Cast & Crew
Dame Sybil Thorndike
In late nineteenth century London, young Adelaide Culver accepts her cousin Alice Hambro's dare to venture onto Britannia Mews, the squalid alley behind her family's house. Years pass, and Adelaide cannot get the mews out of her mind, feeling that her destiny is somehow bound to its rough streets. As young ladies, Adelaide and Alice are given drawing lessons by a handsome young artist, Henry Lambert, who lives in the family's old coachman's quarters in the mews. One day, Alice is unable to attend the lesson, and Adelaide and Henry, alone for the first time, acknowledge their mutual attraction. The following week, Adelaide learns that her father plans to retire and move the family to the country. She tells her parents she wishes to marry Henry, and although they object to the union because the struggling artist is not of their class, Adelaide refuses to be swayed. She goes to Henry and suggests marrying at once, but he protests that his income is inadequate to support a wife and admits that he tends to drink too much. Adelaide prevails, and the newlyweds move into the mews, where she discovers a beautifully crafted set of marionettes that Henry made years before in Paris. One day, Adelaide is summoned by her brother Treff, a student at Cambridge, who declares that their mother wants her to leave Henry and move home. Adelaide refuses, and when Henry returns from the pub, she tells him that she wants to leave the mews, leading to a bitter argument. Months pass, and with their money almost gone, Adelaide tries to persuade Henry to start giving drawing lessons again. The couple argue on the small landing outside their house, and when Adelaide pushes Henry away from her, he accidentally falls down the stairs and is killed. Her neighbor, Mrs. Mounsey, commonly known as The Sow, assures the constable it was an accident, and when she complains of financial problems, Adelaide kindly shares her remaining money with the old woman. Adelaide decides to return to her family, and writes them that Henry has died of influenza. As she prepares to leave, however, Mrs. Mounsey threatens to tell the police that Adelaide killed her husband unless she stays in the mews and makes weekly payments. Two years later, Mrs. Culver comes to visit her daughter, but Mrs. Mounsey intercepts her and says that Adelaide moved out a year ago. One night, Adelaide encounters Gilbert Lauderdale, an alcoholic former attorney reduced to addressing envelopes for a living. Adelaide rents Gilbert the coach house downstairs, and when she tells him about Mrs. Mounsey, he gets rid of the old woman by threatening to prosecute her for blackmail. Gilbert tells Adelaide that he was briefly married but has not seen his wife, who now lives in America, for years. Gilbert and Adelaide soon begin working with Henry's marionettes, and together with Desmond Bly, a puppet master, open a puppet theater. Treff comes to one of their performances, and Adelaide introduces Gilbert as "Henry Gilbert Lambert." Treff offers to be their agent, and uses his college connections in the press to make their act even more successful. Treff is troubled by the fact that Adelaide and her "husband" have separate sleeping quarters, and Gilbert makes up a story about violent nightmares that cause him to thrash and kick in his sleep. One afternoon, Gilbert's wife Milly, who has returned from America, comes to call after seeing Gilbert's picture in a magazine. She claims that Gilbert deserted her, and Adelaide sadly tells him that he must return to his wife. After Gilbert leaves, Treff arrives with the news that their parents want Adelaide and her husband to visit. Just then, Gilbert returns and happily tells Adelaide that Milly had divorced him and remarried two years before. Gilbert changes his last name to Lambert, and he and Adelaide are married that afternoon. They immediately depart for the country, where Adelaide and her family are finally reunited On Treff's advice, Mrs. Culver gives the couple separate bedrooms, but when everyone is asleep, Gilbert enters his new wife's room.
Dame Sybil Thorndike
A. E. Matthews
John Wright's Marionettes
Robert E. Dearing
Ring Lardner Jr.
T. S. Lyndon-haynes
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Darryl F. Zanuck
The Forbidden Street -
Based on Margery Sharp's 1946 novel Britannia Mews, The Forbidden Street stars O'Hara as Adelaide Culver, a headstrong woman from an aristocratic London family who defies her mother (Fay Compton) to marry her handsome music tutor, Henry Lambert (Dana Andrews, in a professorial beard). It's an impulsive act by a naïve young woman and she ends up shunned by her family, unhappy and alone in the slums of Britannia Mews until she meets Gilbert Lauderdale, a dead ringer for her Henry (and also played by Andrews) but a far warmer and more loyal fellow. As Henry, Andrews is overdubbed with a distinctive English accent (no credit is given), while his familiar voice returns as the amiable Gilbert. O'Hara, meanwhile, slips from a cultured, educated English accent to cockney as she remains in The Mews (as the locals call it).
