Cast & Crew
Edward G. Robinson
Mr. Doakes, a businessman, meets his friend, Mr. Davis, at a gentlemen's club and tells him how a fortune-teller's prediction caused him to have a disturbing dream the night before. Davis then takes a book from the club's library and reads to Doakes three stories of a similar nature:
In the first story, set during the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, unattractive dressmaker Henrietta loves from afar law student Michael. Believing that Michael could never return her feelings, Henrietta contemplates suicide but is stopped by a bearded old man. The stranger takes her to a costume shop and offers her the use of one of its many masks. Henrietta takes one of a beautiful woman, hoping that she can use it to attract Michael, but the stranger makes her agree to return the mask by midnight. Later, the now lovely Henrietta is rescued by Michael from the unwanted advances of a would-be suitor, and the two go off to a café. There, the disillusioned Michael tells her that he is considering giving up his law studies and becoming a sailor. Henrietta helps Michael regain his self-confidence, after which he proclaims his love for her. As midnight approaches, Henrietta rushes back to the costume shop, with Michael in close pursuit. Once there, Henrietta tells Michael that she tricked him into believing that she is beautiful, but is really ugly, mean and selfish. As the bells of midnight strike, Michael convinces Henrietta to remove the mask, and she discovers, as the stranger had told her, that she has been transformed through selfless love into the beautiful woman that she has always been underneath. As the two loves leave the shop, a mask of the old bearded stranger hangs in the window.
In the second story, American lawyer Marshall Tyler attends a dinner party held by Lady Pamela Hardwick, during which fortune-teller Septimus Podgers reads the guests' palms with amazing accuracy. Septimus, however, becomes greatly disturbed when he reads Marshall's hand and refuses to tell the lawyer what he has seen. The next day, Marshall visits the fortune-teller at his home, and Septimus tells him that he is going to commit a murder. Despite his initial disbelief in the supernatural, Marshall becomes obsessed with the idea of murder and decides to kill Lady Pamela. He tries to poison her with a box of chocolates, but is chagrined to later discover that Lady Pamela has merely died of natural causes. With the prophecy still unfulfilled, Marshall decides to kill the Dean of Chichester, the reverend who inherited Lady Pamela's estate. He visits the clergyman at his home, but when the reverend realizes Marshall's intentions, Marshall dashes into the foggy London night. As he crosses the London bridge, Marshall runs into Septimus, and the fortune-teller, fearing for his life, tells Marshall that his previous prediction was wrong. The lawyer, in a fit of madness, strangles Septimus to death, then throws the clairvoyant's body in the Thames. Escaping from a bobby, Marshall runs to the grounds of the Lamarr Circus, where he is soon captured.
The third story takes place at the Lamarr Circus, after tightrope walker Paul Gaspar and his assistant Jeff witness Marshall's arrest. Haunted by a nightmare in which he falls while performing his act, Paul considers changing his routine while on a transatlantic cruise from London to New York City. Aboard ship, Paul meets reclusive Joan Stanley, who resembles a screaming woman in his nightmare, and the two quickly fall in love. When she is recognized by another passenger as "Miss Templeton," Joan becomes upset and tells Paul that she cannot see him again. That night, Paul dreams that Joan is arrested when the ship arrives in port, but the next day, they both safely disembark the ship. Revitalized, Paul decides to return to the circus and invites Joan to the opening night. While Paul's act is a great success, Joan, who is actually a notorious, yet repentant, jewel thief, has notified the police of her arrival in New York and is arrested. The two lovers meet one final time before Joan is taken away, and they promise to reunite upon her return.
Having heard all three stories, Doakes realizes that man is the master of his own fate, not governed by his dreams, and he thanks Davis for his help in overcoming his fears.
Edward G. Robinson
Dame May Whitty
C. Aubrey Smith
Harold De Becker
Marion De Sydow
Mary Ann Hyde
Ted E. Jacques
Bernard B. Brown
R. A. Gausman
Joseph A. Mcdonough
E. R. Robinson
Ellis St. Joseph
The working title of this film was For All We Know. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, producers Charles Boyer and Julien Duvivier entered into an agreement to produce Flesh and Fantasy for Universal in early June 1942. This production was to be the first film in a two-picture deal between Boyer and the studio. Flesh and Fantasy was one of a number of all-star omnibus films produced by Hollywood studios in the 1940s. Duvivier had directed one such film in 1942 for Twentieth Century-Fox, Tales of Manhattan, which also starred Boyer and Edgar G. Robinson . Flesh and Fantasy originally contained a fourth episode, which was cut from the film and later expanded into the 1944 Universal feature-length film, Destiny (see entry above).
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, actors Charles Laughton, Adolphe Menjou, Deanna Durbin and Greta Garbo were unsuccessfully sought for roles in Flesh and Fantasy. Hollywood Reporter production charts include Acquanetta in the cast, but she did not appear in the released film. Hollywood Reporter news items also report that Stanley Cortez, the director of photography on the Edward G. Robinson episode of Flesh and Fantasy, was replaced by Paul Ivano for subsequent filming when producer David O. Selznick, to whom Cortez was under contract, recalled the cinematographer to work on the 1942 Charles R. Rogers production, The Powers Girl . Modern sources state, however, that Cortez left Flesh and Fantasy a few weeks into production because of his disagreement with Duvivier over the cinematographer's slow shooting pace. According to Hollywood Reporter, shooting was stopped on the Charles Boyer-Barbara Stanwyck episode in early September 1942 when Duvivier became ill with bronchitis. Modern sources report that after being down two days, production resumed on September 4, 1942, with Henry Koster directing. Duvivier then returned to the director's chair the next day. According to New York Times, Flesh and Fantasy was among the first American films shown in Germany upon the conclusion of World War II.
Modern sources add the following to the crew credits: Assistant Director Phil Bowles; Camera Operator William Dodds, Len Powers and Carl Webster; Sd tech William Fox and Jack Bolger ; Props Leigh Carson and Robert Laszlo; and Stunts Sailor Vincent, George Suzanne and Carey Loftin. Modern sources add Ann Shoemaker, Eddie Kaul and John Burton to the cast. Modern sources also report that Boyer received $125,000 to co-produce and co-star in Flesh and Fantasy, while Stanwyck and Robinson received $50,000 each for appearing in the film.