Escape Me Never
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With the critical and commercial success enjoyed by the Charles Boyer-Joan Fontaine-Alexis Smith version of the music-laden period romance The Constant Nymph (1943), the decision makers at Warner were only too eager to craft another period romance from the works of author Margaret Kennedy. The estimable Erich Wolfgang Korngold was again assigned the scoring duties. However, the studio fell short of recapturing the past magic, and the fact that the finished work sat on the shelf for nearly two years showed that Warner was well aware of it. Still, Escape Me Never (1947) isn't without some virtues, from the earnest work of its principal players to Korngold's effective score.
Kennedy had adapted her 1928 novel The Fool of the Family for the London stage in the '30s, and the story had already been filmed in Britain in 1935 with Elisabeth Bergner and Hugh Sinclair. The story, which opens in turn-of-the-century Vienna, concerns Gemma Smith (Ida Lupino), an impoverished young single mother scraping out survival for herself and her infant by any means possible. Her plight moves the struggling Bohemian composer Sebastian Dubrok (Errol Flynn) who offers the pair shelter in his meager digs.
The situation is misread in turn by Sebastian's stodgy brother Caryl (Gig Young), who turned his back on his musical training in favor of a modestly successful business career, and then by Caryl's fiancée, the beautiful, aristocratic Fionella MacLean, who storms out in the mistaken belief that Caryl is involved with Gemma. The brothers Dubrok gather up Gemma and the baby and follow Fionella to the Alps to attempt to make an explanation.
In the course of the pursuit, Sebastian finds himself falling for Fionella, resolving to craft a ballet in her name. Torn because of Caryl's feelings, he decides marriage to the devoted Gemma will keep him from further pursuit of his sister-in-law to be. The pull of his attraction to Fionella, however, proves too great, and it takes a tragedy for him to ultimately discover where his priorities lie.
The project wasn't a memorable one for the great screen swashbuckler Flynn, whose apparent comfort level with both the material and the Tyrolean suspenders he donned is about what you would expect. Ida Lupino, whose versatility and talent were rarely given a decent showcase at Warner Bros., faired better in creating a sympathetic gamine. She harbored warm memories of the film that were shared with John Kobal in his interview anthology People Will Talk. "I loved Errol Flynn, who was one of my dear, dear, dear friends...He was just marvelous. Fun and well, a very kind person, very sensitive. He used to call me 'Mad Idsy' and I used to call him 'The Baron'."
Young would look back at his thankless assignment with far less affection, as recounted in George Eels' biography Final Gig, which was published in the wake of the 1978 murder/suicide that took the performer and his younger wife. "I was cast as Errol Flynn's brother in a film at Warners and if you recall at the time he was The King of the lot," Young told journalist Joan Schmitt. "If I hadn't been so naïve I would have known that this would turn out to be his dull brother. But I didn't get the message until I was told to keep my hands in my lap during my big romantic scene."
Escape Me Never didn't demand more from Eleanor Parker than to be primly beautiful, a task that she of course fulfilled. Warner house director Peter Godfrey would very soon afterwards work with her again to much more resounding effect as the twin sisters menaced by Sydney Greenstreet in the Gothic thriller The Woman in White (1948).
Producer: Henry Blanke, Jack L. Warner
Director: Peter Godfrey
Screenplay: Thames Williamson, Lenore J. Coffee, Margaret Kennedy (novel/play)
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Film Editing: Clarence Kolster
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn (Sebastian Dubrok), Ida Lupino (Gemma Smith), Eleanor Parker (Fionella MacLean), Gig Young (Caryl Dubrok), Reginald Denny (Mr. MacLean), Isobel Elsom (Mrs. MacLean).
BW-104m. Closed captioning.
by Jay S. Steinberg