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The Wild Heart

The Wild Heart(1952)

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The working titles of this film were Gypsy Blood and Gone to Earth, the latter of which was also the British release title. The phrase "gone to earth," a fox-hunting term that usually refers to the death of the quarry, is uttered at the end of the picture, when "Hazel" and "Foxy" fall into the mine shaft. Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's onscreen credits reads: "Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger." Although not included in the onscreen credits of the viewed print, Powell and Pressburger's films usually featured the logo of their company, The Archers. Onscreen credits note that the film was "photographed at the actual settings on the Welsh border in Shepperton, England and in Hollywood, California." The opening credits are momentarily interrupted by footage of an English fox hunt. Voice-over narration, spoken by Joseph Cotten, describes the Shropshire countryside and its gypsy customs.
       The picture, which was released first in London on September 19, 1950 at a running time of 110 minutes, had a long and complicated history. Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In March 1937 actress Simone Simon announced that she had purchased the rights to Mary Webb's novel Gone to Earth. By March 1940, however, the novel was under the control of English producer Alexander Korda, who planned to film the story for United Artists release. Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were mentioned as possible co-stars at that time. Production on the film did not begin until July 1949. Korda and American producer David O. Selznick, who had entered into a producing-distribution contract in the late 1940s, hired Pressburger and Powell to make the picture, with Jennifer Jones, Selznick's new wife, as the star.
       According to Powell's autobiography, the director tested both James Donald and Paul Scofield for the role of "Edward" before casting Cyril Cusack. In his autobiography, Powell described location shooting in the Shropshire countryside: "We were using only local people for the crowd scenes and small parts....We hired a mothballed aerodrome not far from Shrewsbury, and used the empty hangars like a film studio....We started in Much Wenlock with Jennifer visiting the little market town as if it were Paris....We moved over to Church Stretton and Craven Arms, in the Welsh Marches, and made them our base for a week or two." The county fair scene was shot on the water meadows near Shrewsbury, according to Powell's autobiography.
       In late 1949, after viewing a rough cut of the film in England, Selznick demanded extensive retakes. According to modern sources, Selznick was unhappy with Powell and Pressburger's version because Jones was not on screen enough, and accused the filmmakers of sticking too close to the novel. Selznick, who owned the film's Western hemisphere rights, and Korda, who owned the remaining world rights, disagreed as to who should pick up the cost of the retakes, according to contemporary news items. Modern sources note that in April 1950, Selznick's lawyer sought an injunction against Gone to Earth in London but was unsuccessful. According to contemporary news items, in August 1950, the producers then entered into arbitration proceedings. Korda demanded that Selznick release 100,000 held in escrow in London, which represented returns on the English distribution of Selznick's 1948 production The Paradine Case (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), which Selznick had promised Korda in exchange for Gone to Earth. Selznick countered that Korda was not entitled to the money until he had made the requested changes on Gone to Earth.
       Also included in the disputed deal were monies from the distribution of Selznick's 1949 film Portrait of Jennie in England, which Selznick had turned over to Korda in exchange for Gone to Earth, and the U.S. distribution rights to Korda's 1950 film The Third Man (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). The dispute was settled in November 1950, when it was decreed that Selznick was entitled to only three scenes worth of retakes. Modern sources state that the New York judge in the case, Robert P. Patterson, ruled that all of the terms of Selznick and Korda's original contract had essentially been met, and that Selznick could make any changes to Gone to Earth for its Western hemisphere release as he wanted, but had to do so at his own expense.
       Retakes were shot in Hollywood, according to contemporary sources. Modern sources note that Selznick hired Rouben Mamoulian to direct the new footage and reassembled all of the principal actors. According to modern sources, seventy percent of Powell and Pressburger's film was either reshot or dropped. According to information contained in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen deemed a shot version of the picture, viewed in October 1950, as unacceptable under the provisions of the Code. Breen complained that, unlike the script that he had approved, the shot film contained too much lovemaking between Jack and Hazel. He also objected to the elimination of the scene in which Hazel speaks remorsefully about her sin, as well as the casting and direction of the scene in which townspeople come to the Marston home to voice their disapproval of Edward and Hazel. Breen stated in a October 12, 1950 letter to Selznick that "this scene will need careful editing to remove the present flavor of making the townspeople so unpleasant as to cast the sympathy of the audience against what they are saying." To satisfy Breen, Selznick not only reduced the objectionable lovemaking, reinserted Hazel's remorse speech and changed some of the townspeople's dialogue, he also added dialogue establishing Hazel's pregnancy, as he felt that making her pregnant would "punch up the impossibility of a reconciliation between her and her husband." Breen approved the film in late November 1950.
       Although in September 1951 Hollywood Reporter announced that the film, which was then called Gypsy Blood, would be distributed by Selznick International, Selznick sold the Western hemisphere distribution rights to RKO for $500,000 in December 1951. In July 1986, a print of the British version of The Wild Heart, newly restored by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, was screened in London.
       Modern sources add the following crew credits: Charles Orme (Production Assistant); Archie Knowles (2d asst dir); Doreen Francis (Continuity); Joanna G. Busby (Asst cont); Freddie Francis (Camera Operator); Bill Lee (Focus puller); George Minassian (Technicolor tech); Dick Allport (Technicolor asst); W. Percy Day (Process shots); Bill Wall (Chief elec); Bernard Sarron (Set dresser); Maurice Fowler (Draftsman); John Cox (Sound Recording); Peter Butcher (Boom Operator); Charles Earl (Sd cam op); P. R. Stephenson (Sd maintenance); Julia Squires (Costumes); Ivy Baker (Dress supv); Bill Smith and Michael Hart (Wardrobe); Dick Richards and May Walding (Ward asst); Jimmy Vining (Makeup); Connie Reeves (Makeup asst); Betty Cross (Hair); Eileen Bates (Asst hair); Alec Mozeley (Puppeteer); Vivienne Knight (Publicity); and Bert Cann (Stills). In addition, modern sources note that the film's score was performed by the Boyd Neel Orchestra. Modern sources add the following additional cast members: Raymond Rollett (Landlord/elder); Gerald Lawson (Road mender/elder); Bartlett Mullins and Arthur Reynolds (Chapel elders); Ann Tetheradge (Miss James); Peter Dunlop (Cornet player); Louis Phillip (Policeman); and Owen Holder (Brother minister). It is possible that some of these actors did not appear in the U.S. version.