There was one wonderful scene, not in the book, that Casey wrote. It contained scraps of things from the book, but it became one of the finest love scenes l ever saw in any film. It takes place on a Halloween night in a country inn. The Duc has come down from Paris to see the children. They are seated around the fireplace, and Henrietta reveals a small piece of her past.
During the making of All This, and Heaven Too, Charlie Einfeld, who was the head of publicity for Warners in New York, was making one of his periodic visits to the West Coast.
I liked him enormously and he liked me. In my mind, if not theirs, I knew All This, and Heaven Too was a major film, so I discussed with him the idea of roadshowing it. He liked the idea, which made it possible to give the film the length it needed. He began to speak of it as ”ATAHT.” Gone With the Wind had been ”GWTW” and Charlie wanted to cash in on that. Ours was more euphonic and Charlie Brackett said, ”ATAHT”–it’s the most lovely sound I’ve ever heard.”
“All This, and Heaven Too” is airing Feb. 21 on TCM.
Previously by James Curtis:
James Curtis’ interview with Dick Lane Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
James Curtis’ interview with Jules White Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
James Curtis’ interview with David Lewis Part 1 | Part 2
The script didn’t come easily. It was a constant battle over what to keep from the book and what to discard. There was one wonderful scene, not in the book, that Casey wrote. It contained scraps of things from the book, but it became one of the finest love scenes l ever saw in any film. It takes place on a Halloween night in a country inn. The Duc has come down from Paris to see the children. They are seated around the fireplace, and Henrietta reveals a small piece of her past. Boyer’s burning eyes never leave her. There was no embarrassment between them. It is as though a large family had been brought together. Both Davis and Boyer were wonderful in the scene. I remember a thought placed elsewhere in the book in which Henriette compares herself to a silhouette placed against the light. Her life has neither permanence nor substance. The day Casey gave me that scene, all I could do was hug him.
When the film was finished and previewed, it was indeed long for its time, nearly two-and-a-half hours. The only casting problem had been Boyer. When he was released from the French army, his agent, Charlie Feldman, asked for $100,000 for his services. Wallis was particularly furious. He insisted on George Brent, who would have been disastrous in the role. Through Warner’s help (and, not incidentally, Ann Warner’s) Boyer was signed–for $100,000.
At the previews, which were excellent, some people felt it overlong. It was fairly slow moving, owing to the nature of the story itself. Some aborted attempts to cut it after preview only made the film seem longer and less exciting than it had been.
Charlie Einfeld was still impressed with the film, but the New York office was dubious about it. They expected a typical Warner film, but they had not been excited about Dark Victory either, and that film’s success made them more dubious than ever. Bette was playing a different type of role: the firebrand had been replaced by a quiet woman, speaking differently than she ever had before.
A roadshow presentation of “All This, and Heaven Too” advertised in the Spokane, Wash., Daily Chronicle, July 26, 1940.
The New York office consisted of the financial people, the publicity people, the advertising people, the distribution people, and the rest of the people mainly interested in getting the film into theaters. Except for Einfeld, they uniformly hated it.
Wallis told me about the New York reaction. It upset him, but to his credit it didn’t seem to faze him. Warner never spoke of it; neither did Einfeld.
All This, and Heaven Too had its gala premiere at the Carthay Circle in Los Angeles prior to its roadshow engagements. I took Norma Shearer to the opening and cautioned her about her usual tardiness. As a result, we arrived a half hour early to a nearly empty house. Norma smiled, but understood and said nothing.
The first part of the film was pure enchantment. The audience was with it every step of the way. It was imaginative, beautifully planned, and enthralling.
Outside, at intermission, it was apparent that the film had struck home. Virginia Zanuck threw her arms around me and said, ”It’s the most wonderful film I have ever seen!”
But during the intermission, newsboys came around the corner shouting, “Fall of France!” People bought their papers and went back to the theater grudgingly. The latter part, like the latter part of Gone With the Wind, seemed an anticlimax after the thrill of the first half. It was politely acknowledged, but far less than before. Yet, I was satisfied with the film; it remains in many ways my favorite. Some people liked it, others did not. It was far less a critical and public favorite than Camille or Dark Victory.
The Carthay Circle engagement was not a big financial success, and one day Wallis asked me to accompany him to the theater with the thought of cutting it down a bit. People had complained about its length, and a longer film meant fewer showings in a day (and, consequently, fewer paid admissions). l went with some trepidation, but to my relief even Wallis said, “I wouldn’t touch a foot of it.”
Rachel Field and l became very close friends during the making of ATAHT. She loved the film with one minor exception–a scene of Henriette standing at the grave of the Duc with Henry Field looking on. I don’t know why she objected to it, but she did. Still, after she had seen the picture, she sent me a copy of the book with a very flattering dedication to me. It was indeed sad when her husband, a gentle and delightful man named Arthur Pederson, called me a year later in New York to tell me that Rachel had died. She and Pederson had adopted a daughter named Hannah, whom they both adored, but Rachel had wanted to give Arthur a child of his own.
Knowing, when no one else did, that she had terminal cancer, Rachel became pregnant. She desperately wanted to leave that child for her husband, but the pregnancy brought on an even earlier death. I grieved for her deeply.