Cast & Crew
W. S. Van Dyke
C. Aubrey Smith
Dan Pritchard is a partner with his father at the San Francisco-based shipping company Pritchard and Pritchard. Dan is engaged to socialite Maisie Morrisson, but is frustrated by Maisie's aloofness and refusal to set a wedding date. When Dan responds to a message from Captain Larrieau, a close friend of his father, that requests he meet him at his docked ship, he learns that the seaman has contracted leprosy. After reminding the young shipping official that his will is located in Dan's office, Larrieau informs Dan that upon his death, the Pritchards will have sole custody of his wild, young, half-Polynesian daughter Tamea. Before committing suicide, Larrieau asks Dan to assure that Tamea will be given good education and married to a suitable husband. Tamea, who grew up in the islands, soon finds herself in unaccustomed surroundings when she is taken to the swank Pritchard mansion and presented to their servants. The rebellious young girl, who insists on remaining barefoot, is awed by the Pritchards' modern trappings and begs not to be sent away. Much to everyone's dismay, Tamea falls in love with Dan and begins to flaunt her affection for him before the others. While at a party, Dan's friend Mark Mellenger, concerned about Dan's growing attraction to Tamea, tells the girl that Dan must "mate" with a white woman rather than her. Angered by his remark, Tamea confronts Dan, who is talking to Maisie. When Maisie tries to soothe Tamea by cooing that she should not be ashamed that she is not white, Tamea storms out and Dan chastises Maisie for her insensitive comment. Dan follows Tamea home, where she seduces him. As Dan falls in love with the passionate Tamea, he loses his ardor for Maisie. When Dan's father, upset that his son has fallen in love with the Polynesian girl, sends her back to the island, Dan follows her. On the island, Tamea and Dan live as lovers in their idyllic surroundings until Dan discovers that Tamea has a jealous suitor, Tolongo. Distressed by the oppressive heat and primitive customs of the island and jealous over Tamea's relationship with Tolongo, Dan begins to frequent a bar owned by another Westerner, where he spends his time drinking with Porter, an expatriate drunk. After scrapping with Tolongo, the drunken and embittered Dan later whips Tamea, but they make up with a kiss. When Maisie arrives on the island to bring Dan home, he blames her aloofness for driving him to Tamea and the island. After Maisie tells Dan that she loves him and wants to marry him, he insists that he must sober up and reclaim himself before joining her. Accepting his terms, Maisie leaves him and goes to wait for the return boat home, which will not arrive for one month. One month later, as Maisie stands on the boat's deck, she starts crying when she sees the now-redeemed Dan walking up the gangplank. When the drunken Porter expresses regret that he does not have the courage to return home, Dan pulls him aboard. As Tamea watches Dan's boat sail away, she welcomes Tolongo back into her arms.
W. S. Van Dyke
C. Aubrey Smith
Merritt B. Gerstad
Edwin Justus Mayer
Never the Twain Shall Meet
Howard plays Dan Pritchard, a bored scion of a shipping fortune who ends up with custody of Tamea, the half-Polynesian daughter of one of his ships' captains, an uninhibited child of nature, played by Montenegro. Frustrated by his aloof fiancée, Dan falls for Tamea, and follows her back to the islands, where he "goes native." The film's title is a line from a Rudyard Kipling poem, "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet," often quoted as an example of Kipling's attitudes towards race and empire. Very much a product of its time, Never the Twain Shall Meet shares those attitudes, making it an interesting curiosity. Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times was mildly amused by the story, and more impressed by the performances. "Mr. Howard comes through with another of his specimens of finished acting, investing his character with humor and personality. In the part of Maisie, Dan's fiancée, Karen Morley plays exceptionally well, and another newcomer, Miss Montenegro, flashes an appealing Latin loveliness....Mr. Van Dyke's photography and direction are excellent throughout."
Montenegro was a talented dancer and had already appeared in several films in her native Spain and in France when she was signed to a contract by MGM in 1930. Only 17 when she arrived in Hollywood, Montenegro later recalled that the only English words she knew were "ham and eggs," and that her screen test at MGM, dressed in a grass skirt, was with Clark Gable. At the time, Hollywood studios were making foreign language versions of their films for distribution abroad, and Montenegro appeared in several before making her English-language debut in Never the Twain Shall Meet. Her American film career never caught fire, and she returned to Spain in 1940. In 1944, she married a Spanish diplomat who was a high-ranking member of dictator Francisco Franco's right-wing Falangist party.
Shortly before her death at age 95 in 2007, Montenegro told a Spanish journalist that she and the married Howard (who had a reputation as a womanizer) had an affair after making Never the Twain Shall Meet. Apparently, they stayed friends. It has long been rumored that Howard was a British spy during World War II, and that's why his plane was shot down by the Luftwaffe over the Bay of Biscay when he was returning to England from a trip to Spain and Portugal in 1943. In the interview, Montenegro claimed that the rumors were true, and that she had arranged a meeting with Franco during which Howard persuaded the Spanish dictator to keep Spain out of the war, in which it would have sided with the Axis powers. Returning from Spain to England to report on the meeting, his plane was shot down. Whether or not the story is true, it adds fuel to the rumors that Howard was on a mission for British intelligence at the time of his death.
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: Ruth Cummings, John Lynch (additional dialogue); Edwin Justus Mayer (dialogue continuity); Peter B. Kyne (novel)
Cinematography: Merritt B. Gerstad
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Cast: Leslie Howard (Dan Pritchard), Conchita Montenegro (Tamea Larrieau), C. Aubrey Smith (Mr. Pritchard), Karen Morley (Maisie Morrison), Mitchell Lewis (Capt. Larrieau), Hale Hamilton (Mark Mellenger), Clyde Cook (Mr. Porter), Bob Gilbert (Tolongo), Joan Standing (Julia), Eulalie Jensen (Mrs. Graves).
by Margarita Landazuri
Never the Twain Shall Meet
An April 1930 Film Daily news item indicated that Lionel Barrymore was set to direct this film, and that Raquel Torres was cast in a leading part, but they did not work on the production. According to a Motion Picture Herald pre-production news item, actor Johnny Mack Brown was originally set to star opposite Conchita Montenegro. A April 22, 1931 M-G-M studio billing sheet notes that "several writers" worked on the screenplay, but that "no credit will be given." However, writers Ruth Cummings, John Lynch and Edwin Justus Mayer were credited onscreen. The Variety review incorrectly lists Eulalie Jensen's character name as Mrs. Craven.
According to the file for Never the Twain Shall Meet in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in May 1930 Hays office official John V. Wilson met with M-G-M representatives and informed them that their treatment of the picture was "all right from the point of view of miscegenation because the father of the girl is white and he is the only one shown in the picture. The mother was a Polynesian queen and Polynesians are not black." Wilson also suggested that "it might be dangerous to have the son already married and that it would be better to retain the idea in the original story that he has been engaged to the girl a long time and is just on the point of marrying her...If in the begining of the picture a great deal of audience sympathy is created for the situation surrounding the son and if in the end of the picture the audience is made to feel with him the fallacy of his action is deserting his former life, the tone of the picture will be kept at a level sufficient to satisfy the standards of the Code." The MPAA/PCA file also notes that the film was rejected by censors in Ireland.
An earlier version of Peter B. Kyne's novel was filmed by M-G-M under the same title in 1925, directed by Maurice Tourneur and starring Anita Stewart and Bert Lytell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3804).