Cast & Crew
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
After visiting his friend Titch's aerodrome in Hendley, England, Matt Denant, a former RAF squadron leader, prepares to return to London. Rodgers, an employee of the aerodrome, asks Matt to place a sizeable bet for him at the racetrack, and when his horse loses, promises to send Matt a check to cover his loss. One evening, Matt is strolling in Hyde Park when an outspoken young woman strikes up a conversation with him. While they are talking, Penter, a plainclothes detective, arrests the woman for soliciting. Matt intercedes, and while he and Penter are struggling, the detective loses his balance and strikes his head on a park bench. Matt sends the woman away, but refuses to abandon the injured man, and the police arrive on the scene and arrest him. Penter dies, and Matt is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. Matt swears that he will never submit to a verdict he considers unjust, and one night, while on work detail, he slips away in the heavy fog. The next morning, Inspector Harris calls on Sir James Winton, who lives nearby with his daughters Grace and Dora, and warns them about the escaped convict. Dora then enters her bedroom to find Matt devouring her breakfast, but conceals his presence from the police. Upon hearing his story, Dora gives Matt her fiancé's fishing clothes and directs him to a place to hide, an unused hut on a nearby stream. After Matt and the police leave, Grace tells her sister that she knows the fugitive was in their home. Meanwhile, in the village of Moorside, Matt calls the aerodrome from a public phone, and Titch agrees to leave a small plane unattended at the aerodrome so that Matt can use it to escape to France. Matt encounters a car salesman and asks to take a test drive, then forces the salesman out of the car once they are on the open road. He later has trouble with the car, and Grace and Dora, who are coincidentally out for a drive, stop to help. Dora warns him that there are roadblocks ahead, and over her sister's objections, insists on riding with Matt to help him escape. As they drive, Dora tells Matt that she does not love her fiancé, but is marrying him as "an investment." Meanwhile, Harris learns that Matt used the public phone, and is connected with the aerodrome. Rodgers answers the phone, and when he learns that there is a generous reward for the fugitive, reveals Matt's escape plan. Matt takes off just as Harris arrives at the aerodrome, but the fog is heavy and the plane crashes into some trees. An injured Matt sets fire to the plane and escapes on foot, eventually making his way to a farm and falling asleep. In the morning, he is discovered by a shepherd, and when the farmer, Browning, guesses Matt's identity and threatens to call the police, Matt knocks him out and flees. Meanwhile, Harris shows Dora and Grace the clothes he has retrieved from the burned wreckage of the plane, and Grace admits that they assisted Matt. After Harris leaves, Dora tells Grace that she wrote to her fiancé the previous night and ended their engagement. Dora then goes to the hut, where she finds Matt. She urges him to give himself up and serve out his sentence, promising to marry him when he is released, but Matt refuses. Hoping that Matt will change his mind, Dora goes to contact Harris, and Matt leaves the hut and seeks refuge in the village church. Matt and the parson engage in a philosophical conversation, and the parson reminds him that human laws are fallible. The police and a group of villagers surround the church, and Matt surrenders rather than allow the parson to compromise his integrity by lying for him. His faith restored, Matt goes with Harris, confident that Dora will wait for him.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Betty Ann Davies
W. E. Holloway
R. E. Dearing
Alan L. Jaggs
W. H. Lindop
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
The Philharmonia Orchestra Of London
Frederick A. Young
Darryl F. Zanuck
Escape (1948) -
Escape (1948) was drawn from a 1926 stage play by Pulitzer Prize winning author John Galsworthy, updated by scenarist Philip Dunne from the aftermath of the First World War epoch to the post-Blitz reconstruction. The property held sentimental value for Harrison, as an earlier film adaptation, directed by Basil Dean in 1930, had starred his old idol, stage actor Gerald du Maurier (father of novelist Daphne du Maurier), in his first talking film. (Also in the cast was Nigel Bruce, years before his immigration to Hollywood and career redefinition as the blustery Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes in several films for Universal.) With Lilli Palmer and the couple's 3 year-old son in tow, Harrison set sail for England in August 1947, actually docking in Southampton before Landis. The actor and his family were billeted in London's Hotel Savoy, with Landis eventually settling in nearby. Using the homes and rented flats of friends in town, Harrison and Landis met often during Escape's London shoot but were forced to continue their assignations on a stretch of beach in Plymouth when location shooting for Escape shifted two hundred miles southwest to boggy Dartmoor.
