The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing


1h 49m 1955

Film Details

Release Date
Oct 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 12 Oct 1955; New York opening: 19 Oct 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Malibu--Zuma Beach, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Recording) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
9,787ft (13 reels)

Synopsis

On 12 Jun 1901, prominent New York architect Stanford White takes his ailing wife Elizabeth to lunch before she leaves for a long vacation. Their lunch is interrupted by Harry Kendall Thaw, an arrogant, wealthy young man from Pittsburgh who deeply resents White's higher placement in New York's rigid social structure. White reprimands Harry for his childish behavior, and after Harry leaves, he and Elizabeth are greeted by publisher Robert Collier, who shows them the latest issue of his magazine. Elizabeth admires the cover illustration, drawn by famed artist Charles Dana Gibson, of a lovely young woman whose long hair forms a question mark. Later, in a music hall, Evelyn Nesbit, the woman in the illustration, visits her mother, who works there as a seamstress. The overprotective Mrs. Nesbit tells Eveyln that she will be unable to chaperone her session with Gibson that day, but Eveyln's disappointment is tempered when the stage manager asks her to become one of the chorus girls in the famed "Floradora" musical revue. Sometime later, White is visited by a friend, Gwen Arden, who asks him to arrange a meeting for her with Collier. When White spots Evelyn in Gwen's carriage, he is struck by her beauty and agrees to a luncheon, provided that Gwen brings Evelyn. Soon after, Gwen, Evelyn and the other girls are invited by Harry to his birthday party the following day. At the party, Harry is infuriated when he learns that Gwen and Evelyn are not in attendance because they are with White. Meanwhile, the women have gone to White's private apartment, and there, the naïve Evelyn is overwhelmed by the luxurious surroundings, especially an extravagent arboretum containing a red velvet swing suspended from the ceiling. Sitting in the swing, Evelyn innocently asks White to kiss her, and the couple is surprised when what they intended to be a platonic kiss becomes passionate. Realizing that he could easily fall in love with Evelyn, White tells Gwen never to bring her to see him again, although he does pay to have her chipped tooth repaired. Mrs. Nesbit reprimands her daughter for seeing the much older, married White, but Evelyn protests that he is the greatest man she has ever met. Hoping to see White, Evelyn goes to his apartment but he warns her that the attraction between them is too strong for them to meet again. Later, Evelyn is at the beach, posing for Gibson, when Harry races by in his carriage to impress her. Soon after, White arrives at his club for a stag party and is upset to learn that Evelyn has been hired to jump out of an oversized pie. White sternly tells her that he will be nothing more to her than a "Dutch uncle," and that she must behave more decorously. White's honorable intentions fail, however, as they spend more time together and fall in love. Later, Evelyn and Mrs. Nesbit, who knew Harry as child, are shopping when Harry attempts to buy Evelyn a fur coat. Evelyn again rejects Harry's overtures, but Harry pleads with Mrs. Nesbit to support his suit. Soon after, Evelyn, who has become a success on the stage and is being pursued by many men, eagerly awaits a visit from White. When he arrives backstage, however, he is met by Mrs. Nesbit, who criticizes him for his infidelity. Ashamed, White tells Evelyn that they must end their affair, and that she must go away to boarding school. Although she is deeply hurt, Evelyn agrees to go, but after a few weeks, has an emotional breakdown because of her longing for White. Evelyn is visited by Harry, who suggests to Mrs. Nesbit that she needs a complete rest and offers to escort them to Europe. Mrs. Nesbit agrees, but when White learns of the plans, he attempts to intervene. Before he can complete his arrangements, White learns that Elizabeth is coming home, and so instead sends a letter of credit to Evelyn so that she will be financially secure in case Harry abandons her. While on vacation, Harry repeatedly proposes to Evelyn, but when she admits that she was White's mistress, he slaps her. Harry's remorse over his outburst makes Evelyn see him in a new light and she agrees to marry him. White is glum upon hearing of the impending marriage, and when he learns that Harry is insisting that Evelyn's repaired tooth be restored to its former chipped state, he arranges to meet Evelyn at the dentist's office. There, White begs her not to marry the mentally unstable Harry, but Evelyn maintains that she cannot spend the rest of her life as White's mistress, even though she still loves him. During Evelyn and Harry's honeymoon, Harry's persistent questioning of her relationship with White drives Evelyn to the brink of another collapse, and she wearily allows Harry to think that White drugged and raped her. Harry refuses to believe Evelyn's insistence that her affair with White is over, and one night, when they visit the nightclub on the roof of Madison Square Garden and Harry spots White, he assumes that White is following Evelyn. Overcome by jealousy, Harry shoots and kills White, then yells that he committed the crime because White "ruined" his wife. After Harry's arrest, the district attorney announces that he will seek the death penalty if Harry is convicted, and Harry's overbearing mother hires lawyer William Travers Jerome to defend him. Mrs. Thaw and Delphin Dalmas, Harry's sister, pressure Evelyn to testify on Harry's behalf, and to besmirch White's reputation. Gibson begs Evelyn not to testify, and despite her reluctance to refute her love for White, the fear that Harry will be put to death prompts Evelyn to testify on his behalf. The district attorney viciously attacks Evelyn, bringing up such facts as White's letter of credit to paint her as a gold-digger. Despite the damage to her reputation, Evelyn's testimony sways the jury, which returns a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Later, when Harry is being transferred to a mental institution, he harshly rejects Evelyn's offer to move near him. As Evelyn leaves the jail, she is accosted by reporters, after which a seemingly friendly stranger rescues her. The man then reveals that his name is Hunchbacher and that he runs a vaudeville theater in Atlantic City. Warning Evelyn that she will be deserted by the Thaws, Hunchbacher offers Evelyn a job, but, unwilling to be exploited, she runs off. When Evelyn goes to see Mrs. Thaw, however, the matron's attempts to pay Evelyn off and force her to leave the country make her realize that Hunchbacher was correct. Soon after, in Atlantic City, Hunchbacher introduces Evelyn as "the babe who left one guy pushing up daisies and the other in the bug house." Her heart broken, Evelyn then swings in a red velvet swing over the heads of the roaring crowd.

