The Life of Vergie Winters


1h 22m 1934
The Life of Vergie Winters

Brief Synopsis

A politician marries while maintaining a second, illegitimate family on the side.

Film Details

Also Known As
Vergie Winters
Genre
Romance
Drama
Release Date
Jun 22, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 14 Jun 1934
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "A Scarlet Woman" by Louis Bromfield in McClure's Magazine (Jan 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

From her Parkville jail cell, Vergie Winters watches the funeral procession of Senator John Shadwell and remembers her twenty-year past with him: The moment young lawyer John returns to Parkville from an extended honeymoon with his social climbing wife Laura, he visits Vergie, his former lover. After a passionate embrace, John explains to the youthful milliner that he had abandoned their romance because Vergie's father had told him that she was pregnant by laborer Hugo McQueen and would be forced to marry. Vergie then tells John that, to keep her from marrying John, Laura's father had paid her father $10,000 to tell him that devastating lie. Still deeply in love, John and Vergie continue to see each other, but when John starts to campaign for Congress, Preston, a political boss, informs Vergie that, if John is to receive his vital support, she must forego their affair. Although Vergie agrees to Preston's terms, John refuses to end the relationship and spends a long evening with her before the election. After a victorious John moves to Washington, D.C. with Laura, Vergie bears his child under an assumed name. John then adopts the baby, named Joan, whom he claims is the child of a destitute family friend. At the start of World War I, John returns to Parkville and once again resumes his affair with Vergie. When one of John's late night rendezvous is witnessed by a town gossip and reported to Mike Davey, John's only political enemy, Vergie's successful millinery shop is boycotted, and she is shunned by all but the local prostitutes. In addition, Davey hires Preston's son Barry to steal from Preston's home safe a page from a hotel register on which Vergie had written her assumed name. As Barry is breaking into his father's safe, however, Preston mistakes him for a burglar and kills him, but tells his butler that a burglar shot his son. Many years later, after John has started a prosperous airline company and has been elected senator, Vergie spends her mornings watching a now grown Joan horseback riding with her fiancé, Ranny Truesdale. Unknown to Vergie, Laura has hired a private detective to spy on her in order to prove that Joan is actually her rival's daughter. Unable to secure her proof, Laura forces John to tell Joan that she is adopted. To John's relief, Joan and Ranny accept the news calmly and proceed with their marriage plans. After the wedding, John informs Laura that he wants a divorce so that he can marry Vergie. Laura, desperate to hang on to her social standing, follows John to Vergie's house and, in a rage, shoots and kills him. Because Vergie is unwilling to name Laura as the murderer, she is convicted of the crime and sent to prison. One year later, Joan and Ranny, having heard Laura's dying confession about the killing, secure a pardon for Vergie and offer her a permanent place in their home.

Film Details

Also Known As
Vergie Winters
Genre
Romance
Drama
Release Date
Jun 22, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 14 Jun 1934
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "A Scarlet Woman" by Louis Bromfield in McClure's Magazine (Jan 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

The Life of Vergie Winters -


Blonde, patrician Ann Harding was RKO's first big female star. Though she could play sophisticated comedy beautifully, her bread and butter was the confessional genre, three-handkerchief films about women who strayed and paid. With her classy bearing, Harding made those stories moving and less salacious than they might have been. In search of material to exploit that image, the studio cast her in an adaptation of romance writer Louis Bromfield's 1927 story. The film was clearly an attempt to cash in on the success of Universal's Back Street (1932), another tale of a clandestine love affair between a working class woman and a wealthy man trapped in an unhappy marriage. RKO even cast the earlier film's leading man, John Boles, as the politician tricked into marrying only to return to Harding for romantic comfort. When back-street love leaves her pregnant, Boles even adopts their love child. The clock was ticking for these films and Harding's career. The film set box-office records in some cities after the Catholic Church banned it in others. Within months, however, the film industry would accept strict Production Code enforcement, which would keep stories like this off the screen and end Harding's box-office reign.

By Frank Miller
The Life Of Vergie Winters -

The Life of Vergie Winters -

Blonde, patrician Ann Harding was RKO's first big female star. Though she could play sophisticated comedy beautifully, her bread and butter was the confessional genre, three-handkerchief films about women who strayed and paid. With her classy bearing, Harding made those stories moving and less salacious than they might have been. In search of material to exploit that image, the studio cast her in an adaptation of romance writer Louis Bromfield's 1927 story. The film was clearly an attempt to cash in on the success of Universal's Back Street (1932), another tale of a clandestine love affair between a working class woman and a wealthy man trapped in an unhappy marriage. RKO even cast the earlier film's leading man, John Boles, as the politician tricked into marrying only to return to Harding for romantic comfort. When back-street love leaves her pregnant, Boles even adopts their love child. The clock was ticking for these films and Harding's career. The film set box-office records in some cities after the Catholic Church banned it in others. Within months, however, the film industry would accept strict Production Code enforcement, which would keep stories like this off the screen and end Harding's box-office reign. By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

The movie was placed on the Catholic Church's "to be boycotted" list in July 1934, and was banned in Chicago.

Notes

Louis Bromfield's short story was republished as "The Life of Vergie Winters" in his Awake and Rehearse (New York, 1931). The working title of the film was Vergie Winters. Hollywood Reporter incorrectly spells the title character's name as "Virgie" in reviews and news items. RKO borrowed John Boles from Fox for this production. Hollywood Reporter and Film Daily news items add Caryl Lincoln, Dagmar Oakland, Helen Eby-Rock, Edith Fellows and Virginia Kami to the cast, while Motion Picture Herald's "In the Cutting Room" adds Alan Birmingham as a cast member. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to censorship files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Joseph I. Breen, Director of Studio Relations of the MPPDA, warned writer Jane Murfin and producers Pandro Berman and William Sistrom in a March 27, 1934 letter that the film probably would be denied approval because it tended to "justify adultery." After several "final" scripts were sent to Breen, he gave his approval on April 27, 1934. In July 1934, The Life of Vergie Winters was included on the Catholic Church's "films to be boycotted" list, which was published in Hollywood Reporter. In addition, the film was banned by the censorship board in Chicago, as noted in a Film Daily news item. Modern sources add Jed Prouty (Reverend), Mary McLaren (Nurse) and Betty Mack (Della, the maid) to the cast.