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Devotion

Devotion(1946)

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The film begins with the following written foreword: "A century ago there lived upon the Yorkshire moors of England three sisters and a brother. All of great talent-and two with genius. Their name was Brnte. Their novels are classics which will endure forever-but they themselves lived a story as rare and remarkable as any they dreamed." The Bronts grew up in the industrial town of Haworth, Yorkshire, where their father was rector. After the death of their mother, they were cared for by their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. Mainly educated at home, both Charlotte and Anne worked as governesses. As in the film, Charlotte and Emily attended the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels for nine months, and Charlotte fell in love with the married Heger, but unlike in the film, Heger did not return her feelings.
       In 1847, Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre was published under the pseudonym, Currer Bell, and later that year, also using pseudonyms, Emily and Anne published Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively. In 1848, at the age of thirty-one, Branwell, who was a heavy drinker and opium user, died from tuberculosis. Emily died shortly afterward, also from tuberculosis. Anne, who suffered from the same disease, wrote a second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, before her death in 1849. Charlotte published two more novels and in 1854, married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died in 1855 while pregnant.
       Although onscreen credits list Theodore Reeves as the sole author of the original screen story, a July 21, 1934 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Warner Bros. had purchased a story entitled "Devotion," based on the lives of the Bront sisters, written by Michael Varod. A July 24, 1939 Hollywood Reporter news item credits Theodore Reeves and Edward Beaudine with the original story idea. The contributions of Varod and Beaudine to the completed film have not been determined.
       In a April 10, 1939 Los Angeles Examiner column, Louella Parsons reported that Bette Davis would play "Charlotte," Geraldine Fitzgerald "Emily" and "Anne" would be enacted by Olivia De Havilland. At that time, Claude Rains was to play their father; James Hilton was to write the screenplay; and Edmund Goulding was assigned to direct. On February 25, 1942, Los Angeles Times announced that the film was to star Joan Fontaine as "Charlotte" alongside her real-life sister De Havilland.
       The film was completed in 1943, but its release was postponed until 1946, possibly due to the legal case filed by De Havilland in August 1943. Devotion and Thank Your Lucky Stars, for which she did a cameo, (see below) were the last films that De Havilland made at Warner Bros. after eight years at the studio. Information from the Warner Bros. legal files indicates that shortly after production ended on Devotion De Havilland was put on suspension for the fifth time in three years for refusing a film (see entry One More Tomorrow below). Her last action for Warner Bros. was fulfillment of a loan contract made by the studio with producer David O. Selznick, exchanging De Havilland for the services of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Selznick sold his rights to De Havilland to RKO, where between May and August 1943 she performed in Government Girl (see below). In mid August 1943, De Havilland was again suspended by Warner Bros. for refusing to fulfill a loan-out obligation to Columbia studios (no property was agreed upon) and on August 24, 1943 De Havilland filed suit against Warner Bros. asking for declaratory relief, claiming that her seven year contract period expired in May 1943 and that California law forbade employers enforcing a contract beyond seven years. Warner Bros., as all other studios at that time, regularly extended actors' contracts by the length of suspension periods and claimed De Havilland owed them an additional 25 1/2 weeks.
       The suit went to trial in November 1943 and in March 1944, the California Superior Court found for De Havilland. Warner Bros. appealed and successfully kept De Havilland from employment in motion pictures, radio and theater throughout 1944, while also pursuing the possibility of enforcing her contract outside California. De Havilland sued to have an early appeal decision so she might resume employment, and in December 1944 the Court of Appeals sustained the Lower Court's verdict. Warner Bros.' request for review of the decision by the Supreme Court was denied based on the decisions of the two lowers courts. The decision has variously been known as the Anti-Peonage Law or the De Havilland Decision. De Havilland resumed work in motion pictures in January 1945, performing in Paramount's The Well Groomed Bride (see below), which was released in 1946, one month after Devotion.
       A Lux Radio Theatre presentation of Devotion starring Jane Wyman, Ida Lupino and Vincent Price, was broadcast on February 17, 1947.