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One Sunday Afternoon

One Sunday Afternoon(1949)


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One Sunday Afternoon (1949)

Director Raoul Walsh returned to the source material of his earlier hit The Strawberry Blonde (1941) for One Sunday Afternoon (1948). This was the third version of James Hagan's play; the 1933 version under this same title starred Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, Frances Fuller and Neil Hamilton.

Dennis Morgan, Dorothy Malone, Janis Paige and Don DeFore took on the roles created in 1941 by James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson. The story follows the comic-romantic tribulations of turn-of-the-century dentist Biff Grimes, who falls for a beautiful but shallow redhead and marries her sensible, educated friend on the rebound when the redhead throws him over for his friend Hugo Barnstead. Biff settles into married life while secretly carrying a torch for his old flame. When the Barnsteads return years later - now a bickering, unhappy couple - Biff realizes he made the right choice after all.

One Sunday Afternoon was made against the stern admonition of one of the brothers who controlled the studio. In a 1943 memo to studio head Jack Warner, referencing a proposed remake of the Bette Davis movie The Petrified Forest (1936), financial chief Harry Warner insisted Jack scrap plans for remaking past hits. "You can't do this and succeed," Harry wrote. "That is all right when you are making 50 or 60 pictures and shooting them out like cheese, but when you have built up a reputation such as you have, you cannot continue it if you keep on making remakes." Jack obviously ignored Harry's warning; not only did the Bette Davis movie provide the basis for Escape in the Desert (1945), but a number of remakes went into production over the next few years, including One Sunday Afternoon.

The lesson must have hit home a few years later, however, as movie attendance began the dramatic drop it would experience in the late 1940s and would continue for some time after. In a December 1947 memo to his executive assistant Steve Trilling, Jack Warner stated emphatically the importance of cutting budgets for films then in production or about to go before the cameras. Insisting that several pictures, including One Sunday Afternoon, could not hope to recoup their costs, Warner told Trilling, "There can be no prestige and all that stuff that goes with it. We are fighting helluva battle and you must tell every director and writer in no uncertain terms."

There is no record of what Walsh thought of the new constraints; from all accounts he was a man who went about his craft without great fanfare or difficulty, making outstanding films within the sometimes stifling atmosphere of the studio system. Janis Paige reiterated this impression years later when she told an interviewer: "He was a man of few words, but he knew what he wanted because he was an exemplary director, there was no doubt about it. He did some fabulous pictures, but he didn't give you a lot of direction. They hired you for what you did and they trusted you to do it. ... So it was kind of minimal. But I loved him."

Walsh had a particular feel for working-class Irish communities and for stories set in turn-of-the-century American cities. He brought that sensibility - a combination of rough-and-tumble and nostalgia - to bear on a number of classic movies, including Me and My Gal (1932), The Bowery (1933), Klondike Annie (1936), Gentleman Jim (1942) and the two versions of this story. He was aided by the Warners stock company of colorful supporting players, including Alan Hale, who appeared in The Strawberry Blonde, and his son, Alan Hale, Jr., who appeared in this remake.

Ralph Blane, who also composed songs for the Judy Garland period musical Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), wrote a number of songs for One Sunday Afternoon reminiscent of the historical setting, although audiences surely must have missed the memorable title tune from the earlier Cagney version. Morgan and Paige were both musical performers, but Malone, who got the best acting reviews of the cast, had her singing dubbed by Marion Morgan.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Producer: Jerry Wald
Screenplay: Robert L. Richards, based on the play by James Hagan
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline, Sidney Hickox
Editing: Christian Nyby
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Original Music: Ralph Blane
Cast: Dennis Morgan (Biff Grimes), Dorothy Malone (Amy Lind), Janis Paige (Virginia Brush), Don DeFore (Hugo Barnstead), Ben Blue (Nick), Alan Hale, Jr. (Marty).

by Rob Nixon

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