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Lady in the Dark

Lady in the Dark(1944)

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Raoul Pene du Bois's onscreen credit reads: "Settings and Costumes designed by Raoul Pene du Bois." Onscreen dance credits read as follows: "Miss Rogers' dance by and with Don Loper" and "'The Circus' and Miss Parker's dance by and with Billy Daniels." Portions of the following songs, which were featured in the original musical, are heard in this film: "One Life to Live," "Girl of the Moment," "It Looks Like Liza" and "This is New," music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin; and "Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan. The film rights to Moss Hart's musical, Lady in the Dark, which starred Gertrude Lawrence as "Liza," were originally owned by Alexander Korda, according to modern sources. Modern sources also note that the musical drama was partially inspired by Moss Hart's personal experience with psychoanalysis.
       According to an article in the New York Times, the PCA requested that director Mitchell Leisen modify Liza's relationship with the married "Kendall" so that it would appear more sentimental than romantic and insisted that the character of "Russell Paxton" not be depicted as overtly "effeminate." Material in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following about the production: Choreographer George Balanchine was originally slated to choreograph the dance sequences but was released from his contract prior to production. MacDonald Carey was initially cast to reprise his Broadway role as "Dr. Brooks" but withdrew when he was called into military service. Marjorie Rambeau was to appear as "Maggie Grant." Special effects director Slavko Vorkapich worked on the film but declined a screen credit. Paramount negotiated with Vogue editor Babs Willaumez to act as a technical advisor, along with photographer John Rawlins, but Vogue was unable to release them for the time specified. However, Paramount did pay Willaumez a lump sum for her costume designs, some of which were used in the film. Paramount also engaged the following high fashion designers to design costumes for this film: Valentina, Norell, Adrian and Falkenstein. The extent of their contribution to Lady in the Dark has not been determined, however. (According to a modern interview with Mitchell Leisen, only Valentina contributed a design.) The film's final cost was $2,581,657.
       Hollywood Reporter news items reported the following about the production: In February 1941, Paramount, which owned one-third of the stage play Lady in the Dark, outbid Columbia and Warner Bros. and purchased the screen rights to the musical for $283,000, a record price at the time. The studio then refused an offer from producer Howard Hughes to sell the property for $320,000. A March 1942 news item reported that Paramount was negotiating with Fred Astaire to re-team with Ginger Rogers, with whom he had not performed in five years, on the picture. Associate producer David Lewis withdrew from the film due to military service. Paramount considered featuring Angna Enters as Liza's alter ego in the dream sequences. Paramount postponed the film's release because of a backlog of other pictures. To reduce the running time of the film, a scene featuring Mischa Auer singing "Tchaikovsky," a popular number performed by Danny Kaye in the original play, was cut, according to an article in New York Herald Tribune.
       In a modern interview, Leisen claims that although Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich received screen credit for the screenplay, he completely re-wrote their script. Leisen also noted that producer B. G. DeSylva insisted that Rogers' rendition of "My Ship," (music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin) which she sings in a park just prior to the high school graduation dance, be cut from the film.
       The Variety review noted that the film was "produced on a lavish scale in Technicolor," and that the "plethora of many combinations of brilliant colors stamps the production as perhaps the finest ever turned out in tints." A Los Angeles Examiner review noted that the film "is best described as a happy, happy mingling of Freud and Walt Disney....The spectacle, the color, the unusual theme add up to being the real stars of Lady in the Dark." The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Interior Decoration (Color), and Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture). Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland reprised their roles in a January 29, 1945 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast. A second Lux adaptation, broadcast on February 16, 1953, starred Judy Garland and John Lund.