Cast & Crew
In 1644, during the revolt of the English Parliament and Oliver Cromwell's army against the tyrannical rule of King Charles I, a baby wrapped in a blanket on which the name "Amber" is sewn, is left at the front door of a Puritan farmer by a fleeing nobleman, who is then killed by his pursuers. By 1660, after the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the House of Stuart, in the person of Charles II, Amber, now an attractive young woman, is betrothed by her ward, Matt Goodgroome, to a farmer. She rebels against the match, as she does not want to remain in a small village her whole life, and becomes enamored of Lord Bruce Carlton, a soldier for hire who stops at the village. Although he refuses to take her with him to London, she follows him and his best friend, Lord Harry Almsbury, and in London, she and Bruce become lovers. Because Charles believes that Bruce is pursuing his mistress, Barbara Palmer, Countess Castelmaine, with whom Bruce earlier had a romance, Charles provides Bruce two ships with which to establish a privateering enterprise and share the profits he makes robbing foreign treasure ships. When Amber learns that Bruce has gone to sea, she vows to use her wiles to achieve a social level above that of Bruce so that he will want her. She is soon cheated out of the money Bruce left her by a crooked investor and, although pregnant, is sent to prison on a false charge. In prison, she meets Black Jack Mallard, an infamous highwayman, and seeing that he is attracted to her, convinces him to take her with him when he escapes, so that her baby will be born outside of prison. Their escape is arranged by Mother Red Cap, the head of Jack's gang, who puts Amber to work after she gives birth, luring men so that the gang can rob them. Jack is killed by the King's men during one robbery attempt, and Amber avoids capture by hiding in the home of Rex Morgan, a captain of the king's guard. Morgan uses his influence to obtain Amber work as an actress, and she raises enough money to get her son, named Bruce, from Mother Red Cap and put him up in a nice country home. Amber lives with Morgan, but when he proposes, she refuses. While Morgan is in Wales, Charles sees Amber onstage and invites her to dine with him. Amber turns him down, however, when she learns that Harry has brought Bruce to the theater. She takes him to see their son, hoping he will want to settle down with her, but he plans to return to sea, as he intensely dislikes the goings on at court. When Morgan, having returned, finds them together, he challenges Bruce to a duel, saying that Amber is his fiancée. Disgusted at Amber, Bruce accepts but tries to convince Morgan to end the duel after the first blood has been drawn. Morgan refuses and Bruce kills him, then angrily berates Amber when she tries to comfort him. After Bruce departs England again, Amber marries the elderly widowed Earl of Radcliffe in order to become a countess, hoping that the title will interest Bruce. She diverts their wedding party to London, where the Black Plague is spreading, when she learns that Bruce's ship has docked there. She finds him as he is about to succumb to the plague and struggles to save his life, first killing a mercenary nurse and then lancing a dangerous boil on his chest. Bruce recovers, but Radcliffe tracks him down, and when Bruce learns that Amber is his wife, he leaves for Virginia. As a devastating fire sweeps through London, Charles attempts to seduce Amber at a ball at Whitehall. Radcliffe spirits her home, however, and locks her in her room so she cannot return to the ball. That night, as fire destroys Radcliffe Hall, Radcliffe threatens to send Amber to the country for good, then struggles with her, before a disgruntled servant hits him and throws him into the conflagration to his death. Amber soon becomes Charles' mistress. When Bruce and his new wife Corinna visit from Virginia, he tries to convince Amber, who believes he still loves her, to let him adopt their child and take him back to Virginia, as he despises the "sick age" and court life to which the boy will be exposed. Amber invites Corinna to dine with her and Charles and retires, leaving them alone, then writes a note to Bruce about his wife's whereabouts. Charles, however, deduces Amber's scheme and allows Corinna to leave, her virtue unscathed. He then tells Amber to leave because her actions, which have made him realize that she truly loves Bruce, have shattered the illusion of happiness he had created because he could not find love as a king. When Bruce comes for the child and Amber sees that the boy, who is bored with court life, is excited about going, she gives him up and sadly watches them depart.
