Swanee River


1h 24m 1940

Brief Synopsis

More fictional than factual biography of Stephen Foster. Songwriter from Pittsburgh falls in love with the South, marries a Southern gal (Leeds), then is accused of sympathizing when the Civil War breaks out.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 5, 1940
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Dec 1939
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,894ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

Stephen Foster's family insists that he accept a seven-dollar-a-week shipping clerk job in Cincinnati, but he prefers to write songs. Stephen's prospective father-in-law Andrew McDowell has no faith in Stephen, who wants to write "music from the heart of the simple people of the South." The struggling composer is content to sell "Oh Suzanna" for fifteen dollars to minstrel singer E. P. Christy and allows Christy to take credit as its writer. Soon, the song is sweeping the country, and Stephen follows it with "De Camptown Races" and goes on tour with Christy's troup. Solvent at last, Stephen marries Jane McDowell, and a daughter Marion is born to them. Inspired by his wife's beauty, Stephen writes "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair." However, Stephen's prosperity ends when his classical music fails and the advent of the Civil War brands his music as traitorous. When he turns to drinking, Jane leaves him, but two years later returns to encourage him to write "The Old Folks at Home." Stephen never hears his composition performed, however, for on the night that Christy presents the song to a New York audience, the composer dies of a heart attack.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 5, 1940
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Dec 1939
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,894ft (10 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Score

1939

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, David O. Selznick was interested in working on this film. Material contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library adds that Richard Sherman worked on a treatment, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. In story conferences, Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Nancy Kelly for the role of Jane and Al Shean for Kleber. Twentieth Century-Fox publicity materials at the AMPAS Library note that some sequences were shot along the Sacramento River. Studio publicity also adds that Don Ameche learned to dance the soft shoe and play the violin for his role in this film. A news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that Andrea Leeds was borrowed from Sam Goldwyn to make this picture. In 1935, Mascot Pictures produced a film on Foster's life entitled Harmony Lane, which was directed by Joseph Santley and starred Douglass Montgomery. Louis Silvers was nominated for an Academy Award in the Music (Scoring) category.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1939