Susan and God


1h 55m 1940
Susan and God

Brief Synopsis

A flighty socialite neglects her family to promote a new religious group.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jun 7, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Susan and God by Rachel Crothers, as produced by John Golden (Princeton, New Jersey, 10 Apr 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Barrie Trexel rushes to the docks to meet his estranged wife Susan when he learns that she is returning home from Europe. Susan, who wants a divorce from Barrie, a man driven to drink by his wife's insensitivity, avoids him and takes refuge at the country home of her friend, Irene Burroughs. There, Susan begins spouting the religious fadism that she has picked up from Lady Millicent Wigstaff, and urges her friends to be honest about their relationships. While Susan insists that Irene and her lover Mike are unsuited for each other and that the beautiful young Leonara should leave her elderly husband Hutchie and return to the stage, Barrie appears and begs his wife's forgiveness. Barrie pleads with Susan to heed her own words and give him another chance for the sake of their daughter Blossom, offering to grant Susan a divorce if he takes another drink. Certain that Barrie will be unable to keep his part of the bargain, Susan agrees. Gradually, Susan comes to realize that her daughter really needs her, but when Lady Wigstaff summons Susan to Newport on the day of Blossom's big birthday party, Susan decides to go. Susan's selfishness prompts Barrie to begin drinking again, and he asks Charlotte, an old friend who has always loved Barrie, to marry him. At the railroad station, Susan realizes that she has acted selfishly and that the love of her family is the most important thing in her life, and she returns home. Charlotte, realizing that Susan still loves Barrie, rejects his proposal, and Susan begs Barrie for another chance.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jun 7, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Susan and God by Rachel Crothers, as produced by John Golden (Princeton, New Jersey, 10 Apr 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Susan and God


After a European holiday, charming, fashionable society matron Susan Trexel (Joan Crawford) flits back to Long Island where she surprises her wealthy, jaded friends with the news that she has found a new religion. Not content to merely preach the benefits of her new faith, Susan begins an aggressive campaign to convert her friends and family through a process of publicly revealing their sins.

Based on Rachel Crothers' satirical play, Susan and God (1940) treats religion as just one in a series of fads or styles in superficial Susan's life. Claiming that she merely wants to help her friends, Susan has soon wrecked two relationships, including the only recently sealed union between wealthy Hutchins Stubbs (Nigel Bruce) and his gorgeous young wife Leonora (Rita Hayworth), and is working on adding her own dissolving marriage to Barry Trexel (Fredric March) to the scrap heap.

Playing the role of a spoiled heiress with irresistible panache, Joan Crawford's performance is greatly enhanced by the exquisite costumes created for Susan by legendary MGM chief costume designer Adrian who also designed memorable ensembles for other divas in the MGM stable including Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow. Adrian's typically bold silhouettes and patterns give an early indication that Susan's religious conversion is not altogether sincere, but more the spiritual dilettantism of a bored fashion plate. Adrian is credited with innovating the broad-shouldered, waist-slimming look that became Crawford's signature style, and his screen collaboration with Crawford on 28 films surely helped cement her reputation as a notorious Hollywood clothes horse.

Adapted for the screen by Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), The Women, 1939) who some claimed greatly improved upon the original play, Susan and God is an often penetrating, humorous indictment of spiritual fads and religious self-righteousness. Crothers' play was reportedly inspired by a real-life religious movement of the day, Dr. Frank Buchanan 's Oxford Group of the 1930s (which also inspired the creators of Alcoholics Anonymous). Like the Susan Trexel character in Susan and God Buchanan experienced a spiritual epiphany while visiting England, which would alter the course of his life and lead him to develop a faith based on confession of sins and conversion of others to the spiritual path. Buchanan's message of "Moral Re-Armament" and belief that personal change could lead to social change led him to speak out against the prewar military build-up in the late 1930s and landed him on the cover of Time magazine.

