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Just as English civil servant Henry Brittingham-Brett explains to his parents that he is no longer involved with his erstwhile girl friend Susan, she bursts into Henry's office and lavishes affection on him. Susan explains to the Reverend and Mrs. Brittingham-Brett that she is married to Henry's best friend, Sir Philip Ashlowe, a British nobleman who has little time for her after attending to his government affairs. When Philip arrives home that day, Susan complains about the effect his work commitment has had on their relationship and persuades him to take a party of friends for a vacation on their yacht. Having invited Henry and his parents to dinner that evening, Susan shows the guests home movies of her and Henry. Henry's parents are disturbed when they see Susan kissing Henry in nearly every scene and even more disturbed by Philip's naive suggestion that his best friend and wife are only having "good clean fun." Later, Henry's mother suggests to the Reverend that Susan is using their son to incite Philip's jealousy. Back at the Ashlowe's, Susan uses her sexy negligee to arouse Philip's interest in a romantic evening, but he is too busy to notice and kisses their dog Nelson instead of Susan. When the couple set sail on the yacht, Susan hopes for some time alone with Philip but finds that her industrious husband is too consumed with helping out on board at all hours. Needing a diversion, Susan calls Henry and entreats him to profess his love for her in a rendezvous on the deck. After days at sea, a violent storm sinks the yacht, marooning Philip, Susan, Henry and Nelson, who became separated from the other passengers, on an uninhabited tropical island. The practical Philip immediately begins building a big hut for him and Susan and a little bachelor hut for Henry. Susan secretly hopes that life on the island will provide more time to be with her husband; however, Philip is completely preoccupied with the building construction. He even rigs an intercom system between the huts with conch shells. Henry's attempts to aid Philip are clumsy and ignorant, causing both Susan and Philip to scoff at him. Susan takes over gathering the oysters, preparing meals and washing the clothes wearing only her black undergarments, saving her evening gown for meals. On the eve of the huts' completion, Susan sees her chance finally to be alone with her husband and invites him to the hut for romance. Jealous of Susan's affection for her husband, Henry distracts Philip with a game of chess. By the twenty-sixth day on the island Henry is so desperate for female companionship that he kisses Susan, then proposes that they have an affair. Susan, far from being shocked, concludes that Philip would never suspect them because he takes her for granted, but refuses Henry anyway. Sulking, Henry threatens to tell Philip that he loves Susan and offer a "lend-lease" situation. Since Philip has been generous enough to share his shoes, Henry concludes that Philip might lend him his wife as well. Infuriated by the immoral suggestion, Susan warns that the proposal will only ruin their friendship. Later that day, Susan is eavesdropping when Henry tells Philip that they should share Susan. Philip thinks the suggestion is deplorable, but Henry argues that Philip neglects his wife and claims that he has been Susan's lover for several years. When Philip protests that Susan is too much of a child to have had a lover, Henry falsely gives Philip his word of honor that the affair has taken place. Susan resents being referred to as a child and is incredulous that the suggestion does not anger Philip more. When Susan denies having an affair with Henry, Philip, the logical diplomat, resolves to find a solution to the dilemma. As captain of the ship, Philip claims he has the power to perform both marriages and divorces and asks Susan to state her case for divorce. Susan alleges neglect and indifference, citing Philip's inability to recall the shade of the negligee with which she last tried to seduce him. Philip concedes to a divorce and suggests that Susan use her conscience to decide the fate of their relationship. Leaving Henry alone at the big hut with Susan, Philip moves to the little hut with Nelson. Later that night, Philip sends Nelson back to the big hut, knowing the dog will bark Henry out of the couple's home and force him to sleep outside. Soon after, when Philip calls with the description of the negligee in question, he once again endears himself to Susan. The next morning, the competition between the two men has rejuvenated Philip's interest in his marriage. He and Susan are busy adoring one another, when a man dressed as an island native surprises the group and ties up Philip and Henry. They try to reason with him, but the native utters gibberish and then drags Susan to the big hut. Once inside the hut, Susan falls, causing the man to exclaim in Italian. Susan then recognizes the man as Mario, the yacht's chef, who concocted the scheme to satiate his "primitive desires." When Susan laughs at Mario's explanation, Henry and Philip assume she is enjoying her captor's attentions and blame each other for her infidelity. Susan is pleased to see that she has finally riled her husband's anger when she exits the hut. Suddenly a ship's horn sounds off shore, causing Mario to scream in English, revealing his true identity to the men. Once safely on board the ship, Henry finally concedes that there was no affair. Back in London, Henry, still assuming the divorce was valid, arrives one night at the Ashlowe house to ask Susan to marry him but finds Philip and Susan in their nightclothes preparing to retire. Upon seeing that Susan is knitting a baby sweater, Henry understands the nature of his defeat and exits the house with a barking Nelson in tow.
