The Medium


1h 24m 1951

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1951
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Sep 1951; Los Angeles opening: 18 Jan 1952
Production Company
Transfilm Productions
Distribution Company
Lopert Films, Inc.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Film Length
7,396ft

Synopsis

In a poor section of an old European city, fraudulent clairvoyant Madame Flora runs a business in contacting the spirits with the help of her teenage daughter Monica and her assistant, a mute gypsy boy named Toby. When Flora returns home one day to find Monica and Toby playing instead of preparing for that evening's séance, she heatedly berates them. Although Monica objects to her mother's deceptive practices, Flora ignores her and prepares for the séance. Flora's gullible clients, Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau, arrive soon after and explain to a new client, Mrs. Nolan, that they have been coming to Flora for years to communicate with their dead infant Mickey. Mrs. Nolan then shares her hopes of speaking with her deceased daughter Doodly. Once the séance begins, Monica, disguised by a veil, poses as Doodly's ghost and sings to Mrs. Nolan, counseling her to burn her daughter's things and save only the gold locket. Although Mrs. Nolan is entranced by her daughter's presence, she argues that there is not a gold locket. When Mrs. Nolan is interrupted by Mickey's giggling voice, the Gobineaus console themselves that Mickey is happier in the afterlife. From inside a small closet, Toby controls the apparitions, using pulleys to move the table and instruments to create mysterious sounds. Frustrated by Flora's earlier wrath, Toby, still hidden behind the curtain, pretends to strangle her with his hands. Simultaneously, Flora feels male hands clutching at her throat and she jumps from her seat in fear. When Flora asks her clients if they saw anyone else in the room, they fail to comprehend her genuine terror. After Flora ushers them out, she turns her suspicions towards Toby, but Monica defends the feebleminded boy. The following morning Flora arrives at Mrs. Nolan's apartment to question her about the occurrences of the preceding night, but Mrs. Nolan can only speak of Doodly and shows Flora the gold locket she found in her daughter's bedroom. Flora confronted by the existence of the locket, becomes increasingly fearful and yells at Mrs. Nolan never to return to her house. That night while Flora seeks refuge from her fears and hallucinations by drinking at the local tavern, Toby and Monica sneak out of the apartment and wander through a street carnival. When Monica wanders away to look at vendors' wares, Toby is taunted by talking parrots and midgets. After Monica finds the frightened Toby and they begin their journey home. Along the way, they encounter Flora half-conscious dragging herself up some cobblestone steps. Monica helps her mother home, and once inside, Flora hears Doodly's voice and accuses Toby of creating the apparitions. When Flora attacks Toby, Monica pulls her mother away from the boy. Much later, Flora looks in on the sleeping Toby and resumes her interrogation, dripping hot candle tallow on his eyelids when Toby feigns being asleep. Monica again steps in to rescue Toby. The next day Flora wanders through the park and imagines seeing the Gobineaus grieving for their child. Meanwhile, Toby and Monica play a fairytale game of love and pursuit, running and skipping through the apartment. Flora returns and insists that she loves Toby as her own child. When he is unable to answer Flora's questions about who touched her during the séance, however, Flora whips the boy mercilessly. After she is interrupted by Mrs. Nolan and the Gobineaus, Flora reveals that the séances were a hoax, shows them the mechanics of the drums and bells, and orders her daughter to sing the haunting sounds that represented their departed children. Despite her confession, the clients insist on another séance and she orders them from the apartment and then tells Toby to leave as well. After Toby flees, Monica, having fallen in love with him, calls to him from her bedroom window. While climbing up the side of the building, Toby watches from outside a window as Flora begs for mercy from the hallucinations that terrorize her. When she finally passes out from drinking, Toby enters and hides in his closet. Hearing the rustle, Flora awakens from her stupor and pulls out a gun to protect herself from the intruder. When she turns and sees the closet curtain move, she fires at the closet and Toby falls out from behind the curtain, dead. Monica races from her room and, upon seeing Toby's body, runs from the apartment calling for help. Flora bends over the dead body and asks once again, "Was it you?"

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1951
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Sep 1951; Los Angeles opening: 18 Jan 1952
Production Company
Transfilm Productions
Distribution Company
Lopert Films, Inc.
Country
Italy and United States
Location
Rome,Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Film Length
7,396ft

Award Nominations

Best Score

1951

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Following the1946 premiere of The Medium at Columbia University, a Broadway production had its premiere on 1 May, 1947. According to a March 17, 1950 Hollywood Reporter article, producers Walter Lowendahl and Milton Perlman originally purchased the film rights to The Medium in 1950. A March 21, 1951 Variety article states that the film was financed in part by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Lowendahl, Pearlman, Evan Frankel and Norman Schurr. According to a November 5, 1950 New York Times article, The Medium, which was filmed in Rome, was the first American film to be financed in much the same way as a Broadway play: as a limited partnership among approximately 40 persons.
       Actors Marie Powers, Leo Coleman, Beverly Dame, Belva Kibler and Donald Morgan all appeared in the Broadway production of the opera. According to the March 1951 Variety article, the film's producers decided to book the film for early dates and delay a distribution arrangement. Subsequent to that, according to a October 15, 1951 Hollywood Reporter article, Lopert Films, Inc. acquired the United States distribution rights.
       The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score of a Musical, but lost to Alfred Newman's "With a Song in My Heart." In 1952 the film won a unique award, one never given before at Cannes Film Festival, the "Prix du Film Lyrique." Italian-born contralto Anna Maria Alberghetti made her screen debut in The Medium. According to modern sources, The Medium is the only film ever made by a major opera composer of his own opera. The same source also noted that Menotti added and rearranged twenty minutes of music and action from the original opera for the film version. The Medium was Menotti's only film.
       Television adaptations of the opera, both in the United States and several European countries, include the 1948 CBS version directed by Paul Nickell and starring Marie Powers; a 1953 production by director Carl Ebert for BBC; a CBC production in Canada and a 1981 production directed by Menotti for RAI in Italy.