Cast & Crew
Harry Melville Quincy lives with his two sisters, Lettie and Hester, in their New Hampshire home, the last remnant of a family fortune lost in the Great Depression. Harry, a mild-mannered designer at the Warren Mill, is affectionately known as "Uncle Harry" by both young and old. One day, Deborah Brown, a beautiful young woman from the Mill's New York office, arrives in town, and Harry quickly attracts her attention. After a few weeks, the two become a couple and Deborah decides to move to New Hampshire. Three months later, Deborah tells Harry that she has been invited on a European trip by their boss, John Warren, prompting a jealous Harry to propose. While Hester is delighted by Harry's engagement, her younger sister Lettie plots to break up the couple. After six months, Harry and Deborah remain unmarried, as Lettie has rejected all alternative housing that would allow the couple to wed and move into the family home. Realizing that the only way to break free of his sisters is to leave town, Harry and Deborah decide to elope and move to New York. Lettie, however, feigns a sudden illness and is rushed to the hospital. Recognizing the ruse, Deborah insists that Harry decide once and for all between Lettie and herself, but thinking that his sister is in mortal danger, Harry refuses to leave town. Deborah then breaks their engagement, and three weeks later, the Quincys are informed that Deborah and John have married in New York. An elated Lettie rises from her sick bed in celebration, only to be denounced in Harry's presence by an angry Hester. Finally realizing what a fool he has been, Harry decides to poison Lettie, but Hester is mistakenly given the drugged cocoa and dies. Lettie is later tried and convicted of her sister's murder and sentenced to the gallows. While his sister awaits the hangman, Harry's conscience begins to get the better of him and he confesses to the crime. No one, however, believes that the virtuous Harry would commit such a horrible act. Even the vengeful Lettie refuses to support his claim, knowing the years of tortured guilt he will endure after her execution. A dreaming Harry is then awakened by Deborah, who has decided not to marry John and has returned to him. As the couple prepares to elope, Hester enters the room, offering them her congratulations, as well as receiving Harry's farewell message for the bed-ridden Lettie.
Samuel S. Hinds
Harry Von Zell
Coulter F. Irwin
Reverend Neal Dodd
Clarence Badger Jr.
Glenn E. Anderson
Bernard B. Brown
William J. Dodds
Charles K. Feldman
John P. Fulton
Russell A. Gausman
John B. Goodman
Jack P. Pierce
Ronald K. Pierce
H. J. Salter
Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005)
Born in Dublin on November 24, 1913, Fitzgerald was educated for a time in a convent school in London. Back in her native Dublin, she happily accompanied her aunt, the Irish actress Shelah Richards, to a theater one afternoon when the director mistook her for an actress, and instructed her "to go backstage and change." An inauspicious start, but it gave her the acting bug. She made her stage debut in 1932 in Dublin's Gate Theater and later appeared in a few forgettable British films: Open All Night (1934), The Ace of Spades, Three Witnesses (both 1935). She made the trip across the Atlantic in 1938 to act with Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater, but agents from Warner Bros. quickly signed her and she was soon off to Hollywood.
She made her film debut in 1939 supporting Bette Davis in Dark Victory, but it was her performance in a second film later in the year that proved to be the most memorable of her career - the role of Isabella Linton in Wuthering Heights. She earned an Oscar® nomination for her turn and stardom should have been around the corner, but Fitzgerald's feuding with studio head Jack Warner (he refused to let her return to the New York stage and she would refuse parts that she thought were inferior) led to some lengthy suspensions of unemployment. Irregardless, Fitzgerald still had some shining moments at Warner Bros. the heady melodrama The Gay Sisters (1942); the superb espionage thriller Watch on the Rhine (1943); Robert Siodmak's terrific, noirish thriller The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945); and a tough crime drama where she played opposite John Garfield Nobody Lives Forever (1946).
Fitzgerald returned to New York by the '50s, and found much work in many of the live television dramas that were so popular in the day: Goodyear Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Studio One, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars; and even some taped television shows: Naked City, Alfred Hitchcock Presents in between her stage demands.
She did return to the screen by the mid-'60s and proved herself a fine character actress in films like The Pawnbroker (1965); Rachel, Rachel (1968); Harry and Tonto (1974); a wonderfully memorable comic turn as Dudley Moore's feisty grandmother in Arthur (1981); and yet another noteworthy performance as Rose Kennedy in the acclaimed mini-series Kennedy (1983). She also appeared in a few television programs: St. Elswhere, Cagney & Lacey, and The Golden Girls before ill-health forced her to retire by the early '90s. Among the relatives that survive her are her son, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Brideshead Revisited; a daughter, Susan Scheftel; and her great-niece, the English actress Tara Fitzgerald.
by Michael "Mitch" Toole
Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005)
The film was previewed with 5 different endings and the existing one (a complete departure from the play) selected for reasons of popular response and censorship, prompting the resignation of producer 'Harrison, Joan' from Universal Pictures.
