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That Lady in Ermine

That Lady in Ermine(1948)

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The working title of this film was Lady in Ermine and This Is the Moment. Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that, during pre-production, the film's title was Lady in Ermine, but was changed to This Is the Moment at the start of principal photography. By the time of the picture's release, the title had been changed to That Lady in Ermine. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection in the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, although not mentioned in the onscreen credits, the screenplay was based on a German operetta, Die Frau im Hermelin, the screen rights to which the studio purchased in June 1942. The operetta also was the basis of a 1922 stage musical entitled Lady in Ermine, with additional music by Al Goodman and lyrics by Harry Graham and Cyrus Wood. Although the Produced Scripts Collection records do not specifically mention the 1922 musical as a source for the film, and none of the musical's songs were used in the film, it is possible that elements of the stage show's book were utilized. Studio records do indicate that Steven Vas did a literal translation of the operetta's book for the screen adaptation.
       At the time of the operetta's purchase, Irene Dunne was announced as the film's star, and a few months later, Charles Boyer was announced as her co-star. According to modern sources, director Ernst Lubitsch also considered Jeanette MacDonald for the female lead. Modern sources note that, while the script was being written, Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck considered casting Cornel Wilde, Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney, in the role of "Angelina/Francesca," in the picture.
       Studio information indicates that Ladislas Fodor wrote a first draft continuity, but it is not known if any of that material was used in the final film. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in June 1947, the PCA deemed a draft of the screenplay "unacceptable" because "adultery and suspicion of adultery [were] treated for comedy without any compensating moral values." PCA director Joseph I. Breen suggested that, in order to counteract the moral negatives of the story, Angelina must be seen as wanting to preserve her marriage, and "Mario" must be the instigator of the break-up. Breen's suggestions were enacted, and in early October 1947, the final draft of the screenplay was approved by the PCA.
       That Lady in Ermine was Lubitsch's first musical since the 1934 M-G-M production The Merry Widow. It also was his last film; he died from a heart attack on November 30, 1947, on a Sunday during a day off from production. Lubitsch had a history of heart trouble and, in 1944, had been forced to hand over direction of A Royal Scandal to Otto Preminger because of failing health . A few days after Lubitsch's death, Preminger took over production and direction of That Lady in Ermine with the stipulation that all screen credit should go to Lubitsch, "as a mark of respect and admiration for the departed master." It is not known how much footage in the completed film was actually directed by Preminger.
       According to studio publicity, the ermine coat worn by Betty Grable in the film cost $28,000 and was made of 900 golden-white Russian ermine skins. Other films based on the German operetta include The Lady in Ermine, a 1927 First National silent, directed by James Flood and starring Corinne Griffith and Einar Hansen; and Bride of the Regiment, a 1930 First National musical, directed by John Francis Dillon, starring Vivienne Segal, Allan Prior and Walter Pidgeon (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2932 and F2.0596). The 1927 film was also based on the 1922 Broadway play.