Leo G. Carroll
Perry "bill" Ward
C. Ramsey Hill
Charles Waldron Jr.
Thomas P. Dillon
C. C. "tex" Gilmore
Jean De Briac
Harry Hays Morgan
R. A. Klune
Ring Lardner Jr.
Harry M. Leonard
Mrs. Alan Napier
Maurice De Packh
Walter M. Scott
Nick S. Trani
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
In advance of their rights purchase of Forever Amber , Fox sent a script synopsis to Production Code Administration (PCA) head Joseph I. Breen for approval, but Breen shot it down, telling the studio that the film would be "utterly and completely unacceptable under any one of a dozen provisions of the Production Code." On November 1st, Col. Jason S. Joy, himself a former PCA executive now working as Fox's director of public relations, told Breen that Fox was going to buy the film rights regardless of Breen's ban because PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock was certain that there were ways of editing the story to make it acceptable to the censors. The very next day, Fox signed a deal to buy the exclusive rights for a whopping $200,000. News of the censor's refusal spread and helped to sell copies when the book was finally released in November.
Although young, author Kathleen Winsor had done her homework. While attending the University of California, Berkeley, and still in her teens, she had married a fellow college student, football star Bob Herwig. Herwig had written a paper on Charles II for one of his classes, and his wife began to read her husband's research books. Winsor got hooked on the time period, and for the next five years she immersed herself in the English Restoration. The result was Forever Amber. During the film's pre-production, news articles claimed Winsor would be acting as a technical advisor and assisting with the script, but according to the American Film Institute, there is no evidence in Fox studio files to substantiate this. Fox already had plenty of writers on staff and over the next two years men like Jerome Cady and Philip Dunne submitted drafts that were predictably rejected by the PCA. Dunne's final draft was finished in February 1946 and screenwriting credit would eventually be given to Cady, Dunne and Ring Lardner, Jr., who had been hired to do re-writes.
Objections to the book weren't only in the United States. Australia had placed American fiction under an embargo, but the news of the novel's runaway success had spread, and copies of the book were reaching their shores in suitcases or through the mail. The excitement over Fox's plans to bring the novel to the screen increased interest in the book, prompting J.J. Kennedy, the Comptroller General, to rush a copy to its Literature Censorship Board, asking that it be dealt with "as a matter of urgency." The censors read the book and, like Joseph Breen, were appalled by the many references to sex, impotence and even abortion. As a result, the book was banned in Australia for both American and English editions, with then Australian Minister of Trade and Customs, Senator Richard Keane stating, "The Almighty did not give the people eyes to read that kind of rubbish." Winsor, for her part, replied, "I don't care whether Senator Keane likes my book or not. [..] I don't make English history, The English did it first. I only wrote about it." Forever Amber would not be removed from Australia's banned books list until 1958.
If the book and screenplay gave the censors a headache, it was nothing compared to what Fox went through trying to make the film. Announcements about casts and even directors were continuously made in the press. First John M. Stahl was named director in October 1945, then Edmund Goulding in January 1946 and then Stahl again the following month. Nineteen-year-old British actress Peggy Cummins won the role of Amber, Cornel Wilde would play her true love Bruce Carlton (a role that Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck had originally considered for Rex Harrison), Vincent Price was hired to play Carlton's friend, Lord Harry Almsbury, and Reginald Gardiner would be King Charles II.
With a budget estimated at $3,000,000, Forever Amber went into production in March 1946 but ground to a halt after only a month, with Fox claiming that Peggy Cummins was ill with the flu. The next day, however, the studio sent out a press release saying that they and Stahl had mutually agreed that he would step aside, Cummins would be replaced and production would remain shut down for the next three months. Zanuck later said, "if there was any problem at all with Peggy Cummins, it was her extreme youth." This false start would cost the studio an estimated $1,000,000. The total budget would grow to about $6,000,000.
