Lady in the Dark


1h 40m 1944

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1944
Premiere Information
Hollywood premiere: 9 Feb 1944; New York opening: 22 Feb 1944
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Lady in the Dark , book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin (New York, 23 Jan 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,000ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

Liza Elliott, the stern editor-in-chief of Allure fashion magazine, finds that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Liza rejects her physician's advice to go into psychoanalysis and seeks solace in her work, but her condition is aggravated by jokester Charley Johnson, her publicity and advertising manager, who constantly challenges her authority. Liza's married boyfriend, Allure publisher Kendall Nesbitt, also fears that his unavailability is contributing to her confusion. Frightened by her own lack of control, Liza starts therapy with Dr. Alexander Brooks. During her first session, Liza recalls that in her most recent dream she wore an extravagant blue gown, which baffles her as she hates the color blue. In the dream, Charley is commissioned to paint Liza's portrait for a two-cent stamp, but the portrait is a caricature, and Liza becomes a laughingstock. Brooks surmises that although Liza is controlled and severe in her appearance, it may be her secret childhood dream to be glamorous. Later that day, Liza's staff loses control when handsome Hollywood star Randy Curtis comes in to model for photographs and makes it impossible for photographer Russell Paxton to do his work. Liza is unmoved by Randy's good looks, but when Kendall announces that he is now free to marry her, Liza greets the news with trepidation, and agrees to a dinner date with Randy. That night, Liza dreams that she falls in love with Randy just before her wedding. Charley officiates at the dream wedding, and when he asks if anyone opposes the marriage, the guests shout at Liza to reveal her true self. After she relates her dream to Brooks, he suggests that Kendall is a father figure, and that her "true self" wants to be glamorous. Liza angrily rejects Brooks's diagnosis and cancels all future sessions. The next day, Charley announces his resignation so that he can work as an editor at another magazine. Liza offers Charley a raise, but he rejects her offer because he knows that she will never step down from her position. Kendall then confronts Liza, and when she admits that she does not want to marry him, he insists that she fulfill her commitment. After Randy later implies that it is Liza's plain appearance that pleases him, Liza puts on a lavish gown for their dinner date. That night at supper, Randy confesses his love for Liza, but she leaves abruptly when their intimate conversation is interrupted by Charley and his date, who is an ardent fan of Randy. At home, Liza is tortured by her inability to make a decision about marrying Kendall, about using Charley's new idea for a circus-themed Easter cover, and finally, about the kind of woman she wants to be. Inspired by Charley's drawings for the circus-themed cover art, Liza dreams that she is a child attending a circus, and that Charley is the ringmaster: Liza is suddenly a grown woman in a cage and is put on trial for her indecision. Liza defends herself by singing the "Saga of Jenny," about a woman whose firm decisions always lead her astray. Liza then hears the strains of "My Ship," a tune from her childhood, which she hums any time she is worried. When Liza seeks comfort in an image of her father, he angrily responds that she should take off her outrageous dress. The next day, Liza returns to Brooks, and they confirm that the source of Liza's trouble lies in her childhood: One day, Liza's father asks her to sing "My Ship" for her mother's friends, all of whom cherish her mother for her beauty. Liza is humiliated when they find no resemblance between mother and daughter, and she is unable to sing the song. Liza's mother dies shortly after, and to draw her father out of his grief, Liza tries on her mother's blue gown. Liza's father angrily demands that she take off the dress, and thereafter, Liza avoids her father and focuses only on schoolwork. When she is invited to her high school graduation dance by Ben, who is considered the most handsome boy in the school, a little light comes back into her life, but this soon dims after Ben abandons her at the dance in favor of his former girl friend. Brooks now suggests that Liza has withdrawn from femininity to avoid being hurt, and therefore, has forced men to accept her as their superior. Brooks believes that she may only be happy with a man who will dominate her. With a new outlook on life, Liza gently rejects Kendall and accepts Randy's marriage proposal. When Randy asks her to head his new production studio, however, Liza realizes that he is not the man for her. Liza then offers Charley a partnership, with the possibility that she will eventually relinquish her position, and Charley delightedly accepts. While discussing new ideas for the magazine, Charley and Liza discover they love each other and kiss. Russell, frustrated by the demands of his work, stops into Liza's office and, seeing them kissing, announces, "This is the end, the absolute end!"