Shooting in London's Shepperton Studios gave the production access to the studio's big, busy old England street set, filled with accents and details unavailable in Hollywood's versions of Victorian London, and access to an array of continental talent. The great Shakespearean actress Sybil Thorndike takes the role of a feared, hideous hag of The Mews known as "The Sow" (O'Hara, in her autobiography, affectionately remarks that Thorndike steals the film) and Fay Compton, a stage legend who was so memorable in Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947) and Orson Welles' Othello (1952), is Adelaide's imperious society mother. Wilfrid Hyde-White, who specialized in befuddled or oblivious figures of authority, plays Adelaide's father.
It's shot by French-born cinematographer Georges Périnal, who photographed Jean Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1932) and some of the best British films of the thirties and forties, from The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) to The Four Feathers (1939) to The Fallen Idol (1948). Though the film is entirely studio bound, Périnal gives the film a rich canvas, from the first exciting, terrifying views of The Mews as seen from the perspective of the wide-eyed little Adelaide, sneaking out of the house on a dare, to the adult Adelaide's view on the grubby little street. Russian-born art director Andrej Andrejew made his fame in the glory days of silent and early sound German cinema, with such classics as Pandora's Box (1929) and The 3 Penny Opera (1931) and he helps set a distinctive character for this overcrowded slum. British composer Malcolm Arnold went on to win an Academy Award for his memorable score for David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
Jean Negulesco, a painter by training who entered the film industry as a sketch artist and graduated to directing, had made his name with a strong series of moody crime and espionage thrillers at Warner Bros. and an Oscar nomination for directing Johnny Belinda (1948), which earned an Academy Award for star Jane Wyman but ended his association with Warner. He continued his run under a new contract with 20th Century Fox with Road House (1948). The Forbidden Street was Negulesco's second film under his Fox contract. An artist in his own right, Negulesco may have been attracted to the artistic side of the characters. He gives Henry's artistic endeavors a classically romantic style and Henry's treasures, a set of articulated marionette dolls that are the toast of France but dismissed as mere toys in England, a handsome sense of craftsmanship. Negulesco liked and respected Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of Fox, and Zanuck liked Negulesco. Both of them thought the production would make a good film but it was a disappointment in both Britain, where it was released under the title Britannia Mews, and in the U.S., where it had almost been titled Affairs of Adelaide. Negulesco and O'Hara both dismiss the film in their respective autobiographies, but they forget the shadowy beauty of the cinematography, the gorgeous sets, and the unusual character of the London slum known to all as The Mews.
Things I Did ... and Things I Think I Did, Jean Negulesco. Linden Press / Simon & Schuster, 1984.
Maureen O'Hara: The Biography, Aubrey Malone. University Press of Kentucky, 2013.
'Tis Herself, Maureen O'Hara with John Nicoletti. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
By Sean Axmaker
The Forbidden Street -
The working titles of this film were Britannia Mews and Impulse. The film was released in Great Britain as Britannia Mews and was originally scheduled to be released in America as Affairs of Adelaide. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio bought Margery Sharp's novel in June 1946 for $150,000 plus bonus increments. A Hollywood Reporter news item of June 19, 1946 announced that Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison would star in The Forbidden Street. British publicity materials and the Variety review include Neil North and Anthony Lambin in the cast, but they were not in the viewed print, and it is possible that their scene was cut from the final film. The film was shot in England using studio funds frozen in Great Britain.
An early draft of the screenplay was written by David Hertz, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. A Variety news item of November 30, 1948 reported that the studio had "two entirely different versions of The Affairs of Adelaide and doesn't know which to use. Situation came to light with the arrival here of Richard Best, British film cutter hired to sit in on editing of the British-made film. Best had already cut one version, in England. The almost completed studio version was altogether different than his, which he brought along with him. Studio paid Best's fare over, in order to insure proper overseas 'touches' in Adelaide." Veteran Fox film editor Robert Simpson did some work on the American version, according to the legal records, but waived screen credit. Neither Simpson nor Best received screen credit on The Forbidden Street, however. According to modern sources, Dana Andrews' performance as "Henry Lambert" was dubbed by an unidentified British actor.