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A married woman has one last fling with her childhood sweetheart in The Passionate Friends (1949), which was based on a novel by H.G. Wells and directed by David Lean.
A departure from H.G. Wells' more famous science fiction novels, The Passionate Friends is a tale of romance and infidelity with Trevor Howard playing a variation on the character that brought him so much attention and acclaim in Lean's earlier drama, Brief Encounter (1945).
The Passionate Friends was Lean's first movie to be set outside England - the story takes place in Switzerland - and was marketed as a "woman's picture" in the U.S under the title One Woman's Story. It was made with Lean's usual craftsmanship and effectively employed the use of flashbacks for dramatic effect.
In the biography, Trevor Howard: The Man and His Films, author Michael Munn wrote that The Passionate Friends required "a month or two filming in Switzerland. And for Trevor some of the attraction of movie-making was the opportunity it have him to travel...During his free time Trevor took to the snowy slopes for some downhill sports. He loved skiing, and he and Helen enjoyed a number of skiing holidays in Switzerland in the ensuing years."
While The Passionate Friends was a non-stressful shoot for Howard, it was more problematic for David Lean who was brought in to replace the original director Ronald Neame. The latter had clashed repeatedly with Ann Todd, the female star of the film who presented Lean with a different problem - she had been having an affair with Lean for some time and the two finally married in 1949 after his divorce from actress Kay Walsh.
Co-star Claude Rains was also troubled by what he saw on the set, according to David J. Skal in the biography Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice: "Rains disliked Todd, who he felt had wasted everyone's time through her prima donna behavior with Neame over the script and Neame's direction. As Lean later told his biographer, Kevin Brownlow, "I said I was going to stop the picture. We couldn't go on spending money at that rate. We had commitments to Claude Rains, and we had permission to pay him in dollars. You don't realise how difficult that was. That had to be a top-level decision. He'd already been sitting there doing nothing for most of the time he'd been in the country."
In addition to his dislike of Todd, Rains was also concerned about Lean's personal life which seemed to be slipping over onto the set and affecting the picture. He also knew that Lean was seeing a psychoanalyst at the time which didn't bode well. Yet, Rains recognized Lean's immense talent and said, "I can't say enough about the man as a director. He's magnificent."
"David Lean liked Claude very much," Neame recalled in Skal's biography, "and not only liked him very much but thought he was a consummate actor. David was a wonderful director with actors who were secure. He made them better and better and better. Quite aside from his talent, Claude was very disciplined. He always knew his lines. He was always on time. He took direction beautifully. And he was a reliable, solid rock of Gilbraltar in anybody's film."
Producer: Ronald Neame; Eric Ambler (uncredited)
Director: David Lean
Screenplay: Eric Ambler; Stanley Haynes, David Lean (both adaptation); H.G. Wells (novel)
Cinematography: Guy Green
Music: Richard Addinsell
Film Editing: Geoffrey Foot; Clive Donner, Jack Harris (both uncredited)
Cast: Ann Todd (Mary Justin), Claude Rains (Howard Justin), Trevor Howard (Prof. Steven Stratton), Isabel Dean (Pat Stratton), Betty Ann Davies (Miss Layton), Arthur Howard (servant), Guido Lorraine (hotel manager), Marcel Poncin (hall porter