. (Robson always seems to have some chink of tenderness shining through her characters--so I think it might have been a more human and perhaps less demonic housekeeper who wandered the halls of Manderley.

Howdy Patricia,
I am so glad that you enjoyed this review of the film. I hope you have a chance to see it someday.

Thanks for the kind words, Page.

I am so sorry that technical issues prevented this post from being seen in a more timely fashion. I haven't had a chance to read all of the entries in the 1939 blogathon that you helped to create, but it looks as though this may be one of the best so far. Congratulations on this achievement.

Appreciatively to all of you for your remarks,

Kevin Deany said...

Wow. And Wow. Was this post a revelation. I've heard of this movie, but always assumed with a title like that it was a social drama, along the lines of other Warners social dramas like "Dust Be My Destiny." But this sounds absolutely marvelous.

I like Muni and even in his blustery roles. For me, I'll take that kind of emoting over today's, where actors sometimes show their emotions by talking so softly you can't hear what they're saying.

A tad off topic here, but a few weeks ago I watched, courtesy TCM, "The World Changes" with Muni and Mary Astor. One of those generational dramas ala Edna Ferber, Muni starts out as a farmer, then a cowboy and rises to the top of the meat packing industry in early 20th century Chicago. Fascinating film, but what struck me was how convincing Muni was in the cattle drive scenes as a cowboy. He looked completely at ease in the saddle and in western garb.

Also very interesting about Jane Bryan. Always liked her and she's so appealing as Eddie G's sister in "Kid Galahad." I'm happy she found a happy and successful life for herself outside the movie business.

Thanks again, Moira, for a most fascinating post. I'll definitely be on the lookout for this one.

Moira Finnie said...

Thanks so much, Kevin. You are very generous. I just wish I could report that We Are Not Alone will be seen on TCM soon. I haven't seen it on there in quite some time, so perhaps we are due to have it featured again in the Fall. For those who don't know, Kevin is the perceptive guy who has created Kevin's Movie Corner, a great place to read thoughtful and entertaining reviews of classic films.

Kevin Deany said...

Thanks for the nice plug, Moira. Totally unexpected, but much appreciated.

Moira Finnie said...

And totally deserved, Kevin. It is taking me a long time to read and respond to each of the carefully prepared posts that went into this large blogathon, but I urge anyone who wishes to read about films that truly matter to those who cherish them to check out as many of the participating bloggers here as possible. They are a remarkably passionate and thoughtful bunch.

DorianTB said...

Moira, I'm glad all is now well with your link to WE ARE NOT ALONE, finally giving me the opportunity to read your rich, moving blog post. Your excellent insights into the historical context were especially compelling. Like Judy, I couldn't help noticing similarities to ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO. I think Judith Anderson nailed the role of Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA, but Flora Robson's interpretation would have been great, too. Your love and respect for WE ARE NOT ALONE really shines through, Moira, and I thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your superb review!

Moira Finnie said...

Thanks for dropping by, Dorian. I agree that Anderson was remarkable as Danvers in Rebecca, though Robson might have skewed the film a bit in her own interesting way.

I can see the similarities in plot points to All This and Heaven Too--though I felt that there was more tacit rather than actual communication between Muni and Bryan's middle class characters. They also seemed more surprised by their situation, while Boyer and Davis had more of a conscious understanding of the class system they were living in throughout Litvak's film. I hope that you and Judy have a chance to see We Are Not Alone someday too.

For those who would like to read Dorian's lovely salute to the comic abilities of Claudette Colbert (and a very young Jimmy Stewart), this blogger has written an excellent post as part of this blogathon, found at Tales of the Easily Distracted.

Thanks again to all of you for your patience and your interest. I hope we can all participate in another blogathon soon.

Matthew Kennedy said...

Dear Moira,
Thank you for this sensitive history and appraisal of We are Not Alone. It is indeed a remarkable film unjustly neglected, as you point out. I, too, didn't realize Robson was offered Mrs. Danvers. I mean no disrespect to the unforgettable Judith Anderson in saying Robson could have made her own great impression in the role.

Matthew Kennedy said...

Dear Moira,
Thank you for this sensitive history and appreciation of We Are Not Alone. It gets lost in the list of top films from the banner year of 1939. As Goulding's biographer, I appreciate your tribute to his talent. And I, too, didn't know Robson was offered Mrs. Danvers. It doesn't take away from Anderson's brilliance to say that Robson could have brought her own indelible malevolence to the role.


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