Film Details

Release Date
Oct 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 12 Oct 1955; New York opening: 19 Oct 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Malibu--Zuma Beach, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Recording) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
9,787ft (13 reels)

Articles

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing - Joan Collins is THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING, Based on the Real Life Evelyn Nesbit Murder Scandal


For as long as there have been beautiful women, men have been ruining themselves over them. G. W. Pabst had Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box and Max Ophuls had Martine Carol and Lola Montés. Darryl Zanuck and Richard Fleisher have Joan Collins and The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, which is no classic but still managed a thrill or two in 1955. Censorship standards wouldn't allow screenwriter-producer Charles Brackett within a mile of the facts of the scandalous 1906 murder of Stanford White -- see the 1983 Ragtime to get a better idea of the situation -- so this CinemaScope production instead forms itself into a respectable morality tale. Instead of enjoying her transgressions, Evelyn Nesbit mostly suffers at the hands of one man who cannot marry her, and another who becomes a madman. Sadder but wiser, she delivers a final line worth remembering: "My mother taught me a proverb. If you lie down with dogs, you come up with fleas."

Synopsis: The early 1900s, New York. Famed architect Stanford White (Ray Milland) becomes infatuated with chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (Joan Collins). They launch into a mad affair despite their disparity in ages and the fact that he loves his wife Elizabeth (Frances Fuller). Evelyn's mother (Glenda Farrell) is powerless to stop the romance, yet White eventually comes to his senses and packs Evelyn off to a girls' school, all expenses paid. But deranged young millionaire Harry K. Thaw (Farley Granger) stalks Evelyn, proclaiming his love and pushing himself into her affairs, as much to spite White as for Evelyn's own sake. Evelyn finally agrees to marry Thaw, but his insane jealousy grows as he tortures her with questions and accusations. Deciding that his pride can no longer take the insult, Thaw impulsively shoots White to death at the rooftop theatre of the Madison Square Garden. Thus begins the biggest scandal of the new century.

Nobody expected The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing to dish the real dirt about Evelyn Nesbit. The 65 year-old Nesbit was hired as a special consultant on the movie and the details of the Nesbit-White 'love nest' that came out in the murder trials are conspicuously absent. The red velvet swing of the title must serve as a substitute for their sexual relationship, as the Production Code would barely allow the adulterous couple to even kiss. History at least provided for the unlucky Stanford White to receive his just desserts in a way the Code would approve, while Evelyn hides behind the Code-sanctioned notion that she was an innocent babe in the woods. Just what was the couple doing when the red velvet swing stopped swinging, playing patty-cake over in the corner?