In mid-June 1946, Otto Preminger, who had scored a hit with Laura (1944), was signed to direct. Vincent Price was off the picture because of a scheduling conflict and replaced with Richard Greene. George Sanders replaced Reginald Gardiner as King Charles II and, despite Otto Preminger's demands that Lana Turner play the lead, it was Fox star Linda Darnell who would be (forever) Amber. Cornel Wilde was still Carlton but the studio put him under suspension in October because they claimed he wouldn't play the role unless he received a salary increase. Wilde fought back in the press, saying that it was his "dislike" of the role and his "desire for a vacation" that caused the dispute. At long last, issues were smoothed over and Forever Amber went back into production at the 20th Century-Fox studio in Los Angeles, with exteriors shot at the Greystone Park and Mansion on Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills and in the California coastal city of Monterey, wrapping up at the end of March 1947.
Forever Amber opened in New York City at the Roxy Theater on October 22, 1947 and set a contemporary box office record, even though it was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Spellman, who called it "a glorification of immorality and licentiousness." In the days where objections by church officials still held enormous power, the threats of boycotts were a real danger to the studio. The PCA recommended that a prologue be crafted to assure the audience that Amber was a "slave to ambition, stranger to virtue, fated to find the wealth and power she ruthlessly gained wither to ashes in the fire lit by passion and fed by defiance of the eternal command-- the wages of sin is death." An epilogue was added of Carlton saying, "Haven't we caused enough unhappiness? May God have mercy on us both for our sins." Director Preminger objected strongly to this and threatened to disassociate himself from the film, but the studio added it anyway, along with additional instructions to over 400 exhibitors on how to edit the prints that had already gone into release. This appeased the Legion of Decency enough to reclassify it from a "C" (condemned) rating to a "B" (morally objectionable in part) in December 1947. Forever Amber became the biggest hit of the year, eventually earning $16,000,000 at the US box office alone.
AFI | Catalog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://catalog.afi.com/Film/25169-FOREVER-AMBER?sid=52a7a036-9c20-46d4-91da-6c0365cbc377&sr=4.00981&cp=1&pos=0
Forever Amber (1947). (1948, January 26). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039391/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Forever Amber | Banned. (2013, November 7). Retrieved from http://blog.naa.gov.au/banned/2013/11/07/forever-amber/
Forever Amber (Rediscovered Classics) - Kindle edition by Kathleen Winsor, Barbara Taylor Bradford. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Forever-Rediscovered-Classics-Kathleen-Winsor-ebook/dp/B0087GZ8EW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548188893&sr=8-1&keywords=forever+amber
By Lorraine LoBianco
Children, children, what distressing behavior.- King Charles II
Peggy Cummins was originally cast as Amber, but proved unsuitable and was replaced by Linda Darnell.
'Price, Vincent' was originally cast as King Charles, but was replaced by 'Sanders, George' .
The Catholic Legion of Decency condemned the film for its "glamorization of immorality and licentiousness", and they demanded that the studio (20th Century-Fox) make changes so they could remove the film from the condemned list. The studio defiantly refused to initially, but when the actual boycotts began to occur, the studio then conformed. During a period of about two months, 20th Century-Fox and representatives of the Legion of Decency discussed how the film could be changed so it meet Catholic approval. Among the new scenes added was a narrated prologue over the credits that said that the main character would be punished for sins, a new ending in which Amber watches Lord Carlton leave for Virginia and ends up accepting a supper invitation from the King's equerry, plus the deletion of many scenes that suggested that Amber had many lovers and the addition of new scenes to condemn her immorality. After these changes were made, the Legion of Decency took the film off of the "condemned" list and moved it to the "Class B-Objectionable in Part" listing, but the film's bookings had been severely cut due to the earlier condemnation. 20th Century-Fox president Spyros Skouras later apologized to the Legion, not for offending them, but for refusing to conform to them.
