Cast & Crew
Barbara Bel Geddes
Leonora Eames, a young woman from Denver, and her roommate Maxine, a gold-digging model, share a modest Los Angeles apartment and the determination to move up in the world. To that end, Leonora, who works as a carhop, has enrolled in Dorothy Dale's charm school. After graduating from the school, Leonora gets a well-paying job modeling fur coats at a department store. One day, while modeling a coat, a man named Franzi Kartos introduces himself to Leonora and invites her to a party aboard millionaire Smith Ohlrig's yacht. Leonora rejects the invitation because she does not approve of rich men sending scouts to find pretty young women to attend their parties. Maxine, however, convinces Leonora to attend the party, calling it an "investment" in her future. On her way to the party, Leonora meets Smith at the marina, and he persuades her to join him on a late night drive. After sharing a romantic evening with her, Smith takes Leonora to his house and invites her in for a drink. Leonora, however, turns down the offer and asks to be taken home immediately. Smith complies with Leonora's request, but the rejection torments him for some time. Smith tells his psychiatrist about Leonora, and insists that she is like all other women, and that she is merely interested in his money. The psychiatrist disagrees, and tells Smith that he is obsessed about his money and is frustrated at his inability to attract and control Leonora. Angered by his doctor's diagnosis, Smith vows to prove him wrong by marrying Leonora. In time, Leonora accepts Smith's marriage proposal, but the two settle into an unhappy married life. Ten months after moving to Smith's Long Island estate, Leonora becomes deeply depressed and realizes that she is merely a trophy wife to Smith. The long nights spent alone in the house with Franzi drive Leonora to distraction, and her frustration reaches its peak when Smith loses his temper and scolds her in front of his business associates. Leonora asks for a separation, takes an apartment in New York City and finds a job as a receptionist. Her new employers are Dr. Larry Quinada, a pediatrician, and Dr. Hoffman, an obstetrician. When Larry reprimands Leonora for talking to his patients about charm school and other inappropriate topics, she breaks down in tears and quits. Time passes, and Smith finds Leonora and begs her to return to him, vowing to make a new start. Leonora returns to the mansion only to realize that Smith has brought her back to accompany him on a publicity tour. She leaves Smith again, and, after getting her old job back, proves herself to be a devoted assistant to Larry. Leonora soon becomes despondent, however, when she learns that she is pregnant with Smith's child. A romance develops between Larry and Leonora, and when the doctor proposes to Leonora, she tells him that must wait because she is beholden to a wealthy man who is paying for her companionship. The following day, Larry follows Leonora to Smith's estate and discovers that she is married to him. Smith offers Leonora a divorce on the condition that he be given custody of the child, and Leonora fails in her attempt to change his mind. In the months that follow, Leonora stays at Smith's estate and spends her days in isolated misery. One night, during one of Smith's violent tantrums, a pinball machine falls on him and induces a fatal heart attack. When Leonora's baby is born prematurely and dies, Larry convinces her that the child's death will release her from her ties to the past and allow her to begin her life anew with him.
Barbara Bel Geddes
Vicki Raw Stiener
Edward G. Boyle
Joe C. Gilpin
David L. Loew
Dr. Leo Morton Schulman
F. Paul Sylos
Albert Van Schmus
While practicing her newly-formed charm school skills as a department store model (look for Leave It to Beaver's Barbara Billingsley as a store customer interested in Eames' fur coat), Eames is approached by an effeminate toady, Franzi Kartos (Curt Bois) whose job it is to procure pretty girls for his very rich boss Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan). Kartos invites Eames to a party aboard Ohlrig's yacht, the beginning of a dark and tempestuous relationship. Eventually Eames and Ohlrig marry though it is more for Ohlrig to prove a point to his psychiatrist (Art Smith) than for love. Eames becomes an unhappy, unloved captive in Ohlrig's Long Island mansion until an ugly confrontation and Eames' decision to break away. She finds a job as a receptionist at a busy doctor's office in a working class Manhattan neighborhood where she falls in love with the principled, compassionate pediatrician Larry Quinada (James Mason) whose lack of materialism makes him everything Ohlrig is not. But Ohlrig isn't finished with Eames and he devises a plan to make sure she and Quinada will never be together.