Ray Milland was a very handsome 50 during shooting, making him the proper age to play New York's most amorous married playboy. Joan Collins plays her part well enough but the Evelyn Nesbit character remains little more than a beauty with boyfriend problems. We don't learn much about her vanity or her real motives. She's just (sigh) beautiful, love-struck and sad. Lola Montés and Lulu Schön drove men mad with desire, but Nesbit's story is much more sordid. She was the under-aged lover of an older man with a fondness for nymphettes. The Milland / Collins chemistry is curiously lukewarm because the script won't define their characters. Is she immature or knowing? Is he a romantic or a sexual predator?

Farley Granger is also short of the mark as the impetuous, spoiled and abusively insane Harry Thaw, his second outing in an odd demented characterization after Hitchcock's Rope. Granger's reads his dialogue flatly and his tantrums are unconvincing. We don't feel the irresponsible menace that must have lurked behind Thaw's baby face.

The elaborate production reproduces several fancy stage productions from the period and plenty of antique settings, costumes and vehicles. Where CinemaScope movies of this period fail is in their high key, flat lighting. The visuals are devoid of depth or atmosphere except in Stanford White's love nest room with the velvet swing, and even there most of Fleischer's compositions are defeated by a lack of imagination with the ultra-wide screen shape. Although opinions are softening, in the 1950s and 60s Richard Fleischer was considered a promising talent who became dull with the advent of CinemaScope.

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing twists history to make Evelyn Nesbit a plucky victim instead of an irresponsible Lolita, but at least it's consistent. Glenda Farrell's faithful mother tells the vain Evelyn that in her experience, beautiful girls shed a lot more tears than the plain ones. Yet the movie fudges facts, denying that Evelyn is a kept woman and her mother an accomplice to profitable adultery. When the Thaw family was through with her Evelyn had nothing, not even her good name, so the ending with promoter Emile Meyer on the Atlantic City boardwalk brings the story back to the facts again. Free of her romantic illusions, the former Gibson and Floradora girl swoops over the heads of a drunken crowd on her red swing. The image should be the equal of the devastating finale of Lola Montés, where an endless line of customers pays to kiss the courtesan's hand. The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing is not in the same league, and remains interesting mostly as a valentine to Joan Collins' beauty.

Fox's Cinema Classics Collection presentation of The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing looks better than ever; most of us have only seen wretched pan-scanned television prints. The color and sound (4.0 Dolby) are excellent. An isolated track allows us to hear the cues for Leigh Harline and Edward B. Powell's music. Fox has loaded the disc with extras. Author Aubrey Solomon's commentary only runs over selected scenes, and he covers the facts and curiosities of the production as only a studio historian can. Especially recommended is From Ingénue to Icon, a good featurette about Joan Collins' early career; it quickly sketches the other films in the Joan Collins Collection and explains that the actress came to Fox because Darryl Zanuck was impressed by her in dailies for Warners' Land of the Pharaohs.

Other extras include a trailer, several galleries of stills and artwork and one of Fox's clever Interactive Pressbooks. An additional track in Spanish is added, plus subtitles in English, Spanish and French.

For more information about The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing - Joan Collins Is The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing, Based On The Real Life Evelyn Nesbit Murder Scandal

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing - Joan Collins is THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING, Based on the Real Life Evelyn Nesbit Murder Scandal

