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The Mudlark

The Mudlark(1950)

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According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio optioned motion picture publicist Theodore Bonnet's novel in September 1949 for $5,000, then purchased it the following month for a total of $75,000 plus $2,500 based on sales of the book during its first year of publication.
       The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, reveals that Nunnally Johnson was the only writer who worked on the screenplay, apart from studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck had fears about Johnson's and director Jean Negulesco's intent to use a variety of British dialects in the film. In a January 1950 memo to them, he wrote, "Nothing has done more to kill English pictures in America than pronounced British accents. A British picture has got to be simply sensational to get by in this country and overcome the absolute hatred of American audiences for British accents....A Scottish accent is worst of all. If we load this picture with pronounced accents we are going to be in serious trouble."
       The print viewed was a British release print, identical to the American release version in terms of plot, but containing more production and cast credits. As Alec Guinness' contract called for him to have co-star billing, equal to Irene Dunne's, on prints shown in the U.K., Northern Ireland and Ireland, his name immediately follows Dunne's before the main title on the print viewed. On prints released in America, however, he received first billing after the main title. Actor Anthony Steel was loaned to Twentieth Century-Fox by J. Arthur Rank Productions, Ltd. A June 26, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that American makeup expert Ben Nye advised Dave Aylott on special techniques for transforming Dunne into Queen Victoria. A later story in Life magazine stated that the daily latex applications took ninety minutes to apply.
       Before the film's release, Zanuck removed a sequence depicting Victoria with her grandchildren, played by Maurice Warren, Michael Brooke and Jane Short, as he felt it interrupted the dramatic flow of the story. Despite initial criticism in the British press about an American playing Queen Victoria, the film was selected for showing at the annual Royal Film Performance on October 30, 1950, in the presence of King George VI and the Royal Family to benefit the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund. The Los Angeles premiere, on January 30, 1951, was a benefit for Santa Monica's St. John's Hospital Guild, of which Dunne was chairman. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Costume Design (Black-and-White) category. A radio adaptation of the screenplay was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on August 27, 1951 and starred Dunne and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
       Other films about Queen Victoria include the 1937 Imperator Film production Victoria the Great, which was directed by Herbert Wilcox and starred Anna Neagle and Anton Walbrook. Neagle and Walbrook also starred in Queen of Destiny, another Imperator film, released in Great Britain in 1938 as Sixty Glorious Years (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5508 and F3.5443). Queen Victoria and John Brown were also depicted in the 1997 British production Mrs. Brown, directed by John Madden II and featuring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly.