Top Secret Affair


1h 40m 1957
Top Secret Affair

Brief Synopsis

A female publishing magnate tries to keep a general she hates from securing a prestigious appointment.

Film Details

Also Known As
Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., Their Secret Affair
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 9, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Jan 1957
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Beverly Hills, California, United States; Beverly Hills, California, United States; Beverly Hills--Estate of E. L. Cord, California, United States; Pentagon,United States; Santa Maria, California, United States; Santa Maria, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters from the novel Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. by John P. Marquand (Boston, 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Dorothy Peale, the third-generation owner of media conglomerate Peale Enterprises, is livid when she learns that her "Daddy's best friend" was not appointed chairman of her pet cause, the Joint Atomic International Commission, despite her efforts in using her social status and media power to promote him. Upon learning that the president instead chose war hero, Maj. Gen. Melville A. "Ironpants" Goodwin, she immediately sets out to discredit the soldier. Under the pretense of doing a profile cover story in the Peale publication News World Magazine , Dottie arranges with the chief of staff, Gen. Daniel A. Grimshaw, for Goodwin to spend the weekend at her Long Island estate for a personal interview. Expecting positive publicity for the Army, Grimshaw orders public information officer Col. Homer W. Gooch to accompany Goodwin. In preparation for Goodwin's visit, Dottie hides a tape recorder in her living room, while also displaying military flags and his portrait, hoping to gain his trust. She orders Lotzie, her Russian photographer, secretly to take compromising photos of Goodwin using special cameras. Meanwhile, her most trusted employee, Phil Bentley, researches Goodwin's background for incriminating stories, and finds, among other things, a history of girl friends that might suggest womanizing. Gooch and Sgt. Kruger arrive early to put boards under the mattress on which Goodwin will sleep and check out the environment. At the exact appointed time, the general marches in, unassuming, courteous and ready to begin. Bentley starts by asking a loaded question, which the alert Goodwin catches and answers on his own terms. During the questioning, he proves intelligent, competitive and commanding, but not the warlord Dottie has expected. Although he sees through Dottie's lie that his portrait has been hanging on her wall for years, he is too polite to contradict her. However, he does fall prey to one of her traps, a bongo board that she has displayed on a coffee table. The toy, which is operated by standing on a board balanced on a cylinder, appeals to his sporting nature, and he tries it out, gaining proficiency immediately. Although Dottie had hoped he would provide a photo opportunity by falling off, Goodwin maintains his balance, while continuing the interview. From the bongo board, he provides credible explanations for the incriminating rumors that Bentley collected. The next morning, following his daily exercises, he shows Dottie judo self-defense moves, but after the demonstration, she claims she would rather carry a gun. After three days, during which the reporters uncover nothing scandalous, Dottie decides to try an uncharacteristic, femme fatale approach, which she calls "night maneuvers." Although Goodwin senses that Dottie is looking for information other than the usual P.R. stories, he is pleased when she invites him for a "night on the town" alone with her. After careful pre-planning, she takes him to an expensive restaurant, where she plies him with drinks and "accidentally" pushes him onto a table while dancing. Although photographers hired by Dottie secretly snap photos of him at awkward moments, he remains sober and well-mannered throughout the evening. Later, Dottie takes Goodwin to a nightclub where she has arranged an "amateur night," and she maneuvers him into singing against his will for the crowd. Reluctantly, he stiffly sings "The Caissons Go Rolling Along," and afterward, feeling a fool, returns to Long Island without her. He is packing to leave when she catches up with him, a little ashamed and very intoxicated, and lures him out to her swimming pool. Pacing on the diving board in an evening dress, she tells him that she secretly desires to be married instead of being the "five star general" molded by her father. As she babbles, Goodwin removes his shoes and coat in preparation for her inevitable fall into the pool. Hours after he rescues her, she is sober and, while he fills her in on what she cannot remember, the situation turns passionate. The next morning, the love-besotted Dottie orders a "shift in the magazine's editorial policy" and makes plans for Goodwin to marry her and become President of the United States. However, Goodwin tells her that he plans to return to Washington alone. After explaining that the one person he loved turned out to be a spy to whom he gave military information and later had to execute, he says that, having been betrayed once, he can never marry. After he marches out of her life, she re-reverses her editorial policy and plans the cover story, "Blabbermouth Goodwin." In Washington, although Goodwin is congratulated for what is expected to be a favorable story, he appears glum and distracted. To Gooch, he confides that he made the wrong decision and then rushes to Dottie's doorstep to propose marriage. As a gift, knowing that she has everything, he presents her with a gun owned by Hermann Göring that he found in the course of his duty. Meanwhile, the magazine has hit the stands and prompts a Senate inquiry. With the investigation pending, Goodwin is denied permission to reveal classified information that would help his case. At the hearing run by an unsympathetic, publicity-seeking senator, Goodwin is not allowed to explain the context of the incriminating photographs. As for the women in his past, he is able to explain that "Miss Sutsiyama" was a seven-year-old war orphan he protected, but he refuses to explain an "Yvette de Fresney," to whom he is accused of giving military information. Dottie is subpoenaed to testify and, ashamed, admits that everything in the article was falsified. Publicly, she apologizes to Goodwin and resigns her post as editor, but she cannot deny the "Yvette" story. Just as the senators prepare to take further action, a high government official enters and announces that certain information has been declassified. Goodwin is then able to explain how, after discovering that Yvette, the woman he loved, was a spy, he was ordered to provide her with false information to confound the enemy. His reputation restored, Goodwin rescues Dottie from an angry mob that is harassing her and drives her away, intending to marry.

Film Details

Also Known As
Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., Their Secret Affair
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 9, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Jan 1957
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Beverly Hills, California, United States; Beverly Hills, California, United States; Beverly Hills--Estate of E. L. Cord, California, United States; Pentagon,United States; Santa Maria, California, United States; Santa Maria, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters from the novel Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. by John P. Marquand (Boston, 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Articles

Top Secret Affair


Susan Hayward and Kirk Douglas were two of the most in-demand actors of the 1950s, known for the intensity of their dramatic performances in such films as I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955) and I Want to Live! (1958, Hayward's Oscar® winner) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Lust for Life (1956, two of three Oscar® nominations for Douglas). So it's odd that the only time they appeared on screen together was in the romantic comedy Top Secret Affair (1957). Douglas hadn't done such a film since My Dear Secretary (1948), while Hayward's last foray into the genre had been a supporting role early in her career in Young and Willing (1943). Game as they were to give it a whirl, the tepid critical and commercial reception to Top Secret Affair did little to encourage future efforts of this type. Hayward made only two more comedies (unless you also count Valley of the Dolls, 1967) before her early death in 1975. Douglas's efforts in the genre were equally sparse, counting only the G.B. Shaw satire The Devil's Disciple (1959) and the black comedy Western There Was a Crooked Man (1970) before taking on some lighter fare much later in his career.

Actually, neither star was originally intended for Top Secret Affair. Warner Brothers bought the hit novel Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. as a vehicle for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, but Bogart's illness--the cancer that took his life in 1957--prevented him from taking the role, and Bacall dropped out to care for him in his final months. By the time Hayward and Douglas were signed, just about everything but the characters' names from the original novel had been thrown out, and a new script by Roland Kibbee and Allan Scott was approved bearing little or no relation to Marquand's work. Hayward plays a publishing tycoon and the head of a news magazine (a notable resemblance to Clare Booth Luce and Time) who is determined to ruin the reputation of Army General Melville Goodwin (Douglas, in a role said to have been based partly on George S. Patton) after he is picked for an important diplomatic job over the civilian candidate she wanted. Their conflict inevitably turns to romance, and after misunderstandings involving spies and secret information land them both before Congressional committees, she decides what she really wants out of life is a husband and family (this being the 1950s), and they end up back in each other's arms.

Acting honors went not to the two stars but to a supporting cast consisting of Paul Stewart (Charles Foster Kane's loyal manservant in Citizen Kane, 1941) and Jim Backus (James Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause, 1955, and Thurston Howell of the Gilligan's Island TV sitcom of the 1960s). Even here, the actors were not the first ones announced for the roles; a 1956 New York Times item said the parts would be played by Keenan Wynn and Walter Matthau. The cast also included John Cromwell, the director of Of Human Bondage (1934), Since You Went Away (1944), and The Goddess (1958).

