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Sylvia Scarlett

Sylvia Scarlett(1936)

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According to Hollywood Reporter production charts and Motion Picture Herald's "In the Cutting Room," Mrs. Patrick Campbell was a cast member. Modern sources, however, state that "Mrs. Pat," a noted British actress, was hired for $2,500 to play a small part but was not used in the production. Hollywood Reporter production charts also add Connie Emerald to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Natalie Paley was, according to the Variety review, a "real" Russian princess, and in RKO production files, she is always listed as "Princess Paley." Contemporary reviewers noted the unusual mixture of period and contemporary costuming and decoration in the picture. Although the film received poor notices and did badly at the box office, the performance of Cary Grant, who was on loan from Paramount, was widely applauded in reviews for its assured comic lightness, a quality his previous film roles had not allowed him to demonstrate. The Time review claimed that Hepburn looked better "as a boy than as a woman." According to RKO production files, exteriors for the film were shot in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Modern sources state that the California coast north of Malibu was also used as a location.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Cukor originally had wanted Evelyn Waugh to write the screenplay but hired British novelist John Collier instead. After Collier had completed his draft, Cukor brought in Gladys Unger and Mortimer Offner to tone down the sexual implications of the story and to write a ten-minute prologue and a fifteen-minute ending that would make Sylvia a more sympathetic and comprehensible character. Grant's salary was $15,000 and Hepburn's was $50,000. Hepburn negotiated for a large percentage of the film's profits. The film had not recouped its production costs of one million dollars as of 1984, however. Sylvia Scarlett, which had been a pet project of Cukor and Hepburn, had such a devastating reception at a preview screening that both Cukor and Hepburn offered to make a movie for producer Berman free of charge if he would shelve it. In a modern interview, Hepburn claimed that Berman expressed a half-joking wish never to see either one of them again. The film marked the beginning of Hepburn's "box office poison" cycle, which blossomed with two other 1936 RKO pictures Mary of Scotland and A Woman Rebels. According to modern sources, Mel Berns did makeup on the production.