The film opens with the following voice-over narration: "This is the tragic story of Amber St. Clair, slave to ambition, stranger to virtue, fated to find the wealth and power she ruthlessly gained wither to ashes in the fire lit by passion and fed by defiance of the eternal command-the wages of sin is death." A written prologue follows, establishing the historical and geographical locale and, after an introductory scene, a second written prologue sets the period as sixteen years later, during the reign of Charles II. Another voice-over narration, spoken by actor Cornel Wilde as the character of "Bruce Carlton," over closing shots is a reprise of dialogue from an earlier part of the film and states: "Haven't we caused enough unhappiness? May God have mercy on us both for our sins." Both voice-over narrations are only heard on the 35mm print and are not on the videotape release of the film.
Hollywood Reporter news items note that in September 1944, five weeks prior to the publication of Kathleen Winsor's novel, a bid for the rights was made by an undisclosed film studio based solely on the novel's synopsis. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in early October 1944, both Twentieth Century-Fox and M-G-M submitted story synopses to the PCA for approval. PCA head Joseph I. Breen unequivocally turned down the story, finding it "utterly and completely unacceptable under any one of a dozen provisions of the Production Code." News items indicate that the PCA officially banned the novel from motion picture consideration and note that the book's pre-publication publicity exploited the PCA statement. PCA files disclose that Twentieth Century-Fox's public relations director, Colonel Jason S. Joy, a former PCA executive, advised Breen on November 1, 1944 that despite the "ban," the studio intended to proceed with taking an option on the book, based on assurances from PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock that the narrative difficulties could be overcome. The purchase went through the following day, with Twentieth Century-Fox eventually paying $200,000 for the rights, which matched M-G-M's record price for A. J. Cronin's The Green Years (see below). News items claim that Winsor was to serve as assistant on the script and as technical advisor, but there is no corroborating evidence in studio files of her participation in any phase of production.
The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, indicates that in early 1945, the studio assigned Jerome Cady to write a treatment and screenplay, and Cady completed a first draft by May. In August 1945, Philip Dunne was assigned to re-writes and his completed draft was submitted to the PCA in October 1945 and rejected. Dunne made the PCA's requested changes and the script received full approval in December 1945. A final draft was completed by Dunne in February 1946, necessitating arbitration to determine writing credits, which went to both Cady and Dunne, as well as Ring Lardner, Jr., who was hired in July 1946 for additional re-writes.
Script files indicate that studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck considered casting Rex Harrison as "Bruce Carlton," Lee J. Cobb as "Almsbury" and Victor McLaglen as "Black Jack." Among the several actresses tested for the role of "Amber" was Tallulah Bankhead. Although an October 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that 19-year-old British actress Peggy Cummins was announced to star as Amber, an item in December asserted that testing for Amber was continuing and the number of candidates screened was likely to top the number who tried out for the role of "Scarlet O'Hara" in Gone With the Wind. In January 1946, Hollywood Reporter again declared that Cummins had been cast as Amber, and that Cornel Wilde was being brought off suspension for the role of Bruce.
Although John M. Stahl had been announced as director in October 1945, Edmund Goulding was listed as director in a January 1946 news item. Stahl was set as the director by February and, with a budget estimated in excess of $3,000,000, principal photography commenced in early Mar, with Vincent Price in the role of Almsbury, and Reginald Gardiner as "King Charles II." In late Apr, four weeks into production, filming was brought to a halt when it was announced that Cummins was suffering from the flu. The following day, by mutual consent with the studio, director Stahl withdrew from the production. Although Zanuck announced that a new director would be assigned and production would resume within a matter of days, Hollywood Reporter reported on May 1, 1946 that production of the film would be closed down for a three-month minimum and that another actress would likely be brought in to star and Otto Preminger to direct.