Christian Dior Of Paris
F. Hugh Herbert
F. Hugh Herbert
Mario Van Riel
A. W. Watkins
F. A. Young
The Little Hut
That's because this otherwise perfectly serviceable desert island comedy is based on the premise that within the tiny perimeters of a coral reef her husband, played by Stewart Granger, ignores her. Too busy to have time for Ava Gardner? Talk about mad dogs and Englishmen! Talk about a credibility-shattering premise! David Niven, playing the guy's best friend (and his wife's former lover), the other English island inhabitant, is a lot less mad. As ever, he's a suave old dog, and the seismic charms of the wife are hardly lost on him. His nervous smile isn't so much a caught-in-the act smile as a caught-in-the-thought smile. He naturally romances her while her husband unnaturally is oblivious to her. It's an awful lot to ask of an extension of the premise that if you dine on filet mignon every night you get bored with filet mignon. Still, Ava Gardner! It's a tribute to Granger's generally underrated acting skills that he could stomp through his role, never a hair out of place on his graying temples, with a straight face, as if his mind was on Bhowani Junction (1956), the romance set in India, but filmed in Pakistan, he filmed with Gardner.
Actually, he was later to write, his mind was on his pregnant wife back in Hollywood, Jean Simmons. Gardner's mind was on the Italian star, Walter Chiari, who had a lesser role in the film, and with whom she was romantically involved off-camera. In biographies, Gardner, Niven and Granger (real name Jimmy Stewart!) all disparaged The Little Hut, possibly feeling a need to distance themselves from the fact that it was an ignominious flop. Granger and Gardner became pals during Bhowani Junction. Neither wanted to do this film, but neither wanted to face a suspension from MGM. Additionally, Granger fussed over the possibility of being upstaged by Niven's mustache, which he claimed Niven played like a scene-stealing fiddle. It's a tribute to their professionalism that they convey to the degree they do the idea that they're having fun, when in fact each wanted to be somewhere else. At least they weren't on an atoll in the Coral Sea, where the story is set. Filming mostly took place in London and a soundstage at Cinecitta, where it was cooler inside, thanks to air-conditioning, than on Rome's streets outside.
The patent artifice painted backdrops, manufactured jungle settings actually are quite in keeping with the inner world of the story, which stems from a French stage farce by Andre Roussin, and is pure artifice. For the '50s, the talk of wife-swapping is outrageous, even provocative. After the Parisian stage original was Anglicized for London's West end by Nancy Mitford, MGM hired F. Hugh Herbert to write the screenplay the same F. Hugh Herbert who wrote The Moon Is Blue (1953), a milestone of the censorship wars in the US because it contained the then-shocking word "virgin." The film gets away with its exaggeratedly polite badinage about wife-swapping partly because nothing actually happens, because while all sorts of sexy scenarios are floated, there's never the slightest hint of crudity, vulgarity or salaciousness. Manners are impeccable. In fact, the source of the comedy is the tension between what's being discussed and the way it's being discussed. Beneath its teasing conversational tendrils of wildness, anarchy and lust in the dust, it unequivocally reinforces the social system. And, not so incidentally, the English class system.
In short, The Little Hut's not as unrewarding as its doomsday reviews and retrospective putdowns by its three stars make it out to be. A big reason is Gardner, thanks to the easy warmth and control with which she always stays in charge, despite the men going through the motions of chest-pounding. Here, once she exchanges the Dior suits and pillbox hats of smart London for gowns that come through a shipwreck miraculously unsoiled, possibly because she alternates them with a grass skirt, her smiling composure, naughty eyes and purring unflappability remain undentable. As the men go through the motions of sexual rivalry while trying to remain good friends (shades of Noel Coward's Design for Living!), Gardner's total control is never seriously challenged, as a character within the story or a personality above and beyond it.
