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Olivia de Havilland has said that the role of Jody Norris in To Each His Own (1946) is one of her favorites. De Havilland's beautifully modulated portrayal of an unwed mother during World War I who gives up her child, becomes a successful businesswoman, and encounters her now-grown son during World War II, finally won her an Academy Award, on her third nomination. It was also the first Oscar for an actress at Paramount. Helped along by a hit theme song and excellent reviews, To Each His Own was one of the big hits of the year.
To Each His Own was a triumph for de Havilland in more ways than one. She had been off the screen for two years due to her legal battle seeking to end her contract with Warner Brothers. It was a battle she won, resulting in a law called the "de Havilland Decision" that limited studios to a seven-year contract with an actor. To Each His Own offered de Havilland a bravura star turn for a spectacular comeback.
Mitchell Leisen had directed de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which had earned her an Academy Award nomination. When de Havilland read the script for To Each His Own, she knew that only Leisen could make it more than a conventional soap opera. Leisen didn't want to do it, but de Havilland wouldn't do it with anyone else. So Leisen worked with writer-producer Charles Brackett to improve the script, and agreed, unenthusiastically, to direct. De Havilland remembered that as production went on, and he discovered more facets to the character, Leisen became more enthusiastic. She credited Leisen's attention to detail for her performance, whether it was making sure the period costumes, props and furniture were correct, giving her insight on a line reading or gesture, or setting the tension of a scene. Always, she said, Leisen kept the entire picture in mind, and modulated her performance to fit the rhythm of the whole. And de Havilland had some tricks of her own for getting in character. She used different colognes for each different era of Jody's life, from young girl to middle-aged executive. When she put on cologne, she was able to evoke the emotions that Jody was feeling at that time in her life.
De Havilland had caught a tropical disease while entertaining the troops in the Pacific, and had lost a lot of weight when production began on To Each His Own. Since the film was shot in sequence, the weight loss worked to its advantage. In the early scenes, playing a young girl, she is thin and ethereal. Leisen insisted that De Havilland eat hearty meals during production, and over the course of the film, she gained about 20 pounds, which took her effectively through pregnancy and aging. The aging process was also helped along with makeup and harsh lighting.
Broadway actor John Lund made his film debut in To Each His Own, in the dual role of de Havilland's lover and her son. As the son, he had a brown rinse on his naturally blond hair, and his manner for each character is totally different. Lund was a good actor, but was not used to film technique, and had difficulties hitting his marks. The supporting cast, though not well-known, was uniformly excellent, and even inspired. Editor Alma Macrorie, who was not an actress, was a standout as the continually pregnant Belle Ingham. She also cut the film, and kept trying to cut her part down.
By the time To Each His Own wrapped, Mitchell Leisen was so convinced that de Havilland was giving an Oscar-worthy performance that, at the wrap party, he gave her a charm bracelet with an Oscar on it. She wore the bracelet on Oscar night, when she collected her award. Charles Brackett was also nominated for his screenplay.
Producer: Charles Brackett
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Jacques Thery, based on a story by Brackett
Editor: Alma Macrorie
Cinematography: Daniel Fapp
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Roland Anderson
Music: Victor Young
Principal Cast: Olivia de Havilland (Miss Josephine Norris), John Lund (Capt. Bart Cosgrove/Gregory Piersen), Mary Anderson (Corinna Piersen), Roland Culver (Lord Desham), Phillip Terry (Alex Piersen), Bill Goodwin (Mac Tilton), Virginia Welles (Liz Lorimer), Griff Barnett (Mr. Norris), Alma Macrorie (Belle Ingham).
BW-122m. Closed captioning.
By Margarita Landazuri