The Firebird


1h 14m 1934
The Firebird

Brief Synopsis

A young girl's secret romance is exposed when her lover is murdered.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Nov 3, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Productions Corp.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Muvesz Szinhaz by Lajos Zilahy (Budapest, 25 Feb 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Herman Brandt, a handsome and egotistical actor, lives in the same Viennese apartment building as Carola and John Pointer and their eighteen-year-old daughter Mariette. One day, as Carola leaves to walk her dog, she is accosted by Brandt, who invites her to visit him in his apartment after everyone has gone to bed. She is completely offended and complains about him to the manager. When Brandt refuses to leave the building, the Pointers decide to move out. While they are packing, Brandt is found dead of a gunshot to the head. Police Inspector Miller discovers that a woman frequently visited Brandt at night, but the concierge swears that no one came from outside. In the building, only the Pointer family contains attractive women. Suspicion first falls on Jolan, the maid, then on Mlle. Mousquet, the governess, but both were out of the building on the crucial night. When Miller questions the Pointers, Carola asks to speak to the Inspector alone. She admits that she visited Brandt but denies killing him. Later, after John deduces that only she could have killed Brandt, she tells Miller that she shot Brandt when he threatened to tell her husband if she refused to go away with him. As he questions her, however, Miller realizes that Carola could not have committed the murder. Then Mariette admits that she overheard Brandt's invitation to her mother. Knowing that the door to his apartment would be open, she visited him. Later, disappointed in his nature, she tried to break off their affair. At gunpoint, he insisted that she marry him, and the gun went off in an ensuing struggle, killing him. Carola begs Miller to let her take Mariette's place, so her life will not be ruined by the scandal, but Mariette is determined to live her own life away from her over-protective mother, and the police take her away to face her trial.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Nov 3, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Productions Corp.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Muvesz Szinhaz by Lajos Zilahy (Budapest, 25 Feb 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

The Firebird


Frequent horror movie actor Lionel Atwill plays it straight in The Firebird (1934), an adaptation of the play by Lajos Zilahy, a Broadway flop in 1932 but a hit on stages in London and Paris. As a decent Viennese family man who must face the grim reality that either his beloved wife (Verree Teasdale) or his young daughter (Anita Louise) is responsible for the murder of a caddish actor (Ricardo Cortez), Atwill is streets away from the lunacy he evoked in such Pre-Code shockers as Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and Murders in the Zoo (1933). Curiously, Atwill was a last minute replacement for Colin Clive, former star of Universal's Frankenstein (1931), whose once promising career was at this point on the decline due to longstanding physical ailments and a growing dependence on alcohol. (Even more curious is that the Atwill/Clive role was played in Firebird's regional US tour by that other madman of American horror movies, George Zucco.) Directed by German expatriate William Dieterle, The Firebird splits the difference between whodunit and society soap opera and offers solid support work by such familiar faces as Jane Darwell, Robert Barrat, and C. Aubrey Smith, as the cop on the case. Igor Stravinsky sued Warner Brothers for its unlicensed use of his unrelated "The Firebird Suite" in their film but a French court awarded the celebrated Russian composer only one franc in damages.

By Richard Harland Smith
The Firebird

The Firebird

Frequent horror movie actor Lionel Atwill plays it straight in The Firebird (1934), an adaptation of the play by Lajos Zilahy, a Broadway flop in 1932 but a hit on stages in London and Paris. As a decent Viennese family man who must face the grim reality that either his beloved wife (Verree Teasdale) or his young daughter (Anita Louise) is responsible for the murder of a caddish actor (Ricardo Cortez), Atwill is streets away from the lunacy he evoked in such Pre-Code shockers as Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and Murders in the Zoo (1933). Curiously, Atwill was a last minute replacement for Colin Clive, former star of Universal's Frankenstein (1931), whose once promising career was at this point on the decline due to longstanding physical ailments and a growing dependence on alcohol. (Even more curious is that the Atwill/Clive role was played in Firebird's regional US tour by that other madman of American horror movies, George Zucco.) Directed by German expatriate William Dieterle, The Firebird splits the difference between whodunit and society soap opera and offers solid support work by such familiar faces as Jane Darwell, Robert Barrat, and C. Aubrey Smith, as the cop on the case. Igor Stravinsky sued Warner Brothers for its unlicensed use of his unrelated "The Firebird Suite" in their film but a French court awarded the celebrated Russian composer only one franc in damages. By Richard Harland Smith

Virginia Grey (1917-2004)


Virginia Grey, one MGM's lovliest, but underused leading ladies of the late '30s and '40s, died in Woodland Hills, California on August 1 of heart failure. She was 87.

