Cast & Crew
Elisha Cook Jr.
When the ship that is carrying Leslie Calvin and her wealthy parents from Batavia to America sinks, Leslie, one of only four survivors, is haunted by the death of her parents. Just before she is to be released from the New Orleans hospital in which she is recuperating, Leslie writes a letter to her only living relative, her mother's sister, Emily Lamont, whom she has never met. Emily writes back from Belleville, Louisiana, explaining that she and her husband Norbert are residing at the ancestral plantation there and inviting Leslie to stay with them. Leslie travels to Belleville, but when no one appears to meet her at the train station, the neurotic Leslie faints from the heat. The town physician, George Grover, is summoned to treat Leslie and convinces her to accompany him to his office. There, Leslie confides her fears about being alone and her recurring nightmares about her rescue. Feeling compassion for the distraught Leslie, George offers to drive her to the plantation. There, they are met by the overbearing Mr. Sydney, who introduces himself as a guest of the Lamonts, and Leslie's eccentric aunt Emily, who claims that she never received Leslie's telegram notifying them of her arrival. Before departing, George cautions Sydney that Leslie is emotionally unstable and needs to forget her traumatic ordeal. After Emily escorts Leslie to her room, Sydney extracts her telegram from his coat pocket and tosses it in the wastebasket. At dinner that night, Sydney urges Leslie to relate the tale of her tragic voyage, sending her running from the table, hysterical. The next morning, Sydney and Cleeve, the overseer, take Leslie on a tour of the plantation and force her to tread perilously on a ledge along the bayou. As Cleeve is about to coerce the terrified Leslie into joining him for a boat ride, George appears and invites her to join him on his rounds. At a bayou shack, George introduces Leslie to the Boudreaux family, who ask them to lunch. Leslie's spirits are uplifted, until she attends a movie with the Lamonts and Sydney that night and views a newsreel depicting the sinking of a ship by a German submarine. The next day, as Leslie suns herself in the garden, Pearson Jackson appears to ask for her help. Pearson explains that he worked on the plantation for twelve years until the Lamonts arrived and Cleeve fired him. That night, George takes Leslie to a dance, and Leslie recalls that as a girl she would dance for her mother, who was unable to walk. When George kisses her and proposes, Leslie runs into the house, asserting that she can never see him again. Agitated, Leslie then confides to her aunt that she can never marry because she suffers hallucinations and belongs under the water with her mother and father. After going to bed, Leslie hears a voice calling her name and wanders outside, seeking its source. She is startled by Pearson, who has also heard the voice and warns her that spirits are pursuing her. Terrified, Leslie takes refuge in the house and phones George, who is out on a housecall. After leaving a message for George, Leslie questions Emily about Cleeve and Sydney and charges that one of them is trying to drive her insane. When Emily begins to reminisce about Leslie's mother's love of dancing, Leslie realizes that she is an impostor. The next day, Pearson warns Leslie that her aunt and uncle are impostors and arranges to meet her in the bayou that evening. When Leslie goes to the appointed meeting place, however, she finds Pearson's dead body. Leslie decides to catch the next train leaving Belleville, but is prevented from doing so by Emily, who summons her to her room. The next morning, George returns Leslie's phone call, and Leslie insists that he immediately come to the plantation. When he arrives, Leslie apprises him of Pearson's murder and claims that her aunt and uncle are impostors. Incredulous, George writes out a prescription for a tranquilizer. After sending Leslie to her room for a rest, George informs Sydney that he is certain that Leslie is suffering from delusions and will arrange for her to see a psychiatrist. In her room, Leslie, desolate, looks at the prescription and realizes that George has actually written a note, warning of her danger and promising to return with help. After George departs, Sydney addresses Norbert as Pinky and Emily as May. When May, who has been hired by Sydney to pose as Emily, objects to harming Leslie, Sydney reminds her that she and Pinky are already implicated in the Lamonts' murder. At the boathouse, meanwhile, Cleeve has taken George prisoner. After George tricks Cleeve into admitting that he murdered the Lamonts, he begins to taunt Cleeve about performing Sydney's dirty work. Soon after, Sydney appears with Leslie. After demonstrating how he used a phonograph to call out Leslie's name, Sydney explains that he engineered the diabolical plot to drive Leslie mad and acquire her inheritance. Sydney then orders Cleeve, George and Leslie into a motorboat, but when he commands Cleeve to kill George and Leslie while motoring into the bayou, Cleeve balks and the two men begin to argue. In the confusion, Leslie and George jump overboard and hide in the water lilies. When Leslie collapses with terror, George helps her ashore and Cleeve and Sydney follow. Cleeve charges into the swamp, but sinks into a bog of quicksand and drowns. George then calls to Sydney and offers to lead him out of the swamp in exchange for his gun. After Sydney discards his weapon, George picks it up and orders him back into the boat. When Leslie climbs in and follows George's instruction to start the engine, she realizes that she is recovered at last.
Elisha Cook Jr.
Nina Mae Mckinney
Arthur M. Landau
Harry Redmond Jr.
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Frank and Marian Cockrell's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post from February 19, 1944 to March 11, 1944. The viewed print was considerably shorter than the original release length. Nina Mae McKinney's name was misspelled "Nina May" in the onscreen credits. News items in Hollywood Reporter yield the following information about this production: In April 1944, producer Benedict Bogeaus announced that he was seeking Jennifer Jones and George Murphy to play the leads. Barton Hepburn was tested for a feature role, but did not appear in the film. Cecil Cunningham was to portray Merle Oberon's mother in the picture, but that character did not appear in the completed film. According to a June 1944 news item, Franklyn Farnum, Wilbur Mack, Maude Fealy and Ray Cordell appeared as extras in the movie theater scene. Hollywood Reporter news items add Frank Dawson, Paul Burns, William Randolph, Ian Wolfe, Gino Corrado, Louise and Alice Kerbrat, Gerald Perreau, Fleurette Zama, Diana Martin, Diane DuBois, Rose Plummer, Margaret Tealy, Dorothy Vernon, Donald Kerr, Art La Forrest, Rex Moore and Bud Rae to the cast, but their participation in the released film has not been confirmed. On November 27, 1944, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio version of the story starring Merle Oberon.