The working titles of the film were Their Secret Affair and the original title of the Marquand novel from which the characters were derived. According to a November 1956 New York Times report, director H. C. Potter claimed that the film's title was changed to reflect that the screenplay no longer resembled the novel. Although Marquand's book also had an affair between the two main characters, it was an adulterous one. Making them single was only one of many changes made to the story before it hit the screen.

The musical score was written by Roy Webb, a seven-time Academy Award nominee for such films as My Favorite Wife (1940) and The Enchanted Cottage (1945), the latter directed by Top Secret Affair cast member John Cromwell. The cinematography is by Stanley Cortez, best known for his work on Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955), Cromwell's Since You Went Away, and another Susan Hayward vehicle Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947).

Top Secret Affair was the last film directed by H.C. Potter, who had also brought to the screen Loretta Young's Oscar®-winning performance in The Farmer's Daughter (1947), the Cary Grant vehicles Mr. Lucky (1943) and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and two Fred Astaire movies, Second Chorus (1940) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), the last of the Astaire-Rogers RKO pictures.

Director: H.C. Potter
Producers: Martin Rackin, Milton Sperling
Screenplay: Roland Kibbee, Allan Scott; based on characters from John P. Marquand's Melville Goodwin, U.S.A.

Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
Editing: Folmar Blangsted
Art Direction: Malcolm C. Bert
Original Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Susan Hayward (Dorothy Peale), Kirk Douglas (Maj. Gen. Melville Goodwin), Paul Stewart (Phil Bentley), Jim Backus (Col. Homer W. Gooch), John Cromwell (General Daniel Grimshaw).
BW-101m. Letterboxed.