Ironically enough, Joan Crawford underwent a religious conversion of her own in the 1930s, to Christian Science, and reportedly consulted her practitionist almost daily for 25 years. But Crawford abided by a strict personal policy of never speaking openly about religion or politics, and kept her Christian Science views under wraps.

Susan and God signaled an important career transition for Joan Crawford, from a sex symbol in early films like Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Mannequin (1937) to a mature, seasoned actress who later earned an Academy Award in 1945 for her portrait of an emotionally divided mother in Mildred Pierce (1945). Anxious to prove her abilities in Hollywood, Crawford accepted the role of Susan Trexel when her arch rival Norma Shearer, (often awarded the plum MGM roles denied Crawford, because Shearer was married to MGM head producer Irving Thalberg) turned the part down because she didn't want to play the mother of a teenage daughter onscreen.

Susan and God, like Crawford's previous film The Women, cast her as an unlikable character. While this was a welcome acting challenge for Crawford, it was more problematic for Adrian whose previous costume designs for the actress greatly influenced the fashion industry. In Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928-1941 (Abrams) by Howard Gutner, the author elaborates: "The advertising tag line for the filmÖindicated how successful Crawford's stab at devising a new image had been, and also served to vindicate Louis B. Mayer's worst fears: "Joan's a gorgeous meanie again!" This was not the ideal image to sell fashion. The dark side that began to emerge in Crawford's characters after The Women necessarily affected any fashion influence they could have had. Audiences could be entertained by Joan Crawford as vain, silly Susan Trexel, but that didn't necessarily mean they wanted to be Susan. So why would they want to dress like her?" From this point on, Crawford's career at MGM went into a sharp decline in popularity and she was released from the studio in 1943.

Director: George Cukor
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: Anita Loos based on the play by Rachel Crothers
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Joan Crawford (Susan Trexel), Fredric March (Barry Trexel), Ruth Hussey (Charlotte), John Carroll (Clyde Rochester), Rita Hayworth (Leonora Stubbs), Nigel Bruce (Hutchins Stubbs), Bruce Cabot (Michael O'Hara), Rose Hobart (Irene), Rita Quigley (Blossom Trexel).
BW-118. Closed captioning.