Cast

Ginger Rogers

Liza Elliott

Ray Milland

Charley Johnson

Warner Baxter

Kendall Nesbitt

Jon Hall

Randy Curtis

Barry Sullivan

Dr. Alexander Brooks

Mischa Auer

Russell Paxton

Phyllis Brooks

Allison Dubois

Mary Philips

Maggie Grant

Edward Fielding

Dr. Carlton

Don Loper

Adams, Miss Rogers' dance partner

Mary Parker

Miss Parker

Marietta Canty

Martha

Virginia Farmer

Miss Edwards

Fay Helm

Miss Bowers

Gail Russell

Barbara, 17 years

Marian Hall

Miss Stevens

Kay Linaker

Liza's mother

Harvey Stephens

Liza's father

Billy Daniels

Office boy, Miss Parker's dance partner

Charles Smith

Barbara's boyfriend

Catherine Craig

Miss Foster

Georgia Backus

Miss Sullivan

Rand Brooks

Ben

Pepito Perez

Clown

Audrey Young

Office girl

Eleanor De Van

Office girl

Jeanne Strasser

Office girl

Arlyne Varden

Office girl

Angela Wilson

Office girl

Dorothy O'kelly

Office girl

Betty Hall

Office girl

Fran Shore

Office girl

Lynda Grey

Office girl

Christopher King

Office girl

Maxine Ardell

Office girl

Alice Kirby

Office girl

Louise La Planche

Office girl

Paul Pierce

Specialty dancer

George Mayon

Specialty dancer

James Notaro

Specialty dancer

Jack Karre

Specialty dancer

Byron Poindexter

Specialty dancer

Kit Carson

Specialty dancer

Joel Friend

Dancer

Allen Ray

Dancer

Charles Mayon

Dancer

Jerry James

Dancer

Miriam Franklin

Dancer

Al Ruiz

Dancer

Hal Rand

Dancer

Frederic Nay

Dancer

Helen O'hara

Model

Bunny Waters

Model

Susan Paley

Model

Dorothy Ford

Model

Mary Maclaren

Librarian

Paul Mcvey

Jack Goddard

George Calliga

Captain of waiters

Michael Harvey

Man at table

Joe Allen Jr.

Man at table

Bruce Warren

Man at table

Ronnie Rondell

Waiter

Frances Robinson

Girl with Randy Curtis

Jan Buckingham

Miss Shawn

Jack Mulhall

Photographer

Hillary Brooke

Miss Barr

Dorothy Granger

Autograph hunter

Kenneth Crist

Taxicab starter

Murray Alper

Taxicab driver

Charles Coleman

Butler

Grandon Rhodes

Reporter

Lester Dorr

Reporter

Emmett Vogan

Reporter

Lester Sharpe

Pianist

John Arthur Stockton

Flunky

Eddie Hall

Flunky

Tony Marsh

Flunky

Fred "red" Johnson

Juggler

Duke Johnson

Juggler

Johnnie Johnson

Clown

John O'connor

Clown

Buster Brodie

Clown

Harold De Garro

Circus stilt man

Herbert Clyde

Circus stilt man

Earl Clyde

Circus stilt man

Edgar Clyde

Circus stilt man

Herbert Corthell

Senator

Bruce Cameron

Acrobatic tumbler

Flash Gordon

Acrobatic tumbler

Walter Pietila

Acrobatic tumbler

Ray Spiker

Acrobatic tumbler

Leonard St. Leo

Acrobatic tumbler

Henry Escalante

Acrobatic tumbler

Bonnadene Wolfe

Acrobatic tumbler

Herb Holcomb

Aquatic clown

Jack Mcafee

Wirehaired clown

Tom Plank

Beauty operator clown

Gus Lind

Tramp clown

Irving Fulton

Powderpuff clown

Slim Gaut

Corset clown

Ed O'neill

Photographer clown

John Marlowe

Photographer's model clown

Larry "bozo" Valli

Fat woman clown

Walter Preston

Artist clown

Larry Rio

Farmer clown

Bill Schroff

Continental soldier clown

Harry Bayfield

Snow clown

Leonora Johnson

Bird's nest clown

Jack Semple

Flower pot clown

Dave Miller

Horn nose clown

Stuart Barlow

Accordian clown

Armand Tanny

Strong man clown

Rube Schaffer

Masseur clown

Theodore Marc

Daniel Boone clown

Alan Speer

Frog clown

Billy Arrowsmith

Poodle dog clown, midget

Nels Nelson

Scissors clown, midget

Tommy Cottonaro

Tailor clown, midget

Angelo Rossitto

Bunny, midget

Pauline S. Bush

Bunny, midget

John W. Bush

Bunny, midget

John Bambury

Bunny, midget

Arthur Rosebloom

Bunny, midget

Bobby Beers

Charley, as a boy at circus

Billy Dawson

Boy at circus

Priscilla Lyons

Little girl at circus

Buz Buckley

Freckle-faced boy

Phyllis M. Brooks

Barbara at 7 years

Marjean Neville

Liza at 5 years and 7 years

Charles Bates

David

Marten Lamont

Tristram Coffin

Dennis Moore

Jack Luden

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1944
Premiere Information
Hollywood premiere: 9 Feb 1944; New York opening: 22 Feb 1944
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Lady in the Dark , book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin (New York, 23 Jan 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,000ft (10 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1944