Though Harrison had high hopes for Escape as a career changer (Fox had tried without success to groom him as a successor to Errol Flynn), shooting proved more than a little uncomfortable. Having grown accustomed to the temperate climate of Hollywood and preferential treatment afforded him as a member of Hollywood's A-list, Harrison suffered the constant rain (which scotched his use of golf as an excuse to get out and see Landis) and a more egalitarian studio structure that obliged him to queue up with the crew in order to get his lunch. He was at least pleased to be working again with his The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and a top-flight supporting cast consisting of Cyril Cusack, Maurice Denham, George Woodbridge, and future Dr. Who stars William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. Harrison's leading lady was Irish actress Peggy Cummins, another Fox acquisition who had played the title role in Gregory Ratoff's Moss Rose (1948). Escape went into production as part of a profit-sharing deal between Hollywood and the British film industry in which tariffs levied in the past on American films exhibited in England were waived with a promise from the Yanks to invest in British filmmaking.
After wrapping Escape, Harrison returned to the States and began work on the Preston Sturges comedy Unfaithfully Yours (1948) while his arrangement with Landis continued unabated. Never much of a secret within the Hollywood colony, the Harrison-Landis affair went public at the hands of gossip columnist Walter Winchell in March of 1948. Edgy about the prospect of scandal, Fox went into PR spin to deny the allegations while playing up Harrison and Palmer's happy home life. Though disaster had been averted, the scandal proved to Landis (who had filed for divorce from Schmidlapp) that her lover would never leave his wife. At some point during the evening of July 4, 1948, Landis swallowed a fatal overdose of barbiturates. She had left behind two suicide notes, one addressed to her mother (which was made public) and one to Harrison (which the actor and his wife burned). Never popular among his American peers and sensitive to the presumption of his own liability in Landis' death, Harrison quit Hollywood for many years, working on Broadway (where he enjoyed a hit in 1954 with My Fair Lady, later starring in the film version) and in Continental productions such as Sidney Gilliat's Marriage a la Mode (1955), whose leading lady, Kay Kendall, would become his next extracurricular dalliance and third wife.
By Richard Harland Smith
Sources: Fatal Charm: The Life of Rex Harrison by Alexander Walker (St. Martin's Press, 1992) Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood by E. J. Fleming (McFarland & Company, Ltd., 2005) Gerald: A Portrait by Daphne du Maurier (Virago UK, 2004)
Escape (1948) -
The onscreen title credit for this film reads "John Galsworthy's Escape." The film begins with the following written quotation from Justice, a 1910 play by Galsworthy: "There is nothing more tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing what you have done." The film ends with another quotation from the same play: "The law is what it is-a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another." In his autobiography, Rex Harrison recalled his admiration for a British-made 1930 film version of Escape, directed by Basil Dean and starring Gerald du Maurier and Edna Best. Harrison wrote that he personally approached Twentieth Century-Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck and asked him to buy the rights to the play as a vehicle for him. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio bought the motion picture rights to Escape from Associated Talking Pictures Ltd. (which had obtained the rights from Paramount) in 1947, for the sum of ten thousand pounds, plus a fifty-pound payment to the Galsworthy estate. Contrary to regular studio policy, the rights were purchased for only a ten-year period and expired in 1957 when the studio elected not to renegotiate them.
Escape was the first post-war American production to shoot in Britain under a special tax-settlement agreement between the two countries designed to revitalize the British film industry. The film's exteriors were shot in the village and heath near Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England. According to information on the film contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the Breen Office rejected a first draft of the screenplay in May 1947 because "the story seems to condone and justify a certain type of lawlessness," adding that "those supporting characters who wish to help him make good his escape are presented to the audience as estimable and sympathetic." The PCA also insisted that the character of the "Girl in the park" not be depicted as a prostitute, as she was in the play: "It is sufficient for story purposes if she merely be suspected of being a prostitute." The scene in Hyde Park was reshot in February 1948, for reasons that have not been determined. Shortly before the film's release, Zanuck cut a major sequence in which "Matt Denant" meets a fellow fisherman who turns out to be a retired judge, and the men engage in a conversation about law and justice. The judge (played by Felix Aylmer, who had played the minor role of prison governor in the 1930 film), recognizes Matt but chooses not to turn him in to a passing policeman, explaining that if he himself has ever been guilty of an injustice on the bench, his inaction that day will help to balance his record.
Escape opened to generally favorable reviews in New York in August 1948, although some critics objected to Galsworthy's sermonizing. "The picture has the cool logic of a syllogism and no more emotion than one," wrote the New York Post. The print viewed was from Great Britain, but according to the cutting continuity of the American release in the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, there are only very minor differences between the prints that circulated in Britain and America, and none are related to the plot.
Released in United States Fall September 1948
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Ides of March) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States Fall September 1948