A women's film about the "right" versus the "wrong" man, Caught is also a psychological thriller about the strange, aberrant obsessions that drive Ohlrig. We learn early on in the drama that there is a very good reason the tycoon spends much of his time on a psychoanalyst's couch; he has "issues," including an inability to deal with any perceived weakening of his power. When a business deal is in jeopardy or a woman threatens his autonomy, Ohlrig suffers mysterious "attacks," a malady his analyst writes off as purely psychological. Though his motives are never clear, his sickness is, and it invests Caught with a grim, film noir tone (greatly enhanced by cinematographer Lee Garmes' low-key lighting) as Ohlrig begins to reveal the depth of his sickness to Eames.
The character of Smith Ohlrig was reportedly based on the reclusive and deeply eccentric American titan Howard Hughes. Ophuls had actually worked with Hughes on the earlier Hughes production (from which Ophuls was fired), Vendetta (1946). At one point, it was reported that Hughes called Ophuls an "oaf." Though the Arthur Laurents script of Caught was supposedly based on the novel Wild Calendar by Libbie Block, Ophuls and Laurents also drew heavily from both Ophuls' personal experience, and their recollection of the millionaire's bizarre behavior and his female conquests.
James Mason abandoned a planned career as an architect to become an actor and Caught was his first American picture. He would follow it up with another Ophuls project The Reckless Moment (1949), which capitalized on the star's distinctive blend of charisma and angst.
Best known for her character Miss Ellie on the 13-year nighttime soap Dallas Bel Geddes was -- unlike the small-town Eames -- a cosmopolitan New York City girl whose father was stage designer and art director Norman Bel Geddes and who began her career in the theater and made her film debut in The Long Night (1947).
Hardly surprising, considering its incredibly dark underpinnings of madness, sexual manipulation and economic desperation, Caught was not a huge financial success though influential French film critic (and later, a filmmaker in his own right) Jean-Luc Godard called it "Max's best American film." Ophuls told The Cahiers du Cinema that "the film goes off the rails toward the end, but up to the last 10 minutes, it wasn't bad." "If you love movies," quipped The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, "then Ophuls is an undisputed heavyweight."
Christened Maximilian Oppenheimer, the German-born, French-national (he became a French citizen in 1938), Max Ophuls first began as an actor, moved into directing plays and became a director at Berlin's UFA where his first directorial debut was a 40 minute film I'd Rather Have Cod-Liver Oil.
Ultimately Ophuls bequeathed a small, but distinguished catalogue of films to cinematic history, including La Ronde (1950) and the breathtakingly dreamy, complex love stories Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and The Earrings of Madame De... (1953) which, like Caught, deal in part with a sympathetic female protagonist suffering within a patriarchal culture. Despite its superficial melodrama conventions, Caught is a remarkably cynical commentary on the American worship of money and how many women alter their bodies and minds in order to land a rich husband. The film is also distinguished by Ophuls' use of the long take, fluid camera work and an excess of style in his films (this is particularly evident in a scene in Caught where the camera tracks Eames and Quinada as they move across a crowded dance floor; dancing being another frequent motif of the director's). Ophuls worked successfully both abroad and moved to Hollywood in 1941 (being Jewish, he emigrated to escape the Nazis). At first he was broke and unable to get work until director Preston Sturges saw Liebelei (1933) and began to sing the director's praises. Peter Ustinov said of Ophuls, he "lived in his own particular stratosphere of subtlety, and...protected himself against the intrusion of philistines into his private world by a grotesque and wonderful perversity."
Ophuls made four American films before leaving the country in 1949 including Caught, The Reckless Moment, The Exile (1947) and Letter from an Unknown Woman. All were considered flops at the time, but are now recognized as artistic triumphs.