For as long as there have been beautiful women, men have been ruining themselves over them. G. W. Pabst had Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box and Max Ophuls had Martine Carol and Lola Montés. Darryl Zanuck and Richard Fleisher have Joan Collins and The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, which is no classic but still managed a thrill or two in 1955. Censorship standards wouldn't allow screenwriter-producer Charles Brackett within a mile of the facts of the scandalous 1906 murder of Stanford White -- see the 1983 Ragtime to get a better idea of the situation -- so this CinemaScope production instead forms itself into a respectable morality tale. Instead of enjoying her transgressions, Evelyn Nesbit mostly suffers at the hands of one man who cannot marry her, and another who becomes a madman. Sadder but wiser, she delivers a final line worth remembering: "My mother taught me a proverb. If you lie down with dogs, you come up with fleas." Synopsis: The early 1900s, New York. Famed architect Stanford White (Ray Milland) becomes infatuated with chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (Joan Collins). They launch into a mad affair despite their disparity in ages and the fact that he loves his wife Elizabeth (Frances Fuller). Evelyn's mother (Glenda Farrell) is powerless to stop the romance, yet White eventually comes to his senses and packs Evelyn off to a girls' school, all expenses paid. But deranged young millionaire Harry K. Thaw (Farley Granger) stalks Evelyn, proclaiming his love and pushing himself into her affairs, as much to spite White as for Evelyn's own sake. Evelyn finally agrees to marry Thaw, but his insane jealousy grows as he tortures her with questions and accusations. Deciding that his pride can no longer take the insult, Thaw impulsively shoots White to death at the rooftop theatre of the Madison Square Garden. Thus begins the biggest scandal of the new century. Nobody expected The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing to dish the real dirt about Evelyn Nesbit. The 65 year-old Nesbit was hired as a special consultant on the movie and the details of the Nesbit-White 'love nest' that came out in the murder trials are conspicuously absent. The red velvet swing of the title must serve as a substitute for their sexual relationship, as the Production Code would barely allow the adulterous couple to even kiss. History at least provided for the unlucky Stanford White to receive his just desserts in a way the Code would approve, while Evelyn hides behind the Code-sanctioned notion that she was an innocent babe in the woods. Just what was the couple doing when the red velvet swing stopped swinging, playing patty-cake over in the corner? Ray Milland was a very handsome 50 during shooting, making him the proper age to play New York's most amorous married playboy. Joan Collins plays her part well enough but the Evelyn Nesbit character remains little more than a beauty with boyfriend problems. We don't learn much about her vanity or her real motives. She's just (sigh) beautiful, love-struck and sad. Lola Montés and Lulu Schön drove men mad with desire, but Nesbit's story is much more sordid. She was the under-aged lover of an older man with a fondness for nymphettes. The Milland / Collins chemistry is curiously lukewarm because the script won't define their characters. Is she immature or knowing? Is he a romantic or a sexual predator? Farley Granger is also short of the mark as the impetuous, spoiled and abusively insane Harry Thaw, his second outing in an odd demented characterization after Hitchcock's Rope. Granger's reads his dialogue flatly and his tantrums are unconvincing. We don't feel the irresponsible menace that must have lurked behind Thaw's baby face. The elaborate production reproduces several fancy stage productions from the period and plenty of antique settings, costumes and vehicles. Where CinemaScope movies of this period fail is in their high key, flat lighting. The visuals are devoid of depth or atmosphere except in Stanford White's love nest room with the velvet swing, and even there most of Fleischer's compositions are defeated by a lack of imagination with the ultra-wide screen shape. Although opinions are softening, in the 1950s and 60s Richard Fleischer was considered a promising talent who became dull with the advent of CinemaScope. The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing twists history to make Evelyn Nesbit a plucky victim instead of an irresponsible Lolita, but at least it's consistent. Glenda Farrell's faithful mother tells the vain Evelyn that in her experience, beautiful girls shed a lot more tears than the plain ones. Yet the movie fudges facts, denying that Evelyn is a kept woman and her mother an accomplice to profitable adultery. When the Thaw family was through with her Evelyn had nothing, not even her good name, so the ending with promoter Emile Meyer on the Atlantic City boardwalk brings the story back to the facts again. Free of her romantic illusions, the former Gibson and Floradora girl swoops over the heads of a drunken crowd on her red swing. The image should be the equal of the devastating finale of Lola Montés, where an endless line of customers pays to kiss the courtesan's hand. The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing is not in the same league, and remains interesting mostly as a valentine to Joan Collins' beauty. Fox's Cinema Classics Collection presentation of The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing looks better than ever; most