Cast & Crew
Gregory La Cava
In sixteenth century Florence, as the henpecked, frivolous and philandering Duke Alessandro de Medici signs death warrants, the case of the great goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, charged, not for the first time, with murder, is discussed, but the duchess reminds the indecisive duke that Cellini has not finished making their golden service plates. After other charges concerning Cellini's amorous and mischievous adventures are cited, Alessandro, egged on by his ambitious cousin Ottaviano, decides to hang him, but Cellini pacifies the duke by arranging for his pretty model Angela to be an addition to the duke's court. Her interest in Cellini piqued, the duchess commissions him to make and deliver a key to the balcony door of her summer palace. That night, as the duke, thinking that the duchess has gone to the winter palace, tries to romance Angela, Cellini fights his way past guards to the duchess' balcony. After refusing to let the duchess, who tries to gain the upper hand with him, humiliate him, Cellini escapes with Angela, who has grown to like Alessandro, whom she affectionately calls "Bumpy." After a reward is announced for Cellini's head, he stabs a guard and sneaks into the duchess' room. When he dares her to sever his head, she confesses her love, but he is captured and taken to a torture chamber. The duchess, however, convinces Alessandro to free Cellini to avoid a revolt by the people, and Cellini promises Alessandro that he will bring Angela to his banquet. When the jealous duchess sees Angela at the banquet, Alessandro falsely reports that Angela is Cellini's fiancée. Angered, the duchess gives Cellini poisoned wine and orders him to toast his bride. Cellini obeys and then drops to the floor, whereupon the duchess comforts him and calls him her love. Ottaviano then drops dead from his wine, and Cellini stops pretending. The angry duke threatens both Cellini and the duchess, but after Angela calls Alessandro "Bumpy," the duchess indignantly says that she will take Cellini with her to build a new fountain at the winter palace, which leaves the duke and Angela to stay at the summer palace.
Gregory La Cava
Fred De Gresac
Joseph M. Schenck
United Costumers, Inc.
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Art Direction
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
She was born Vina Fay Wray, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada on September 15, 1907. Her family relocated to Arizona when she was still a toddler so her father could find employment. When her parents divorced, her mother sent her to Hollywood when Fay's eldest sister died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The reasoning was that Southern California offered a healthier climate for the young, frail Wray.
She attended Hollywood High School, where she took some classes in drama. After she graduated, she applied to the Hal Roach studio and was given a six-month contract where she appeared in two-reel Westerns (25 minutes in length), and played opposite Stan Laurel in his pre-Oliver Hardy days.
She landed her first big role, as Mitzi Schrammell, in Erich von Stroheim's beautifully mounted silent The Wedding March (1928). It made Wray a star. She then starred in some excellent films: The Four Feathers (1929), the early Gary Cooper Western The Texan (1930), and one of Ronald Coleman's first starring roles The Unholy Garden (1931), all of which were big hits of the day.
For whatever reason, Wray soon found herself in a string of thrillers that made her one of the great screamers in Hollywood history. The titles say it all: Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game (both 1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Bat (both 1933) and, of course her most famous role, that of Ann Darrow, who tempts cinema's most famous ape in the unforgettable King Kong (also 1933).
Wray did prove herself quite capable in genre outside of the horror game, the best of which were Shanghai Madness with Spencer Tracy; The Bowery (both 1933), a tough pre-Hays Code drama opposite George Raft; and the brutal Viva Villa (1934), with Wallace Beery about the famed Mexican bandit. Yet curiously, the quality of her scripts began to tank, and she eventually found herself acting in such mediocre fare as Come Out of the Pantry (1935), and They Met in a Taxi (1936).
With her roles becoming increasingly routine, the last of which was the forgettable comedy Not a Ladies Man (1942), she decided to trade acting for domesticity and married Robert Riskin, who won two Best Screenplay Oscars® for the Frank Capra comedies It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). When Riskin died in 1955, Wray found herself working to keep busy and support her three children. She landed supporting parts for films like The Cobweb (1955), Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). She also found work in television on such popular programs as Perry Mason and Wagon Train before she retired from acting all together in the mid-'60s.
To her credit, Wray did remain reasonably active after her retirement. She published her autobiography, On The Other Hand in 1989 and was attending many film festivals that honored her contribution to film, most notably in January 2003, when, at 95 years of age, she accepted in person her "Legend in Film" Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Wray is survived by a son, Robert Riskin Jr.; two daughters, Susan and Victoria; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the play was rejected as a possible film property in January 1925 by the Hays Office. Early in January 1934, a United Artists official informed MPPDA President Will H. Hays that 20th Century Pictures (which released through United Artists but was not a member of the MPPDA, as was United Artists) wanted to produce a film based on the play. Hays thought that the project should be approved by members of the MPPDA's Executive Committee. It appears that this did not occur, as Hays's secretary wrote to Breen in November 1934, following the film's release, "UA used [the] title The Affairs of Cellini without authority. Had they registered it here it would not have been accepted and it has caused quite a little trouble." On January 18, 1934, Joseph Breen, head of the AMPP's Studio Relations Committee, noted in a memo, "Mr. [Darryl] Zanuck [production head of 20th Century Pictures] assured us of his purpose to almost completely re-write the script submitted to us....He has also advised us that he has used but two sequences from the original play." Breen commented, however, "In the script submitted to us, Cellini, and both the Duke and the Duchess, are made out to be libidinous persons who engage themselves in promiscuous sexuality."
According to a news item, in January 1934, Darryl Zanuck changed the title of the film from Affairs of Cellini back to the title of the play, The Firebrand. A Hollywood Reporter news item of January 6, 1934 reported that Zanuck had hopes of getting Charles Laughton for the role of Duke Alessandro, but that Paramount, to whom Laughton was contracted, had not agreed to a deal. In a January 11, 1934 news item, Hollywood Reporter reported that Frank Morgan, who played Alessandro in the Broadway production of the play, was signed along with Frances Dee. Variety reported that during the filming, Frank Morgan's performance constantly caused other actors to break up in laughter. Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library credit Fred de Gresac with an adaptation of the play. It is not known if his contributions were used in the final screenplay. Although the film did not open until August 24, 1934, it was reviewed in trade journals in April and May 1934 both under the title The Firebrand and under the release title The Affairs of Cellini. Reviews differ concerning the film's running time. The Broadway production of the play starred Joseph Schildkraut as Cellini. Ivor Novello played Cellini when the play opened in London on February 8, 1926.
The Affairs of Cellini was nominated for four Academy Awards-Best Actor, Best Art Diretion, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Recording. A musical entitled The Firebrand of Florence based on the play, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, opened on Broadway on March 22, 1945.