Cast & Crew
Anna Lucasta is a wisecracking young beauty who supports herself on the streets near the San Diego naval station. As she sits in her friend Noah's waterfront café one evening, she suddenly looks lost and murmurs, "I wish someone would find me." Meanwhile, her parents, Joe and Theresa, who live in Los Angeles with their son Stanley, a mailman, his wife Katie, their daughter Stella and her scheming husband Frank, receive a letter from an old friend in Alabama, Otis Slocum. Otis asks old Joe to find a wife for his son Rudolph, who has been given four thousand dollars and a train ticket to California. Theresa thinks a marriage to Rudolph would give her wayward daughter Anna a fresh start, but Joe, who kicked his daughter out of the house sometime earlier for reasons he has never explained to the others, angrily refuses even to mention her name. Pressured by his family, Joe finally agrees to fetch Anna from San Diego, but when he arrives at the café, he finds his daughter drinking with a sailor named Danny Johnson. The cocky young man has just asked Anna to live with him, but because his plans do not include marriage, Anna decides to return to her family. When Rudolph arrives from Alabama, he explains to the Lucasta family that what he really wants in California is a job. An honors graduate of an agricultural college, Rudolph soon lands a teaching job at a junior college and falls deeply in love with Anna. When he confesses his feelings, Anna tells him why her father threw her out: On the night of her high school prom, Joe had found her holding hands with a young man he had forbidden her to see. Wild with anger, Joe had given his daughter twenty dollars and sent her away. She took a bus to San Diego, where she was forced to earn her living on the streets. Despite Anna's confession, Rudolph proposes, but during the wedding, Joe visits the college and tells the dean that Rudolph's new wife is a tramp. After the wedding, Danny arrives, determined to take Anna away with him. Anna wants to remain with Rudolph, but when Joe comes in and shouts that he plans to ruin all of Rudolph's future job prospects, Anna decides to go with Danny. The two carouse in San Diego for a week, and when Danny's bank account runs low, he suggests they use Anna's trousseau money to buy passage to Brazil. Danny and Anna sneak into the Lucasta home one Sunday to retrieve the money, but as they are leaving, they hear her father moaning in the next room. Calling Anna his little angel, Joe takes her hand and dies. Anna collapses in tears, and Danny leaves the house for good. As the rest of the family arrive home from church, Rudolph, seeing Danny drive away, realizes Anna must be in the house and happily runs up the stairs.
Rosetta Le Noire
Sammy Davis Jr.
Eugene Anderson Jr.
Richard C. Meyer
John S. Poplin Jr.
Lyle B. Reifsnyder
The film was directed by Arnold Laven, with music by Elmer Bernstein and Sammy Cahn, and a screenplay by Philip Yordan. Yordan had originally written Anna Lucasta in 1936 as a stage play about Polish-Americans that was so controversial it had to wait until June 1944 to be produced. Even then, it was not shown on-stage, but performed by the American Negro Theater in the basement of the 135th St. Library in Harlem. Two months later, it opened on Broadway and ran for 959 performances. In 1949, Columbia paid six figures for the film rights and Paulette Goddard starred as Anna, but the film was not a success.
The Goddard film had been cut by the censor board, who objected to overtones of incest between Anna and her father, which was in the original play. When the remake's script was submitted for approval a decade later, the officials once again replied, "we think it would be wise were some additional motivation to be attributed to the father which would not place the emphasis so unequivocally on the suggestion of incestuous desire. We believe it would be quite easily possible to say that he was 'possessive' in nature, and for this reason would not want to see anyone else get Anna." The changes were made and the film proceeded. Rounding out the cast were Frederick O'Neal, John Proctor and Alvin Childress, who had been in the original 1944 production. Rex Ingram, Georgia Burke, Rosetta LeNoire, Isabel Cooley and Claire Leyba had all appeared in the Broadway production.
Anna Lucasta was produced by Longridge Enterprises, Inc., (the same company that had produced the 1949 film) and distributed by United Artists. It went into production at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio in Hollywood in early May and wrapped up a scant month later. Although he had appeared in films before, including musical shorts as a child, this was Sammy Davis, Jr.'s first dramatic role. In his autobiography, Davis wrote that financial problems, including overspending by his estranged wife, Loray, had forced him to appear in two shows nightly at the Sands in Las Vegas; a schedule he was obligated to keep during filming. Davis was already exhausted before production even began, having suffered a mild heart attack onstage. During production, Davis would fly to Las Vegas in the afternoon and then be driven home each night so that he could sleep. Adding to the stress was co-starring with former girlfriend Eartha Kitt, but Davis sent her flowers and took her to dinner, asking for her help since she was an experienced film actress. From all reports, the two were cordial during shooting but there was no renewal of their affections.
The more lurid poster lines had been rejected by the MPAA Advertising Code Administration because they felt they made it all too obvious that Anna was a prostitute and that the artwork emphasized "her posterior." The ad copy was revised and allowed to go out, although United Artists cleverly exploited the controversy by running their own campaign that asked, "Why won't they let us tell you what sort of woman 'Anna Lucasta' is?"
