Cast & Crew
Willie Hale, the happy-go-lucky second son of Lord Leland, is forced to auction his property in Kenya and return to England because of horses with short noses and cards that were good, but not good enough. His father is furious when he hears, and promises to disown him, but when Willie returns, the two are reconciled and Lord Leland gives him money to have fun. Willie decides to spend the day with his sister Susan and her friend Dorothy Hope at the Derby. Although about to announce her engagement to Count Paul, a Russian nobelman, Dorothy falls in love with Willie. He is also attracted to her, but her wealth and his liaison with actress Mary Crayle inhibit him. That night Dorothy breaks her engagement to Paul and the next day her father tells Willie that Dorothy will be disinherited if she marries him. Delighted, Willie proposes to Dorothy, promising a happy, impoverished life. She accepts, but makes him reluctantly promise never to see Mary again, even to tell her that he is going to be married. Willie can't bring himself to write Mary a cold note, or tell her on the phone, so he arranges for a "chance" meeting. Meanwhile, Mr. Hope is having Willie followed by a private detective. When he tells Dorothy that Willie has seen Mary, she telephone's Mary's appartment and is heartbroken that Willie answers. She won't let Willie explain and offers him a check for £5,000 because she thinks that he has been after her money all along. Willie cashes the check, but instead of spending it, he sends it to the debt-ridden Paul and asks his father to buy him a farm in New Zealand. Just as he is packing to leave, Mary arrives, confessing that when she discovered that Willie had given the money to Paul, she realized her mistake. After Willie accepts her apology, his father informs them that Mr. Hope has just arrived, pleading for them to accept a farm in England as a wedding present.
George S. Barnes
H. Bruce Humberstone
Lady Maureen Stanley
The Devil to Pay
Synopsis: Willie Hale, the cheerful, prodigal son of Lord Leland, returns to England after having to auction his property in Kenya due to gambling debts. His father threatens to kick him out of the house, but vicariously enjoys his escapades. Although Willie is already having an affair with the actress Mary Crayle, he falls in love with the free-spirited Dorothy Hope, who is engaged to a Russian count.
1930, the year Loretta Young starred in the lighthearted comedy The Devil to Pay, was especially dramatic in terms of her personal life. In January, she eloped with Grant Withers by airplane to Yuma, Arizona. She was only 17 at the time. Her mother dragged her home and filed an annulment suit, but the following month Young made a defiant press statement, declaring: "Grant and I are married, and we are going to stay married." The couple's respective careers continued to flourish, and they even appeared together in films.
Nonetheless, problems mounted. Only days after they returned from their elopement, Withers was involved in an auto accident, resulting in a lawsuit for $55,000 due to alleged injuries suffered by children riding in the other car. In September of the same year the case was finally decided: the judge ruled in Withers' favor, ordering the plaintiff to pay for damage to Withers' automobile. At the same time, Withers' financial troubles were exacerbated when his first wife, Inez, successfully sued for an increase in alimony payments and caused additional embarrassment for the newly-wedded Young by submitting a subpoena for her to testify in court. (Withers' first marriage had been annulled in December of 1925.) Nonetheless, Withers' career continued to flourish; he appeared in several films that year, in some cases with Young playing opposite him in the lead.
That autumn, Withers was also hospitalized for appendicitis, and by February of 1931 the Los Angeles Times declared: "WITHERS MARRIAGE REPORTED ON ROCKS." In June the same year, Young, only eighteen years old, sued for annulment on the grounds of "nonsupport."
The Devil to Pay was written as an original script by the popular British playwright Frederick Lonsdale (1881-1954), who had experienced considerable Transatlantic crossover success with plays such as The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1925) and On Approval (1927), both of which were adapted more than once for the screen. Variety reported that Lonsdale derived the script for The Devil to Pay (initially entitled "The Prodigal") from his short story "Monarch of the Field."
According to a December 1930 article in the New York Times, Samuel Goldwyn offered the popular British playwright an opportunity to write an original screenplay. Lonsdale at first insisted that the play be produced on the stage first so he could earn royalties from that in addition to his fees as a playwright. Most unusually, Goldwyn then offered him payment on a royalty basis just for the screen version.
Ronald Colman was envisioned from the start in the comic lead role; Colman was eager to break away from his usual dramatic fare. However, the initial cast hired to play opposite Colman was considered unsatisfactory after shooting had already begun. The footage was reshot with a new cast that included Loretta Young and Myrna Loy. The efforts paid off; the reviewer for Variety praised Coleman's performance, the witty dialogue, and George Fitzmaurice's "natural" sense of pacing. It is worth noting that the New York Times review also remarked on the quality of the sound recording. In fact, The Devil to Pay remains one of the more appealing comedies of the early sound era, thanks to its relaxed performance style and fluid direction.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: George Fitzmaurice
Story and Dialogue: Frederick Lonsdale
Adaptation: Benjamin Glazer
Photography: George S. Barnes and Gregg Toland
Art Direction: Richard Day
Film Editor: Grant Whytock
Cast: Ronald Colman (Willie Hale), Frederick Kerr (Lord Leland), Loretta Young (Dorothy Hope), David Torrence (Mr. Hope), Myrna Loy (Mary Crayle), Crauford Kent (Arthur Leland). BW-73m.
by James Steffen
The Devil to Pay
The pre-production title of the film was The Prodigal. Some sources refer to Frederick Lonsdale as author of a play on which the film was based, however, Variety notes that it was an original for the screen, Lonsdale's first, and that it was written in collaboration with Benjamin Glazer. The title of Lonsdale's original story was "Monarch of the Field," according to modern sources. The character played by Myrna Loy was "Mary Crayle," although most reviews and modern sources list the name as "Carlyle." Modern sources indicate that the film's original director was Irving Cummings and that the part of Dorothy was played by Constance Cummings. After some footage was shot, George Fitzmaurice replaced director Cummings, Young replaced the actress Cummings, and all previously film scenes were re-shot. Modern sources also note that this film was actress Florence Britton's first.