In mid-June 1946 Preminger was announced as Stahl's replacement. Hollywood Reporter items note that Price and Wilde and several other actors in lesser roles were departing the production due to scheduling conflicts. Richard Greene was finally cast as Almsbury in place of Price while Wilde stayed on as Bruce. A New York Times article mentioned Gene Tierney as a possible replacement for Cummins, and modern sources indicate that Preminger pressed Zanuck to cast M-G-M's Lana Turner. At the end of July 1946, the studio announced that Twentieth Century-Fox contractee Linda Darnell was taking over the role of Amber.
A Los Angeles Times article revealed that Twentieth Century-Fox was taking an estimated loss of approximately $1,000,000 in scrapping all the previously shot footage. Zanuck was quoted as remarking that "If there was any problem at all with Peggy Cummins, it was her extreme youth." Production was initially scheduled to recommence in September 1946, then moved back to October so that Preminger could rehearse the actors. According to Hollywood Reporter, in mid-October 1946, Twentieth Century-Fox placed Wilde on suspension, claiming that he had refused to continue in the role as Bruce unless granted a salary increase. The same item reported that Wilde insisted his refusal to play the role had nothing to do with salary demands, but rather "my dislike for it and my desire for a vacation." Two days later the matter was resolved and Wilde returned to the production. Location shooting was conducted by a second unit in Monterey, CA. Studio legal files indicate that dialogue director Paul England was cast in a supporting role as "Gumble," but his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio files also add that in November 1946 production was briefly shut down due to the illness of Margot Grahame, who played the role of "Bess," which was eventually cut from the completed film. Principal photography was completed in early March 1947, nearly one year after it had originally begun. According to Hollywood Reporter, Zanuck ordered two more weeks of filming at the end of March 1947.
An undated memorandum in the PCA file reports that "the finished picture is objectionable because it deals excessively in illicit sex and adultery." Other memos from the same file indicate that in late May 1947, Colonel Joy was informed by the PCA that the film was "in violation of the provisions of the Code," and that he admitted that the screen version was at least 50% to 60% different from the final script submitted for PCA approval in November 1946. Correspondence in the PCA files reveals that in late June 1947, Colonel Joy submitted two reels of re-edited and re-dubbed sequences based on recommendations by the PCA, and it was agreed that with those changes the film was "approvable." A formal seal of approval was granted on June 20, 1947. In an unusual action, just prior to the film's October 1947 release, Breen sent a three-page memo to MPPA president Eric Johnston in New York, outlining the reasons for granting the film the seal.
According to various contemporary news items, Forever Amber opened in New York City at the Roxy Theatre on October 22, 1947 and set an opening day box-office record. On the same day, the film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, Archbishop of New York, termed the film "a glorification of immorality and licentiousness" and advised that "Catholics May not see this production with a safe conscience." Hollywood Reporter news items throughout the end of October and early November 1947 note that in Providence, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Boston, Catholic Church representatives spoke out officially against the film and in some cases attempted to have showings legally halted. Similar news items reveal that the Archbishop of Philadelphia threatened a boycott of the Fox Theatre unless Forever Amber was withdrawn within 48 hours.
According to memos and correspondence in PCA files, in an effort to reverse the Legion's "C" rating, Twentieth Century-Fox officials agreed with PCA recommendations that a voice-over prologue and epilogue be added. A PCA memo states that Preminger was "vehemently opposed" to the epilogue because Bruce's voice-over admission of sin is heard over a shot of Amber, and threatened to disassociate himself from the entire production if the edit was carried out. There is no evidence that Preminger took any such action. The additional soundtrack material and cutting instructions were shipped to over 400 exhibitors and were in full effect on all prints in release by mid-December 1947. Based on these changes, the Legion of Decency reclassified Forever Amber from a "C" or "condemned" rating to a "B" or "morally objectional in part" rating on 8 December 1947.
Forever Amber received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music/Scoring.