The film premiered in Chicago on November 26, 1958 and had the New York opening at the Victoria on January 14, 1959. The critics were certainly mixed. The New York Times veteran critic Bosley Crowther wrote that "If somebody dug down into the play-bin and brought up 'Bertha the Sewing-Machine Girl,' they could probably turn it into a better movie than has been made by Philip Yordan of Anna Lucasta." Crowther complained that Arnold Laven directed "as if he were looking out of the window most of the time, and it is played with surprising amateurishness by a big-name Negro cast." In an interview three months later, Sammy Davis, Jr. said, pointedly, "When the reviews appeared in the New York papers, six of the seven critics praised my acting. The other reviewer liked nobody." Davis would have been happier with The Deseret News, which wrote that "some wonderfully refreshing characterizations are presented by the featured players, including Frederick O'Neal," and The Washington Afro-American, which called it a "story of human frailty [that] shines forth in touching clarity."
By Lorraine LoBianco
Crowther, Bosley "Anna Lucasta at the Victoria; Old Play is Revived with Eartha Kitt" The New York Times 15 Jan 59
Davis, Sammy, Boyar, Jane and Boyar, Burt. Sammy: An Autobiography: with Material Newly Revised from Yes I Can and Why Me?
"Sammy Davis, Eartha Kitt Co-Star in 'Anna Lucasta'" The Deseret News 26 Jan 59
Erickson, Hal The All-Movie Guide
Fishgall, Gary Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.
Gevinson, Alan Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
The Internet Movie Database
Kelly, Herb "'I'm Fall Guy' Says Sammy Davis to Wife, Sinatra and Eartha Kitt.'" The Miami News 6 Mar 59
"'Anna Lucasta' Film" The Washington Afro-American 27 Jan 59
The opening credits read: "Philip Yordan's Anna Lucasta." Yordan's original stage play, which was written in 1936, was about a Polish family. The play failed at that time to get a Broadway opening, and on June 8, 1944, it was staged by the American Negro Theater in the basement of the 135th St. Library in Harlem, with an all-black cast. Frederick O'Neal, John Proctor and Alvin Childress, who appear in the film, were in the Harlem production. The play opened on Broadway on August 30, 1944 and ran for 959 performances, closing on 30 November 1946.
^tIn addition to O'Neal, Proctor and Childress, the following actors from the film were in the Broadway run or were on tour with it in the U.S. or England: Henry Scott, Rex Ingram, Isabelle Cooley, Rosetta Le Noire, Georgia Burke and Claire Leyba. The leading role of "Anna" was played by Hilda Simms on Broadway. For additional information about the play, please see the entry for the 1949 Columbia film Anna Lucasta in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.
Longridge Enterprises, Inc. was associated with Security Pictures, Inc., which produced the 1949 version, according to Los Angeles Times. Information in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library notes that after the script was submitted in April 1958, PCA officials replied, "We think it would be wise were some additional motivation to be attributed to the father which would not place the emphasis so unequivocally on the suggestion of incestuous desire. We believe it would be quite easily possible to say that he was 'possessive' in nature, and for this reason would not want to see anyone else get Anna."
^tReviewers commented that the film was faithful to the play, although the Hollywood Reporter review stated that the film's ending, "which cleans up both father and daughter, is more palatable than the one on the stage," and Sight+Sound, in comparing the film to the London stage production, noted, "It includes several aspects of racial stereotyping which were absent from the play."
Before the film's world premiere in Chicago in November 1958, the MPAA Advertising Code Administration refused to approve a number of ads for the film, claiming, according to Hollywood Reporter, that the ads "blatantly portray the femme lead as a prostitute" and that "the art 'emphasizes her posterior.'" According to Daily Variety, United Artists informed the MPAA that they would run their ads without the Advertising Code Administration's approval, if necessary. Daily Variety reported that the MPAA might possibly withdraw their seal of approval from the film. United Artists then ran follow-up ads attempting to capitalize on the ad campaign controversy by using the slogan, "Why won't they let us tell you what sort of woman 'Anna Lucasta' is?" The Advertising Code Administration also refused to approve the follow-up ads, citing a regulation prohibiting publicity based on censorship.
^tIn January 1959, Motion Picture Herald noted that revised ad copy had finally been accepted. According to a January 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis, Jr., who both had "financial participation" in the film and believed that Southern exhibitors were refraining from booking the film on racial grounds, sent letters on Longridge letterhead to hundreds of exhibitors in the South asking to discuss the situation. Anna Lucasta marked Sammy Davis, Jr.'s first dramatic film role.
Released in United States 1958
Remake of the 1949 film of the same title.
Original Broadway production featured an all-black cast.
Eartha Kitt and Rosetta LeNoire reprise their original stage roles.
First feature version had Caucasian cast in primary roles.
Released in United States 1958