by Felicia Feaster

Susan And God

Susan and God

After a European holiday, charming, fashionable society matron Susan Trexel (Joan Crawford) flits back to Long Island where she surprises her wealthy, jaded friends with the news that she has found a new religion. Not content to merely preach the benefits of her new faith, Susan begins an aggressive campaign to convert her friends and family through a process of publicly revealing their sins. Based on Rachel Crothers' satirical play, Susan and God (1940) treats religion as just one in a series of fads or styles in superficial Susan's life. Claiming that she merely wants to help her friends, Susan has soon wrecked two relationships, including the only recently sealed union between wealthy Hutchins Stubbs (Nigel Bruce) and his gorgeous young wife Leonora (Rita Hayworth), and is working on adding her own dissolving marriage to Barry Trexel (Fredric March) to the scrap heap. Playing the role of a spoiled heiress with irresistible panache, Joan Crawford's performance is greatly enhanced by the exquisite costumes created for Susan by legendary MGM chief costume designer Adrian who also designed memorable ensembles for other divas in the MGM stable including Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow. Adrian's typically bold silhouettes and patterns give an early indication that Susan's religious conversion is not altogether sincere, but more the spiritual dilettantism of a bored fashion plate. Adrian is credited with innovating the broad-shouldered, waist-slimming look that became Crawford's signature style, and his screen collaboration with Crawford on 28 films surely helped cement her reputation as a notorious Hollywood clothes horse. Adapted for the screen by Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), The Women, 1939) who some claimed greatly improved upon the original play, Susan and God is an often penetrating, humorous indictment of spiritual fads and religious self-righteousness. Crothers' play was reportedly inspired by a real-life religious movement of the day, Dr. Frank Buchanan 's Oxford Group of the 1930s (which also inspired the creators of Alcoholics Anonymous). Like the Susan Trexel character in Susan and God Buchanan experienced a spiritual epiphany while visiting England, which would alter the course of his life and lead him to develop a faith based on confession of sins and conversion of others to the spiritual path. Buchanan's message of "Moral Re-Armament" and belief that personal change could lead to social change led him to speak out against the prewar military build-up in the late 1930s and landed him on the cover of Time magazine. Ironically enough, Joan Crawford underwent a religious conversion of her own in the 1930s, to Christian Science, and reportedly consulted her practitionist almost daily for 25 years. But Crawford abided by a strict personal policy of never speaking openly about religion or politics, and kept her Christian Science views under wraps. Susan and God signaled an important career transition for Joan Crawford, from a sex symbol in early films like Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Mannequin (1937) to a mature, seasoned actress who later earned an Academy Award in 1945 for her portrait of an emotionally divided mother in Mildred Pierce (1945). Anxious to prove her abilities in Hollywood, Crawford accepted the role of Susan Trexel when her arch rival Norma Shearer, (often awarded the plum MGM roles denied Crawford, because Shearer was married to MGM head producer Irving Thalberg) turned the part down because she didn't want to play the mother of a teenage daughter onscreen. Susan and God, like Crawford's previous film The Women, cast her as an unlikable character. While this was a welcome acting challenge for Crawford, it was more problematic for Adrian whose previous costume designs for the actress greatly influenced the fashion industry. In Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928-1941 (Abrams) by Howard Gutner, the author elaborates: "The advertising tag line for the filmÖindicated how successful Crawford's stab at devising a new image had been, and also served to vindicate Louis B. Mayer's worst fears: "Joan's a gorgeous meanie again!" This was not the ideal image to sell fashion. The dark side that began to emerge in Crawford's characters after The Women necessarily affected any fashion influence they could have had. Audiences could be entertained by Joan Crawford as vain, silly Susan Trexel, but that didn't necessarily mean they wanted to be Susan. So why would they want to dress like her?" From this point on, Crawford's career at MGM went into a sharp decline in popularity and she was released from the studio in 1943. Director: George Cukor Producer: Hunt Stromberg Screenplay: Anita Loos based on the play by Rachel Crothers Cinematography: Robert Planck Production Design: Cedric Gibbons Music: Herbert Stothart Cast: Joan Crawford (Susan Trexel), Fredric March (Barry Trexel), Ruth Hussey (Charlotte), John Carroll (Clyde Rochester), Rita Hayworth (Leonora Stubbs), Nigel Bruce (Hutchins Stubbs), Bruce Cabot (Michael O'Hara), Rose Hobart (Irene), Rita Quigley (Blossom Trexel). BW-118. Closed captioning. by Felicia Feaster

Quotes

If Susan's lying in a ditch, you can be sure it's a perfectly good ditch, with hot and cold running water.
- Barrie Trexel
If you're not going to be pretty, the least we can do is make you interesting.
- Susan Trexel

Trivia

The play originally opened on 10 April 1937 in Princeton, New Jersey, and moved to New York City, New York on 7 October 1937 where it ran for 288 performances. Gertrude Lawrence played the role of Susan.

Notes

According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M paid $75,000 for the rights to the Rachel Crothers play. Another item in Hollywood Reporter notes that Greer Garson was originally slated for the title role in the picture. Columbia loaned Rita Hayworth to M-G-M for this picture, according to a news item in Hollywood Reporter. The Variety review notes that this picture marked Fredric March's return to the screen after a year and a half absence, during which time he was performing on the stage. A Hollywood Reporter news item adds that technical advisor Cece Broadhurst was a Canadian singing cowboy. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was banned by Australian censors until 1948, when it was released under the title The Gay Mrs. Trexel. In 1951, ABC produced a television version of the play on the Celanese Theatre directed by Alex Segal and starring Pamela Brown and Albert Dekker, and in 1956, NBC produced another version of the play on Matinee Theatre, adapted by Lawrence Hazard and starring Sarah Churchill.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992