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Mr. Skeffington

Mr. Skeffington(1944)

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A 12 April 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Selznick-International was bidding for the screen rights to Countess Russell's novel. After Warner Bros. bought the book, a Los Angeles Examiner news item dated October 28, 1941 notes that Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson and Norma Shearer were all considered to play the role of "Fanny Skeffington." At the time, M-G-M was rumored to be interested in the film as a vehicle for one of that studio's many actresses. Other Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. considered Irene Dunne as a possible star for the film. Before his death in 1940, James Stephenson was cast as "Job Skeffington." Later, Paul Henreid was announced for the role opposite Bette Davis. Richard Waring was also tested for the lead, and Faye Emerson and Jean Sullivan were tested for the role of "Fanny Junior." Waring was eventually cast as "Trippy." Charles Drake was scheduled for a part but was drafted, although Hollywood Reporter, Variety and New York Times erronously credit him with the part of "Johnny Mitchell." Instead, actor Johnny Mitchell, who was formerly known as Douglass Drake, made his screen debut in the part. According to studio memos reproduced in a modern source, in 1940, when Bette Davis was initially offered the role of "Fanny Skeffington," she turned it down, believing that as a thirty-two year old woman she could not convincingly play a woman of fifty.
       The OWI objected to one version of the script because of its portrayal of American anti-semitism and because American financiers were characterized as "shady." In a letter to Warner Bros., the OWI stated: "This is just the kind of picture of America which the Fascists would like to see. They have deluged the world with propaganda about the money-mad Americans, and today are using this line to create a breach between us and our allies. Is this the picture we want to give other peoples as representative of America and the American way?..." The finished picture still contained the sections the OWI found objectionable.
       Modern sources add the following information about the picture: Bette Davis requested Vincent Sherman as her director. Color tests were made, but the studio ultimately decided to make the film in black and white. Shortly after completing Davis' wardrobe of around forty costumes, forty-one-year-old Orry-Kelly was drafted into the army. Bette Davis was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress and Claude Rains was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Bette Davis reprised her role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on October 1, 1945, co-starring Paul Henreid.