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Today We Live (1933) was based on William Faulkner's own short story Turn About, which had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on March 5, 1932. Director Howard Hawks soon bought an option to film the story on the advice of his brother William, who was also a film producer. Joseph McBride wrote in his book Hawks on Hawks "Hawks and Faulkner met in July of that year after Faulkner's first MGM contract had expired. In a short five days Faulkner wrote a full-length screenplay that has not survived; Hawks told me that the first draft of Turn About [the original working title of the film] was very much like the original story except for a change Hawks has suggested: that Claude [Robert Young] be blinded by an exploding shell during the torpedo run with Ronnie [Franchot Tone] and Bogard [Gary Cooper]. [Irving] Thalberg [production head at MGM] enthusiastically endorsed this script for production, and Marx put Faulkner back on salary as of 25 July. Within a week, Thalberg told Hawks that Joan Crawford would have to be in the picture." At the time the studio needed to fulfill a $500,000 contractual obligation with Crawford so Faulkner added the character of Ann who loves one man while promising to marry another. Crawford balked at the idea of being in an all-male film, and insisted that Faulkner re-write her dialogue to match the clipped speech of the men.
The American Film Institute Catalog notes that "A November 1932 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Phillips Holmes was to co-star with Joan Crawford. Charles "Buddy" Rogers was then announced as a possible co-star in early December 1932. According to a mid-December Hollywood Reporter news item, MGM did not begin negotiating for Gary Cooper [with his home studio, Paramount] until two weeks after production was scheduled to start. These news items conflict with some modern sources, which state that Cooper, Robert Young and Franchot Tone had been selected by Hawks before Crawford was approached with the script. According to IP, photographer Elmer Dyer spent several weeks filming the aerial sequences for the film at March Field in California. Modern sources note that General Douglas MacArthur reserved the field for the studio's use."
As Bruce F. Kawin wrote in his book Faulkner's MGM Screenplays "When a 135-minute version was previewed in Pasadena [California, a suburb of Los Angeles] on 16 March, Variety found Today We Live engrossing, predicted great box-office success, and objected to the monosyllabic dialogue. When the final 110-minute version was shown in New York on 14 April, however, Variety panned it: the film was 20 minutes too long. Crawford was unconvincing, Hawks used too much aerial footage from Hell's Angels (1930), the "Gowns by Adrian" were extreme and annoying, and the story was superficial...MGM's publicity department issued a press kit that played up the romantic interest between "Glorious Joan!" and "Ardent Gary!" "Can any woman be faithful," they asked, "in the heart of one man and in the arms of another?"
In real life, Joan Crawford, who didn't want to make the film in the first place, ended up in the arms of the man who played her brother, Franchot Tone. The two met for the first time during production of Today We Live, and eventually married.
Producer: Howard Hawks
Director: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Screenplay: William Faulkner, Edith Fitzgerald, Dwight Taylor
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Film Editing: Edward Curtiss
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: William Axt, David Snell, Herbert Stothart
Cast: Joan Crawford (Diana Boyce-Smith), Gary Cooper (Lt. Richard Bogard), Robert Young (Lt. Claude Hope), Franchot Tone (Lt. Ronnie Boyce-Smith), Roscoe Karns (Lt. Mac McGinnis), Louise Closser Hale (Applegate).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Hawks on Hawks , by Joseph McBride
Faulkner's MGM Screenplays by Bruce F. Kawin
The American Film Institute Catalog