The film was reviewed under it's pre-release title Uncle Harry. According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen office first took an interest in Thomas Job's play in 1939, when it was submitted to them by British producer Herbert Wilcox, who was considering the material for an RKO production. On October 31, 1939, PCA director Joseph I. Breen stated in an internal memo that he would reject any filming of Job's play with its current ending. In the play, the character of "Uncle Harry" accidentally kills one sister, while the other, the one whom he was trying to murder, is executed for the crime. Harry, who is unable to convince anyone that he is the real murderer, receives his only punishment from his own conscience. On November 3, 1939, Breen notified RKO that he was officially rejecting the material, as it suffered from an "unsatisfactory treatment of the leading character, who is a murderer."
In February 1943, Hollywood Reporter news items stated that Republic Pictures had purchased the screen rights to Uncle Harry, with the intention of casting Paul Muni in the title role. On February 18, 1943, however, Hollywood Reporter reported that Clifford Hayman, the producer of the New York stage production, denied the sale of the play to Republic. In May 1943, the Job play was once more submitted by RKO to the Breen office, this time as a possible project for German director Fritz Lang. In this submission, however, Harry's character had been institutionalized in a mental hospital and the story unfolded within that framework. With some reservations, Breen notified RKO on May 27, 1943 that this change might make Uncle Harry acceptable film material. Later, in October 1943, Twentieth Century-Fox contacted the Hays office about producing its own adaptation of Uncle Harry, and, like RKO, was told by Breen that the play, as originally written, was not acceptable.
According to information found in the Charles K. Feldman papers at the AFI Louis B. Mayer Library, Universal purchased the screen rights to the play on November 23, 1943. Los Angeles Examiner news items listed the purchase price at $100,000. Agent and producer Charles K. Feldman then purchased the rights to Uncle Harry from Universal for $50,000 on December 3, 1943. Under that agreement, Universal would produce and distribute the film in association with Feldman, and the purchase price was to be taken from Universal's future payments to Feldman for his share of the profits from two 1942 Universal releases, Pittsburgh and The Spoilers, and his current production of Three Cheers for the Boy, which was released by Universal in 1944 as Follow the Boys (see entries above and below). On April 14, 1944, Feldman then sold Uncle Harry back to Universal for $150,000, plus twenty-five-per-cent of the film's net profits in excess of the first $200,000. This agreement faced some legal hurdles, however, as producer Charles R, Rogers claimed that his company had an oral agreement with Feldman to produce Uncle Harry. It has not been determined how Feldman and Rogers settled their dispute.
According to the Feldman papers, the first treatment for the Universal production of Uncle Harry was finished on September 14, 1944, authored by screenwriter Keith Winters and producer Joan Harrison. Winters then completed the first draft of the screenplay on March 20, 1944. Writer Stephen Longstreet was later brought onto the project and his final draft of The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry was turned in on March 6, 1945. Longstreet received sole writing credit for the screenplay; Winters is credited with the play's adaptation. According to the MPPA/PCA records, Universal's production of The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry met with little resistance from the Breen Office.
On August 19, 1945, New York Times reported that Universal had been previewing the film with five different endings, over a ten-day period, at an unnamed Los Angeles theater. New York Times then reported on August 26, 1945 that Universal had decided to use the ending given in the above summary, in which the murder of Hester is only a dream. According to the MPPA/PCA files, the approved storyline for The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry was similar to the plot submitted by RKO in May 1943, with Harry telling his story to "Dr. Adams" and "Deborah Brown," his ex-fiancée, as he prepares to board a train that will take him to a mental institution. It has not been determined if that ending was one of the four shot, then rejected, by the studio. According to Life magazine, producer Harrison ended her association with Universal over her disagreement with the studio's editorial decision.
Studio financial reports found in the Feldman papers state that The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry had a negative cost of $886,100, and that, by November 1957, it had grossed $945,400 domestically, with a world-wide box office of $1,541,000. On November 2, 1957, Universal sold the film for $100,000 to the National Telefilm Assoc., which re-released it under the title Zero Murder Case. According to the Feldman Papers, the film had previously been re-released by Realart Pictures, Inc. in 1947. Hollywood Reporter news items include Louis Jean Heydt in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.