of us have only seen wretched pan-scanned television prints. The color and sound (4.0 Dolby) are excellent. An isolated track allows us to hear the cues for Leigh Harline and Edward B. Powell's music. Fox has loaded the disc with extras. Author Aubrey Solomon's commentary only runs over selected scenes, and he covers the facts and curiosities of the production as only a studio historian can. Especially recommended is From Ingénue to Icon, a good featurette about Joan Collins' early career; it quickly sketches the other films in the Joan Collins Collection and explains that the actress came to Fox because Darryl Zanuck was impressed by her in dailies for Warners' Land of the Pharaohs. Other extras include a trailer, several galleries of stills and artwork and one of Fox's clever Interactive Pressbooks. An additional track in Spanish is added, plus subtitles in English, Spanish and French. For more information about The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening credits of this film contain the following written prologue: "In 1906, the Thaw-White murder case rocked America. Because it involved a man of great consequence, another of great wealth, and a girl of extraordinary beauty, it remains unique in the annals of crime....What follows is taken from actual reports of the trial, and from personal interviews with Evelyn Nesbit." The picture is based on the murder of socially prominent architect Stanford White (1853-1906) by millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw (1871-1947), who was consumed with jealousy over White's past affair with his wife, famed beauty Evelyn Nesbit Thaw (1884-1967). Evelyn became involved with the older, married White in 1901 when she was a member of the popular "Floradora Sextette" and a favorite subject for artist Charles Dana Gibson. His portrait of her entitled "The Eternal Question," in which Evelyn's long hair forms a question mark, is one of the best-known examples of the "Gibson Girl" motif popularized by the artist. During her affair with White, Evelyn began to be called "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing" because of the swing in which she liked to sit in White's apartment. Thaw, well-known for his mental instability, began romantically pursuing Evelyn and married her in 1905. Infuriated by the notion that White had "ruined" Evelyn, Thaw shot and killed him in the Roof Garden of Madison Square Garden on 24 June 1906.
       Thaw's first trial for the murder ended in a deadlocked jury; the second trial, featuring testimony by Evelyn that White had drugged and raped her, ended in Thaw being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw was placed in a mental institution until 1915, when he was released after being determined sane. Evelyn bore Thaw a son, Russell, but was divorced by Thaw after his release. Without the support of the Thaw family, Evelyn was forced to use her notoriety to obtain work, appearing in vaudeville and nightclubs, as well as several silent films, including the 1917 Triumph Film Corp. release Redemption, which also featured Russell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20).
       A studio publicity release and the Hollywood Reporter review stated that The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing was partially based on the book of the same title by Charles Samuels (New York, 1953). A January 9, 1954 Los Angeles Daily News news item referred to the book as a "fictionalized, paperback biography," and in a June 28, 1955 Los Angeles Times interview, Evelyn claimed that the unauthorized biography was "incorrect in many details." Samuels is not listed in the onscreen credits of the film, and it is likely that Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the rights to his book merely to obtain rights to the title. Numerous contemporary sources reported that Evelyn cooperated fully with the filming of the picture, and several reviews surmised that her participation led to a portrayal of her, and of her affair with White, that differed substantially from her testimoney during her husband's trials for White's murder. According to the Time and Life reviews, Evelyn was paid between $45,000 and $50,000 for acting as a consultant on the film.
       Several 1954 news items reported that Marilyn Monroe would play "Evelyn Nesbit," and according to Joan Collins' autobiography, Terry Moore and Debra Paget were tested for the role after Monroe rejected it. On May 5, 1955, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column speculated that Fox was considering casting Robert Montgomery as "Stanford White." Although Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Marie Roe, Denise Lemley, Joseph Wagner, Tommy Ladd, Robert Calder, Jimmy Brooks, Casse Jaeger, Irene Austin, Patsy Bangs, Iris Burton, Patricia Byrne, Patsi Donahue, Dolores Ellsworth, Heather Hopper, Peggy Mae O'Connell, Patricia Peters, Edna Ryan, Audrey Saunders, Rita Stetson, Mitzi Sutherland, Jeanne Warren, Moshe Lazrah, Edna Holland, Dinah Ace, Kathaleen Ellis, Stuart Holmes, Luther Adler, Sally Yarnell and Foster Finey. According to a July 6, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, the beach sequence of the film was shot on location at Zuma Beach near Malibu, CA. The White-Thaw-Nesbit triangle was also portrayed in the 1981 Paramount release Ragtime, which was directed by Milos Forman and starred Elizabeth McGovern as Evelyn, Robert Joy as Thaw and Norman Mailer as White.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 1955

CinemaScope

Released in United States Fall October 1955