by Rob Nixon
Top Secret Affair

Top Secret Affair

Susan Hayward and Kirk Douglas were two of the most in-demand actors of the 1950s, known for the intensity of their dramatic performances in such films as I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955) and I Want to Live! (1958, Hayward's Oscar® winner) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Lust for Life (1956, two of three Oscar® nominations for Douglas). So it's odd that the only time they appeared on screen together was in the romantic comedy Top Secret Affair (1957). Douglas hadn't done such a film since My Dear Secretary (1948), while Hayward's last foray into the genre had been a supporting role early in her career in Young and Willing (1943). Game as they were to give it a whirl, the tepid critical and commercial reception to Top Secret Affair did little to encourage future efforts of this type. Hayward made only two more comedies (unless you also count Valley of the Dolls, 1967) before her early death in 1975. Douglas's efforts in the genre were equally sparse, counting only the G.B. Shaw satire The Devil's Disciple (1959) and the black comedy Western There Was a Crooked Man (1970) before taking on some lighter fare much later in his career. Actually, neither star was originally intended for Top Secret Affair. Warner Brothers bought the hit novel Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. as a vehicle for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, but Bogart's illness--the cancer that took his life in 1957--prevented him from taking the role, and Bacall dropped out to care for him in his final months. By the time Hayward and Douglas were signed, just about everything but the characters' names from the original novel had been thrown out, and a new script by Roland Kibbee and Allan Scott was approved bearing little or no relation to Marquand's work. Hayward plays a publishing tycoon and the head of a news magazine (a notable resemblance to Clare Booth Luce and Time) who is determined to ruin the reputation of Army General Melville Goodwin (Douglas, in a role said to have been based partly on George S. Patton) after he is picked for an important diplomatic job over the civilian candidate she wanted. Their conflict inevitably turns to romance, and after misunderstandings involving spies and secret information land them both before Congressional committees, she decides what she really wants out of life is a husband and family (this being the 1950s), and they end up back in each other's arms. Acting honors went not to the two stars but to a supporting cast consisting of Paul Stewart (Charles Foster Kane's loyal manservant in Citizen Kane, 1941) and Jim Backus (James Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause, 1955, and Thurston Howell of the Gilligan's Island TV sitcom of the 1960s). Even here, the actors were not the first ones announced for the roles; a 1956 New York Times item said the parts would be played by Keenan Wynn and Walter Matthau. The cast also included John Cromwell, the director of Of Human Bondage (1934), Since You Went Away (1944), and The Goddess (1958). The working titles of the film were Their Secret Affair and the original title of the Marquand novel from which the characters were derived. According to a November 1956 New York Times report, director H. C. Potter claimed that the film's title was changed to reflect that the screenplay no longer resembled the novel. Although Marquand's book also had an affair between the two main characters, it was an adulterous one. Making them single was only one of many changes made to the story before it hit the screen. The musical score was written by Roy Webb, a seven-time Academy Award nominee for such films as My Favorite Wife (1940) and The Enchanted Cottage (1945), the latter directed by Top Secret Affair cast member John Cromwell. The cinematography is by Stanley Cortez, best known for his work on Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955), Cromwell's Since You Went Away, and another Susan Hayward vehicle Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947). Top Secret Affair was the last film directed by H.C. Potter, who had also brought to the screen Loretta Young's Oscar®-winning performance in The Farmer's Daughter (1947), the Cary Grant vehicles Mr. Lucky (1943) and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and two Fred Astaire movies, Second Chorus (1940) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), the last of the Astaire-Rogers RKO pictures. Director: H.C. Potter Producers: Martin Rackin, Milton Sperling Screenplay: Roland Kibbee, Allan Scott; based on characters from John P. Marquand's Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. Cinematography: Stanley Cortez Editing: Folmar Blangsted Art Direction: Malcolm C. Bert Original Music: Roy Webb Cast: Susan Hayward (Dorothy Peale), Kirk Douglas (Maj. Gen. Melville Goodwin), Paul Stewart (Phil Bentley), Jim Backus (Col. Homer W. Gooch), John Cromwell (General Daniel Grimshaw). BW-101m. Letterboxed. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of the film were Their Secret Affair and Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., which was the title of the John P. Marquand novel from which the characters were derived. According to a November 1956 New York Times news item, director H. C. Potter claimed that the film's title was changed to reflect that the screenplay no longer resembled the novel, as screenplay writers, Roland Kibbee and Allan Scott saved only the four main characters from the novel and completely rewrote the plot.
       According to a October 6, 1955 Daily Variety news item, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were signed to play the leads in the film for United States Pictures. Although a November 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that production would begin in January 1956, a March 2, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Bogart was in the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles for "throat surgery." His last film, Columbia's The Harder They Fall, was released in April 1956 and he died in January 1957 from cancer of the esophagus. A December 1955 Los Angeles Times news item reported that William Clothier and Mal Bert would serve as cameraman and art director, respectively, and February and March 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items stated that Richard Moder would be assistant director and Howard Shoup would be costume designer. However, none of them were involved in the final film. Although March 1956 Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times news item reported that Keenan Wynn and Walter Matthau would appear in the film, those roles were assumed by Paul Stewart and Jim Backus after the production was later recast with Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward as the leads.
       Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, October and November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: Ezelle Poule, Mushy Callahan, Herbert Lytton, Alan Craige, Bob Carson and Franklyn Farnum. According to an October 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, one of the reporters was played by Douglas' stand-in, Foster Phinney, who, according to the news item, always appears briefly in Douglas' films for good luck. However, according to modern sources, neither Douglas nor Hayward used a stand-in for the judo sequence. Longtime director John Cromwell appeared in the film as "Gen. Grimshaw."
       In a scene prior to that of the "high government official" interrupting the inquiry, Goodwin sends "Gooch" to deliver a note to the President asking for an intervention in his case. The official is listed as "personage" in the CBCS and is called "Charlie" in the film, but the implication is that the character is the President. The Daily Variety review speculated that Goodwin was fashioned after Gen. George S. Patton. In the Hollywood Reporter review, the resemblance between Time magazine and the film's fictional News World Magazine was noted.
       Hollywood Reporter production charts indicated that portions of the film were shot in Santa Maria, CA. An Los Angeles Examiner news item reported that the Beverly Hills estate of E. L. Cord was used in the film. Aerial shots of the Pentagon were also used in the picture.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 30, 1957

Loosely based on the characters in "Melville Goodwin, U.S.A.," written by John P. Marquand and published in 1951.

This was originally slated as a Bogart-Bacall vehicle, but things changed when Bogart became seriously ill.

Released in United States Winter January 30, 1957