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Arise, My Love

Arise, My Love(1940)

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teaser Arise, My Love (1940)

Claudette Colbert was one of the best-dressed women on the screen, so it seems somehow appropriate that she play a fashion reporter in Arise, My Love (1940). The screenplay for the romantic comedy was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, from an original story by Benjamin Glazer and John S. Toldy. In it, Colbert plays a reporter who is tired of writing about clothes while in France in the days leading up to World War II. Deciding to write a real story for once, she goes to Spain to find an American pilot (Ray Milland) who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Now in jail and awaiting execution, Milland is saved by Colbert, who pretends to be his wife. They manage to steal a plane and escape to France where they become media darlings. When Colbert is assigned to Berlin, Milland follows and love ensues. In the middle of their romance, World War II breaks out and they emigrate to the United States, but their ship is torpedoed. Realizing that their love has to take second place to patriotism, he joins the RAF and she goes back to being a reporter.

The principles of Arise, My Love had all worked together before. Director Mitchell Leisen had just worked with Colbert on another romantic comedy, Midnight (1939). Milland had also worked with Leisen three times before in The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936), Four Hours to Kill! (1935), and Easy Living (1937); they would work together on eight films in all. Colbert and Milland had appeared in The Gilded Lily (1935) and after Arise, My Love would co-star in Skylark (1941).

Arise, My Love went into production on June 24th, 1940 on the Paramount lot and lasted until mid-August. Joel McCrea had been offered Milland's role but Walter Wanger, who had McCrea under contract, refused to loan him out, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The cast wasn't the only thing that changed; the script had to be constantly revised to keep up with the events of the war. As David Chierichetti wrote, "Leisen and [producer Arthur] Hornblow knew that Arise, My Love skated on thin ice politically, since the United States had not yet entered the war and any film dealing with the war would certainly offend some segment of the public, as well as affect the foreign market. To protect themselves as much as possible, all of the scenes with anti-Nazi dialogue had alternate takes which were toned down, and Leisen told the press that he was holding off shooting the end of the film until the last day, and the conclusion would be dictated by the newspaper headlines that morning. Paramount hurriedly previewed out Arise, My Love and rushed it into release as soon as possible."

Despite Colbert's notorious 6 p.m. quitting clause in her contract, which allowed her to go home exactly at 6, she was willing to stay late if she believed the film merited it. Leisen recalled that "If she had one scene remaining to do on a certain set, she would stay until it was done so that we could start on the new set the first thing in the morning. One evening we were doing a long speech near the end of the picture. It was one of Charlie Brackett's best efforts and she finally began to cry and said, 'I just can't convey all the beauty of Charlie's lines.' It was after 6 so I suggested we break for the day and try it again in the morning. She said, 'No, I'm not going to let this lick me.' We kept taking it over and over. It was nearly midnight and she was wringing wet before we finished, but she was satisfied that she had given it everything she had."

Leisen was always aware of censorship problems, so he would use reverse psychology to be allowed to keep in what they might find objectionable. "Of course we had our problems with the censors. If I was afraid something in a scene might not pass, I'd insert another one in the same scene that was absolutely outrageous. Then the censor would start screaming bloody murder that the line had to come out, never noticing the thing I wanted to keep. In Arise, My Love when Ray is taking a bath, I had one of his buddies look into the bathtub and say, 'I didn't know you were Jewish.' Of course they made me cut it out, but they never noticed the line I was trying to keep in."

While the story may not have been realistic, one aspect of production was - the set for the Maxim's bar scene. Leisen recalled, "The set was an exact duplicate of the real Maxim's. Even the headwaiter was as close to the real Charles as we could get, because Charles was quite famous. I didn't concoct that terrible drink; it was in the script. I asked Charlie, 'When did you get the idea for that drink?' He said, 'I just made it up.' God, it was horrible! Champagne and crme de menthe. Green crme de menthe to boot! We used real booze and they all got loaded." Ray Milland added, "Mitch in his perfectionism, insisted we use real booze in that scene at the bar where I'm trying to get Claudette drunk. Crme de menthe and champagne, what a ghastly mixture. We did three bad takes, kept drinking through each one, and on the fourth take we got it right. Mitch said, 'Just one more to be sure.' Claudette looked at me and said, 'I don't think I can stand anymore.' We did it and I managed to stagger away when it was over, but Claudette and Walter Abel [playing Colbert's editor] turned around and fell flat on their faces, dead drunk. Mitch had to call the studio ambulance to take them home. He was laughing so hard, nobody enjoyed it more than he did, even if he did lose half a day's shooting."

Leisen and Ray Milland were working together in I Wanted Wings (1941) when Milland saw the first rough cut of Arise, My Love. "Mitch and I were on location in Texas. It was towards the end of the location work and one day Mitch came over between takes and said, 'Well, baby,' (he always called everybody baby) 'What do you say if we run it tonight for the boys here on the field?' I said it was all right with me as long as he didn't mind my sitting near the back so I could get out fast. We ran it, and before it ended, I had to leave because I was so sure it had flopped. I thought I was too young for the part and a lot of other things. It was after midnight, but I called up my wife long distance and said, 'Mal honey, when this picture comes out I'm finished. Sell everything we've got and we'll try to start a new life somewhere else.' Then it came out and was an enormous hit which really boosted my career that shows you how much I knew in those days."

With the tagline, "Here's the gay, glorious story of a war correspondent and a war ace...a romance that could happen only in 1940!," Arise, My Love premiered in New York on October 17, 1940 and went into general release on November 8th. In addition to helping Milland's career, Arise, My Love won an Academy Award® for Best Original Story for Benjamin Glazer and John S. Toldy, as well as nominations for Best Cinematography for Charles Lang, Jr., Best Score for Victor Young, and Best Art Direction for Hans Dreier and Robert Usher.

Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, based on the original story by Benjamin Glazer and Hans Szkely; adapted by Jacques Thry
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher
Music: Victor Young
Film Editing: Doane Harrison
Cast: Claudette Colbert (Augusta Nash), Ray Milland (Tom Martin), Dennis O'Keefe (Joe 'Shep' Shepard), Walter Abel (Mr. Phillips), Dick Purcell (Pinky O'Connor), George Zucco (Prison Governor).

by Lorraine LoBianco

Chierichetti, David Hollywood Director

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