Producer: Wolfgang Reinhardt
Director: Max Ophuls
Screenplay: Arthur Laurents (screenplay); Libbie Block (novel "Wild Calendar")
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Art Direction: P. Frank Sylos
Music: Frederick Hollander
Film Editing: Robert Parrish
Cast: James Mason (Larry Quinada), Barbara Bel Geddes (Leonora Eames), Robert Ryan (Smith Ohlrig), Frank Ferguson (Dr. Hoffman), Curt Bois (Franzi Kartos), Ruth Brady (Maxine), Natalie Schafer (Dorothy Dale), Art Smith (Psychiatrist).
by Felicia Feaster
The character Smith Ohlrig is based on Howard Hughes.
Working titles for this film were Wild Calendar, Take All of Me, The Luckiest Girl in the World and The Best Things in Life Are Free. Art director Frank Paul Sylos' name is misspelled in the onscreen credits as "P. Frank Sylos," and actress Natalie Schafer's name is misspelled "Schaefer." Caught was the final film made by Enterprise Productions, Inc., an independent company formed in 1946. (For more information on the company, please consult the entry below for Ramrod.) According to a modern source, when Enterprise purchased Libbie Block's novel in 1946, it was to be the company's first production without a co-producing partner, and was to star Ginger Rogers. Rogers left the project in 1947 over script differences.
According to a September 1946 Los Angeles Times news item, Kathryn Scola was originally set to write the screenplay. According to a memo in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, dated March 20, 1947, Abraham Polonsky wrote an early draft of the screenplay. Modern sources indicate that Paul Jarrico, Selma Stein and Paul Trivers all wrote drafts of the screenplay or were contributing writers on the film. A March 1947 Variety news item noted that Charles Einfeld was set to produce the film beginning on April 22, 1947, with a $2,500,000 budget. Although a June 1948 Los Angeles Times news item reported that Richard Conte was considered for the part played by James Mason, and Kirk Douglas was named as a "likely" candidate for the role of "Ohlrig," a modern source claims that Douglas was announced to play "Larry Quinada." The picture marked English actor Mason's American film debut. Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Ryan were borrowed from RKO for the picture.
According to PCA files, a February 14, 1949 memo from National Legion of Decency representative Reverend Theodore F. Little to Jospeh Breen requested that dialogue indicating that Ryan's character survives be eliminated, lessening the acceptability of divorce. The Legion threatened to give the film a "C" (or condemned) rating, and a note attached to the memo indicates that the scene was indeed cut from the negative for worldwide distribution. Hollywood Reporter production charts indicate that John Berry filled in for Opuls during the first month of shooting. Modern sources note that Berry replaced Opuls due to an illness, and that Berry was not aware that the producers planned to reinstate Opuls as the director immediately following his recovery. The secret deal was reportedly made in order to satisfy the filmmakers' creditors, who might consider a lesser-known director to be a threat to their investment. According to a modern source, Berry filmed a scene with actresses Frances Rafferty and Marcia Mae Jones (who are both listed on Hollywood Reporter production charts), but Opuls later cut the scene and deleted both women's names from the credits, although Rafferty does appear very briefly in the film.
Modern sources also indicate that the film was partly inspired by stories that Opuls told writer Arthur Laurents about billionaire Howard Hughes, with whom he worked on the 1950 film Vendetta . Film editor Robert Parrish, in a modern interview, recalled that Hughes gave Ryan his blessing to portray him in the film, and arranged to have Parrish secretly send him daily rushes of the film. Opuls is quoted in a 1978 interview as having said that he "had difficulties with the production over the script" and that "the ending is really almost impossible, but up until the last ten minutes it's not bad." Despite positive reactions by preview audiences, the film fell into obscurity soon after its release and never made enough money to save Enterprise from bankruptcy. Modern sources add the following additional crew credits: Stills Scotty Welbourne; Unit Production Manager Robert Aldrich; and Dolly grip Morris Rosen. Modern sources also add the following actors to the cast: Dorothy Christy (Wealthy shopper), Wheaton Chambers (Servant) and Merrill McCormick (Man in store).
Released in United States 1997
Released in United States on Video June 1988
Released in United States Winter February 17, 1949
Shown at Telluride Film Festival (Max Ophuls Tribute) August 29 - September 1, 1997.
Formerly distributed by MGM.
Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Telluride Film Festival (Max Ophuls Tribute) August 29 - September 1, 1997.)
Released in United States Winter February 17, 1949
Released in United States on Video June 1988