Best Cinematography

1944

Best Score

1944

Quotes

"This is the end! The absolute end!"
- Russell Paxton

Trivia

Paramount paid $285,000 for the film rights to the stage hit, a record at the time. $115,000 to producer Sam Harris, $85,000 to librettist Moss Hart and $42,500 each to composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Ira Gershwin.

Notes

Raoul Pene du Bois's onscreen credit reads: "Settings and Costumes designed by Raoul Pene du Bois." Onscreen dance credits read as follows: "Miss Rogers' dance by and with Don Loper" and "'The Circus' and Miss Parker's dance by and with Billy Daniels." Portions of the following songs, which were featured in the original musical, are heard in this film: "One Life to Live," "Girl of the Moment," "It Looks Like Liza" and "This is New," music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin; and "Artist's Waltz," music and lyrics by Robert Emmett Dolan. The film rights to Moss Hart's musical, Lady in the Dark, which starred Gertrude Lawrence as "Liza," were originally owned by Alexander Korda, according to modern sources. Modern sources also note that the musical drama was partially inspired by Moss Hart's personal experience with psychoanalysis.
       According to an article in the New York Times, the PCA requested that director Mitchell Leisen modify Liza's relationship with the married "Kendall" so that it would appear more sentimental than romantic and insisted that the character of "Russell Paxton" not be depicted as overtly "effeminate." Material in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following about the production: Choreographer George Balanchine was originally slated to choreograph the dance sequences but was released from his contract prior to production. MacDonald Carey was initially cast to reprise his Broadway role as "Dr. Brooks" but withdrew when he was called into military service. Marjorie Rambeau was to appear as "Maggie Grant." Special effects director Slavko Vorkapich worked on the film but declined a screen credit. Paramount negotiated with Vogue editor Babs Willaumez to act as a technical advisor, along with photographer John Rawlins, but Vogue was unable to release them for the time specified. However, Paramount did pay Willaumez a lump sum for her costume designs, some of which were used in the film. Paramount also engaged the following high fashion designers to design costumes for this film: Valentina, Norell, Adrian and Falkenstein. The extent of their contribution to Lady in the Dark has not been determined, however. (According to a modern interview with Mitchell Leisen, only Valentina contributed a design.) The film's final cost was $2,581,657.
       Hollywood Reporter news items reported the following about the production: In February 1941, Paramount, which owned one-third of the stage play Lady in the Dark, outbid Columbia and Warner Bros. and purchased the screen rights to the musical for $283,000, a record price at the time. The studio then refused an offer from producer Howard Hughes to sell the property for $320,000. A March 1942 news item reported that Paramount was negotiating with Fred Astaire to re-team with Ginger Rogers, with whom he had not performed in five years, on the picture. Associate producer David Lewis withdrew from the film due to military service. Paramount considered featuring Angna Enters as Liza's alter ego in the dream sequences. Paramount postponed the film's release because of a backlog of other pictures. To reduce the running time of the film, a scene featuring Mischa Auer singing "Tchaikovsky," a popular number performed by Danny Kaye in the original play, was cut, according to an article in New York Herald Tribune.
       In a modern interview, Leisen claims that although Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich received screen credit for the screenplay, he completely re-wrote their script. Leisen also noted that producer B. G. DeSylva insisted that Rogers' rendition of "My Ship," (music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin) which she sings in a park just prior to the high school graduation dance, be cut from the film.
       The Variety review noted that the film was "produced on a lavish scale in Technicolor," and that the "plethora of many combinations of brilliant colors stamps the production as perhaps the finest ever turned out in tints." A Los Angeles Examiner review noted that the film "is best described as a happy, happy mingling of Freud and Walt Disney....The spectacle, the color, the unusual theme add up to being the real stars of Lady in the Dark." The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Interior Decoration (Color), and Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture). Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland reprised their roles in a January 29, 1945 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast. A second Lux adaptation, broadcast on February 16, 1953, starred Judy Garland and John Lund.