She was was born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, and was exposed to the film industry at a very young age. Her father, Ray Grey, was a Keystone Cop and acted in several other of Mack Sennett's comedies with the likes of Mabel Normand, Dorothy Gish and Ben Turpin. When her father died when she was still a child, Virginia's mother encouraged her to join the acting game and audition for the role of Eva for Uncle Tom's Cabin, a big budget picture for Universal Studios in the day. She won the role, and acted in a few more pictures at the studio: The Michigan Kid and Heart to Heart (both 1928), before she decided to temporarily leave acting to finish her schooling.

She returned to films after graduating from high school, and after bouncing around Hollywood doing bits for various studios, she hooked up with MGM in 1938. Her roles in her first few films were fairly non-descript: In Test Pilot and Ladies in Distress (both 1938), she did little more than look pretty, but in the following year she had scene-stealing parts in The Women (upstaging Joan Crawford in a delicious scene as a wisecracking perfume counter girl) and as the suffering heroine in Another Thin Man (both 1939).

Despite her versatility (she could handle comedy or drama with equal effectiveness), MGM would cast her in some above-average, but hardly starmaking movies: Whistling in the Dark, The Big Store (both 1941), and Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942). She left MGM in 1943 and became a freelance actress for several studios, but her material as a leading lady throughout the '40s were mediocre: Swamp Fire, House of Horrors (both 1946), and Mexican Hayride (1948) were sadly the more interesting films in her post-MGM period. But by the '50s she was a well-established character actress, appearing in fairly big-budget pictures: All That Heaven Allows, The Rose Tattoo (both 1955), Jeanne Eagels (1957).

In the '60s, Grey turned to television and found work on a variety of hit shows: Wagon Train, Peter Gunn, Bonanza, My Three Sons, I Spy, and several others; plus she also captured a a couple of notable supporting parts in these films: Madame X (1966), and Airport (1970), before retiring completely from acting in the early '70s. She is survived by her sister, Lorraine Grey Heindorf, two nieces and two nephews.

by Michael T. Toole

Virginia Grey (1917-2004)

Virginia Grey, one MGM's lovliest, but underused leading ladies of the late '30s and '40s, died in Woodland Hills, California on August 1 of heart failure. She was 87. She was was born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, and was exposed to the film industry at a very young age. Her father, Ray Grey, was a Keystone Cop and acted in several other of Mack Sennett's comedies with the likes of Mabel Normand, Dorothy Gish and Ben Turpin. When her father died when she was still a child, Virginia's mother encouraged her to join the acting game and audition for the role of Eva for Uncle Tom's Cabin, a big budget picture for Universal Studios in the day. She won the role, and acted in a few more pictures at the studio: The Michigan Kid and Heart to Heart (both 1928), before she decided to temporarily leave acting to finish her schooling. She returned to films after graduating from high school, and after bouncing around Hollywood doing bits for various studios, she hooked up with MGM in 1938. Her roles in her first few films were fairly non-descript: In Test Pilot and Ladies in Distress (both 1938), she did little more than look pretty, but in the following year she had scene-stealing parts in The Women (upstaging Joan Crawford in a delicious scene as a wisecracking perfume counter girl) and as the suffering heroine in Another Thin Man (both 1939). Despite her versatility (she could handle comedy or drama with equal effectiveness), MGM would cast her in some above-average, but hardly starmaking movies: Whistling in the Dark, The Big Store (both 1941), and Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942). She left MGM in 1943 and became a freelance actress for several studios, but her material as a leading lady throughout the '40s were mediocre: Swamp Fire, House of Horrors (both 1946), and Mexican Hayride (1948) were sadly the more interesting films in her post-MGM period. But by the '50s she was a well-established character actress, appearing in fairly big-budget pictures: All That Heaven Allows, The Rose Tattoo (both 1955), Jeanne Eagels (1957). In the '60s, Grey turned to television and found work on a variety of hit shows: Wagon Train, Peter Gunn, Bonanza, My Three Sons, I Spy, and several others; plus she also captured a a couple of notable supporting parts in these films: Madame X (1966), and Airport (1970), before retiring completely from acting in the early '70s. She is survived by her sister, Lorraine Grey Heindorf, two nieces and two nephews. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

The original play by Lajos Zilahy opened in Budapest, Hungary, on 25 February 1932. Jeffrey Dell's English adaptation opened in New York City, New York, USA, on 21 November 1932 and had 42 performances.

Notes

According to the Variety review, Jeffrey Dell's adaptation entitled The Firebird was poorly received in the United States, where it opened on November 21, 1932, but was a hit in London. A French adaptation of Lajos Zilahy's play by Denys Amiel, entitled Cette nuit-la, was published in the June 30, 1933 issue of La Petite Illustration, but was not a source for this film.