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An uncharacteristically depressed and perennially glum Cary Grant faced turning 40 in the mid-Forties. Not an ideal situation for a romantic idol, Grant was additionally enveloped by marital unhappiness and would soon display immense dislike for his next smash, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), held up for several years and now breaking box office records. The star despised director Frank Capra's handling of the material and cast, forcing him to indulge in an overabundance of mugging. It would remain the actor's least favorite film. The publication of Richard Llewellyn's down beat novel, None But the Lonely Heart, about a cockney London loser, temporarily changed the actor's sour outlook, even more so when he discovered that RKO had purchased the screen rights expressly to placate their suave debonair star.
The studio knew they had a probable financial disaster, but eventually figured that the combination of Grant, Ethel Barrymore and screenwriter Clifford Odets would help write the project off as a "prestige picture," buttressed by its possible success in the major cities. The popularity of author Llewellyn, whose previous work, How Green Was My Valley (1941), scored big for Fox, would be another promotional plus. Grant, who hadn't even read the book when it was gift wrapped to him by RKO, clearly identified with the poverty stricken lead. It would be the closest any screen portrayal came to the real Archibald Leach as opposed to the Hollywood-created Cary Grant, irony compounded when many reviewers commented on the star being miscast.
Odets was stunned when he was first told of the upcoming picture: "...It was about a 19 year old boy with pimples whose two desires are to have a girl friend and to get a new suit of clothes. 'Are you sure it's right for Cary Grant?' I said. It seemed they were, so I had to change the concept of the book considerably." So impressed was Grant with the final adaptation that he victoriously lobbied for the writer to be the movie's director as well. That said, neither Odet's bitter yet perceptive script nor his sensitive direction would receive a nomination at Oscar® time. Likewise, None But the Lonely Heart would also be ignored in the Best Picture category.
Barrymore, on the other hand, who wrapped up her chores as the lead character's dying mother during a two week hiatus from her stage triumph, The Corn is Green, was rewarded by a much-deserved Best Supporting Actress statuette. Winning his second and final Best Actor nomination, Grant, who claimed he never took the awards seriously, didn't even bother showing up for the ceremony (losing to Bing Crosby for Going My Way). Nevertheless the star's closest friends revealed that he was always tremendously disappointed by the loss and considered None But the Lonely Heart his finest performance and a personal favorite among his films. To this day, many movie fans agree with Grant, feeling that he was shortchanged by the Academy. As for RKO, they were correct: in the big cities, None But the Lonely Heart won critical raves and did fair business before ultimately drowning in the "Red Sea" of the company's year end accounting books.
Producer: David Hempstead
Director: Clifford Odets
Screenplay: Clifford Odets, based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn
Production Design: Mordecai Gorelik
Cinematography: George Barnes
Costume Design: Renie
Film Editing: Roland Gross
Original Music: C. Bakaleinikoff, Hanns Eisler
Cast: Cary Grant (Ernie Mott), Ethel Barrymore (Ma Mott), Barry Fitzgerald (Twite), June Duprez (Ada), Jane Wyatt (Aggie Hunter), George Coulouris (Jim Mordinoy).
BW-114m. Closed captioning.
by Mel Neuhaus