The film boosts artifice into an almost surreal realm that adds to the fun a blatantly back-projected stormy sea, and the stuff we don't see in the tiny lifeboat that somehow makes it to shore intact. Such as the Union Jack flapping above a tree house built by the irritatingly competent and versatile Granger character he's exasperatingly accomplished at everything but noticing his wife. Our smiles widen as we note that he has somehow salvaged a phonograph whoops, gramophone! and an unbroken 78 rpm record playing "Everything I Have Is Yours" at provocative junctures. Also various costume changes, so the men can dress for black-tie dinners in bare feet. Even Mark Robson's proficient, discreet direction at one point yields to the tongue-in-cheek spirit in a sly parody of the Burt Lancaster-Deborah Kerr rolling-in-the-surf scene in From Here to Eternity (1953), as Gardner and Niven frolic in a similarly splashy clinch. What keeps The Little Hut going is its delirious deadpan embrace of absurdity that keeps escaping from around the edges of its will to decorum. And, above all, Gardner.
Producers: F. Hugh Herbert, Mark Robson
Director: Mark Robson
Screenplay: F. Hugh Herbert; Andre Roussin (play); Nancy Mitford (adaptation); Carles Soldevila (play and story uncredited)
Cinematography: F.A. Young
Art Direction: Elliot Scott
Music: Robert Farnon
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Cast: Ava Gardner (Lady Susan Ashlow), Stewart Granger (Sir Philip Ashlow), David Niven (Henry Brittingham-Brett), Walter Chiari (Mario), Finlay Currie (Rev. Bertram Brittingham-Brett), Jean Cadell (Mrs. Hermione Brittingham-Brett), Jack Lambert (Capt. MacWalt), Henry Oscar (Mr. Trollope), Viola Lyel (Miss Edwards).
by Jay Carr
Ava: My Story, by Ava Gardner
Stewart Granger: Sparks Fly Upward, by Stewart Granger
The Moon's a Balloon: An Autobiography, by David Niven
Niven's Hollywood, by Tom Hutchinson
The Other Side of the Moon, by Sheridan Morley
TheEncyclopedia of Film, by Ephraim Katz
The Little Hut
In the opening credits for the film a shot of the front side of a bedroom dressing screen is shown, on which a female's and then two males' clothes are thrown. The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "'Tut, tut, child,' said the Duchess, 'Everything's got a moral if you only can find it.' Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-And our story, as you will see, is no exception."
In addition to the Paris and London theatrical openings for the play, The Little Hut opened on Broadway October 7, 1953. According to a January 19, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, several studios had turned down adapting the play for the screen because of concerns about receiving PCA certification. As noted in an November 11, 1956 Los Angeles Times article, in the original play, the character of the husband and lover actually "share the wife's affections" on alternate weeks while on the island. For the film, producers F. Hugh Herbert and Mark Robson changed the characters' relationships and gave the husband a captain's title, which gives him the authority to divorce his wife.
According to a March 14, 1953 Los Angeles Times article, the play was originally purchased by British producer Alexander Korda, who approached George Sanders and Zsa Zsa Gabor and David Niven to star in a film adaptation. However, a February 15, 1955 Los Angeles Examiner article states that Robson and playwright F. Hugh Herbert created a new company to produce The Little Hut. According to a 1956 Los Angeles Times article, Herbert had finished the screenplay and the company was approaching Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, who were married at the time, to star in the film.
A July 6, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Laidman Brown to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The Little Hut was shot in part on location in London and Rome, with background shooting in Jamaica. The film marked Italian actor Walter Chiari's American film debut.
As part of the promotion for the film, M-G-M created an international limerick contest, offering a small island in the Fiji Islands newly renamed Ava-Ava as a prize. The winner, Kent Shelby, moved to the island; however, according to a May 20, 1974 People interview, Shelby was forced to move off the uninhabited island after M-G-M removed the furnishings and the servant provided to him upon his arrival.
Released in United States 1957
Released in United States May 1957
Released in United States 1957
Released in United States May 1957