Cast & Crew
A. E. Matthews
After watching a performance of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor opera Othello , London critic T. H. Skeates dictates a scathing review to his secretary, Ann Williams. Afterward, Barbara Albert, wife and co-star of the leading player, Edmund Davey, whom Skeates had panned, begs Ann to change secretly the review. Believing Barbara's claim that Davey was nervous on opening night, and recalling Skeates's boast that he never reads his own reviews, Ann agrees. However, Davey, not knowing of his wife's action, thanks Skeates for his praise, unintentionally alerting the critic to the change. Skeates, assuming Ann must be in love with Davey, fires her. She decides to go see the play that afternoon, and is enchanted with Davey's voice, presence and performance. Barbara asks Ann to dine with them, and Ann becomes drunk on champagne. Waiting on Ann's doorstep when she returns home is Tommy Stapledon, a fellow reporter who writes obituaries and is in love with her but cannot win her. Ann begins to see Othello every day, living to catch glimpses of Davey. Skeates finds her in the Royal Academy gazing at Davey's portrait and, worried about her, invites her to resume her old job. However, upon arriving home, Ann finds a telegram from Barbara inviting her to tea. Barbara is late, and after Ann overhears Davey say he did not want to be bothered, he tries to make up to her, pursuing her to Hyde Park, where he asks her to be his mistress. For the first time in weeks, Ann swears she will not go to Othello , but cannot escape it when all of the city listens to a radio broadcast of the play. Ann and Davey meet on a rainy day in Hyde Park, and she moves out to a flat in Hampstead to become his mistress. An artist tries to sell Barbara's maid a painting of Ann and Davey together, but the maid destroys it. Barbara, always jealous of Davey, recognizes the remnants of the painting and guesses what has happened. She asks Ann to give up Davey, as she is having a baby and he does not know. Ann writes to Davey, ending their affair and sends the letter via Tommy. Davey decides to kill Barbara, however, and that night, he performs the murder scene strangely. Ann, having come to see Othello one last time, realizes that Davey is going to kill Barbara on the stage and cries out, interrupting the performance. Ann is taken backstage to Barbara, where Davey overhears that she is pregnant. The couple are reconciled, and Ann happily returns to being just a member of the audience.
A. E. Matthews
David B. Cunyinghame
G. B. Stern
A. W. Watkins
Men are Not Gods
The Hungarian-born director and producer Alexander Korda was fast becoming the most successful filmmaker in Britain. He formed London Films in 1932 and made his reputation as the director of handsome and popular historical dramas. In 1936 he built Denham Studios and produced his greatest slate of films to date, including Rembrandt, which he personally directed, Things to Come, and The Man Who Could Work Miracles. His ambitions demanded he cut back on directing and he handed the directorial reins of Men Are Not Gods off to Austrian-born director Walter Reisch, who began as an assistant for Korda in Vienna in the early 1920s and had arrived in Britain in the mid-1930s along with the flood of artists fleeing Nazi Europe.
He brought Hollywood star Miriam Hopkins for the lead, coming off an Academy Award-nominated turn in Rouben Mamoulian's Becky Sharp (1935). Hopkins isn't quite as mercurial and rapid-fire as she is in her great American screwball appearances, but by British standards she is a firecracker, bringing just a hint of sassiness to the spunky American secretary in a grand old British newspaper.
Gertrude Lawrence never broke through to movie stardom but she was one of the most celebrated stage actresses of her generation, which made her perfect casting for the role of Barbara, Desdemona to Edmund's Othello. Sebastian Shaw plays Davey in the Barrymore mode onstage, all grand gestures and emphatic declaiming of lines in that familiar screen tradition of indicating great stage performances, but off he's more like Herbert Marshall in Trouble in Paradise (1932), the suave continental charmer who uses poetry and theater to seduce the object of his affections.
Fourth billed, playing an energetic young obituary writer carrying a torch for Ann, is a young actor overflowing with personality in a role that begs to be bigger. Korda had just signed Rex Harrison to a lucrative film contract on the strength of his stage work. Harrison had been in movies before, taking parts in a few low-budget "quota quickies," which in many ways were the British film industry's version of the American B-movie, but this was his first chance at a prestige production. "It wasn't, for Korda, too large a gamble," Harrison recalls in his autobiography, "for me it meant a guaranteed income, a marvelous relief at the time." Men Are Not Gods was his first picture under the contract and he took a supporting role, billed below the three stars of the love triangle. He played the role with a jump in his step, a collegiate sense of humor, and a boyish but sincere excitement. His roles only got bigger after this.
Korda imported another Hollywood talent for this production: cinematographer Charles Rosher, who won the Oscar® (with Karl Struss) for shooting Sunrise (1927) and was nominated for The Affairs of Cellini (1934). Working with Korda's brother, the great production designer Vincent Korda, they gave the film a handsome look to compete with the bigger-budget productions coming from Hollywood.
Austrian-born director Walter Reisch had been a busy screenwriter and sometime director in Germany before he made his English language directorial debut with Men Are Not Gods, which he also co-wrote. In his autobiography, Harrison recalls Reisch as "a very intense German," but his work onscreen is just the opposite, filled with smart dialogue, adult situations, and worldly sophistication, and directed with a deft touch and momentum that gives a hint of screwball energy to the romantic drama. It was his only British film before he continued to American and he couldn't have planned a better Hollywood audition piece. He only directed a handful of features but as a screenwriter he worked on close to a hundred films, including the Oscar®-nominated screenplays for Ninotchka (1939) and Gaslight (1944), and he took home an Academy Award for his work on the script for Titanic (1953). The roots of his American career reach back to Korda and Men Are Not Gods.
By Sean Axmaker
"Alexander Korda: The Man Who Could Work Miracles," Karol Kulick. Arlington House Publishers, 1975.
"Rex: An Autobiography," Rex Harrison. William Morrow and Co., 1974.
Men are Not Gods
Perhaps you'll hear from me shortly. Something of...interest to your paper.- Edmund Davey
Delighted! I write the obituaries.- Tommy Stapleton
The working title of this film was Triangle. The title Men Are Not Gods was taken from a line in William Shakespear's play Othello. According to the film's pressbook, the scheduled wrecking of London's Alhambra theater was postponed so that Othello could be performed there for the film. According to Film Daily, Noël Coward, Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich were members of a "distinguished volunteer cast assisting" Miriam Hopkins, but they were not spotted in the final film. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Elizabeth Scott to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources include Music Geoffrey Toye in the production.