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The Magnificent Yankee

The Magnificent Yankee(1951)

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The order of the onscreen cast credits that appear at the end of the film differ from the opening credits, which list the stars of the film, Louis Calhern and Ann Harding, first. According to a December 1950 Los Angeles Times news item, the film was originally scheduled for a February 1951 general release, but had its premiere and limited release in December 1950 to qualify for the 1950 Academy Awards. Louis Calhern recreated his role from the Broadway production of Emmet Lavery's play which co-starred Dorothy Gish as "Fanny Holmes." Contemporary sources note that Francis Biddle, the biographer who provided the "source material" for the play, served as one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holms, Jr.'s young Harvard Law School assistants.
       Material in the M-G-M Story Department's Index Films contained at AFI's Louis B. Mayer Library indicates that in 1943, M-G-M producer Voldemar Vetluguin wrote a screen treatment of Biddle's book of essays, Mr. Justice Holmes, and submitted it to the Hays Office for review. According to a 1947 ^LAEx news item, United Artists producer Benedict Bogeaus purchased the screen rights to Lavery's play with the intention of casting "a younger actor" than Calhern in the leading role. A July 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Bogeaus had actor Gregory Peck in mind for the title role at the time he purchased the film rights.
       A June 1949 Daily Variety news item stated that Twentieth Century-Fox writer and director Shepard Traube optioned the film rights to the play. A New York Times article noted that on October 29, 1947, Lavery was replaced on a "contempt list" of the HUAC and was called to testify against Hollywood figures purported to be Communists. Lavery refused to "name names" and questioned the committee's Constitutional right to ask such questions. After assuring the committee that he himself was not a Communist, Lavery suggested that a better approach to curtailing the rise of Communism in the United States might be to "dramatize the American way of life," like showing "how good Mr. (Justice Oliver Wendell) Holmes was than how bad Mr. Stalin is." (For more information on the HUAC hearings, see the 1940's catalog entry for Crossfire." A Hallmark Hall of Fame television production of Lavery's play, which aired on February 4, 1965 and starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, received a Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. Calhern was nominated for a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award. Walter Plunkett's costumes were also nominated for an Oscar. Calhern and Ann Harding reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, which aired on May 19, 1962.