Cast & Crew
Lovely, young Claudia Naughton lives with her architect husband David in the Connecticut farmhouse that he designed. Despite Claudia's immaturity and fiscal irresponsibility, David deeply loves his delightful, energetic wife. Claudia's mother, Mrs. Brown, visits the couple frequently, although both she and David are trying to ease Claudia's extreme dependence on her. One evening, Mrs. Brown confides in David that she is ill and must return to New York the next morning for x-rays. David agrees not to tell Claudia and takes Mrs. Brown to the train station in the morning. After they depart, English playwright Jerry Seymour, who has recently moved to the community, comes to the farmhouse for help fixing a flat tire. Claudia, who habitually eavesdrops on the telephone party line, already knows who Jerry is, and although the womanizing Jerry is impressed by Claudia's beauty, he is surprised that she is married because she looks so young. David returns after Jerry leaves, and Claudia attempts to provoke his jealousy by describing Jerry's flirtatiousness. The ever-practical David refuses to indulge Claudia's whims, but does press her for an honest answer about whether she enjoys living on the farm, for he has spent most of his inheritance on it and is worried about the taxes and bills. Although she secretly longs to return to New York, where she can be with her mother every day, Claudia assures David that she wants to stay on the farm. The next day, David's sister-in-law Julia comes for luncheon along with her friend, an eccentric Russian singer named Madame Daruschka, who falls in love with the farm and offers Claudia thirty thousand dollars for it. Hoping to prove to David that she is a smart businesswoman, Claudia accepts the offer. Julia then outfits Claudia in one of her old negligees, and the glamorous young woman awes Jerry when he comes by for a visit. Much to Claudia's chagrin, Julia assumes that Jerry is her lover, and offers her tacit approval before leaving. Jerry bestows a forceful kiss upon Claudia and is surprised when she asks for another. David returns as they are embracing and angrily orders Claudia to change clothes. David castigates Jerry for taking advantage of the naïve Claudia, but after Jerry departs, Claudia explains to her infuriated husband that she did it to prove to him that other men find her attractive. Claudia assures David that she loves him more than ever, but he cautions her to take the responsibilities of marriage more seriously. David is again hurt when Claudia then announces that she has sold the farm. After David goes upstairs, Claudia has a dizzy spell and Bertha, their housekeeper, suggests that she is suffering from morning sickness. Although David worries that Claudia is too young to be a mother, her infectious joy pleases him. Before they leave for the doctor's office, however, David answers a call from Mrs. Brown, who has received bad news from the doctor. Mrs. Brown again asks David not to tell Claudia, but Claudia has listened in on the telephone extension and realizes that her mother is dying. David then takes Claudia to the doctor, who confirms her pregnancy. Upon their return home, Claudia is so despondent that David advises her to "make friends" with her pain, for it is part of growing up. Claudia struggles with her emotions and tells David that she now wants to stay on the farm, which is their real home. When Mrs. Brown arrives from the train station, Claudia tries to pretend that she is unaware of her condition, but her sensitivity and new maturity make Mrs. Brown aware that she knows the truth. Mrs. Brown is thrilled about the baby, although she insists that she will not live with the Naughtons full-time. Julia then arrives for a brief visit and announces that she has just reconciled with her estranged husband. While Julia and Claudia talk, Mrs. Brown realizes that Claudia will have the strength to let her go, and after Julia leaves, Claudia tenderly tucks her mother into bed.
Paul S. Fox
R. L. Hough
William Brown Meloney
A month after the Claudia premiere on Broadway, producer David O. Selznick purchased the rights for a potential film adaptation following the play's initial Broadway run. Thoroughly impressed by her performance, Selznick set his sights on bringing Dorothy McGuire to Hollywood and making her a star, branding her as "natural"; a girl-next-door type, rather than the glamorous sirens that were ubiquitous with Hollywood stardom. Selznick offered McGuire a contract and sold the film rights for Claudia to 20th Century-Fox. As part of their negotiated deal, Selznick and Fox would have equal share of McGuire to cast in their various film projects. In 1943, under the direction of Edmund Goulding and with an adapted screenplay by Morrie Ryskind, Dorothy McGuire made her film debut in Claudia, alongside Robert Young, who was cast as her husband, David. Also reprising their stage roles for the film adaptation were Olga Baclanova and Frank Tweddell.
When David O. Selznick initially acquired the rights to Rose Franken's story, he consulted with the Production Code Administration that he could make a film out of a story that places quite a bit of focus on the sexual relationship between Claudia and David, as well as pregnancy and childbirth. With the implementation of the Production Code in 1934, any actual or implied depictions of sex were strictly prohibited. And outside of a small handful of exceptions, a married couple in film couldn't even share the same bed. There were filmmakers who cleverly worked their way around the stifling restrictions of the time, of course, but this was the general way of Hollywood for over three decades. Selznick was pleased to learn that the general premise of Claudia passed the PCA's strict standards, despite the story's emphasis and preoccupation with Claudia's naiveté on matters of the bedroom.
At its heart, Claudia is a touching story of a young woman coming into her own through the often complicated, but ultimately loving and rewarding, relationship with her husband. It also explores the close relationship between Claudia and her mother (played by Ina Claire) and how their relationship evolves during a time of crisis; a crisis which forces Claudia to fully grow into womanhood--perhaps more so than her relationship with David.
Claudia was the first of three on-screen collaborations between Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young. Following the success of their pairing in this film, McGuire and Young were reunited in John Cromwell's The Enchanted Cottage in 1945. The following year in 1946, they reteamed once more for the sequel to Claudia, Claudia and David, which wasn't as well received as the first installment.
By 1947, McGuire had earned her first Academy Award nomination for her performance in Elia Kazan's Gentleman's Agreement, starring alongside Gregory Peck. That same year, McGuire returned to her stage roots by forming the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, with Gregory Peck and Mel Ferrer. McGuire transitioned into more maternal roles on the screen, starring in William Wyler's Friendly Persuasion (1956); two melodramas directed by Delmer Daves, including A Summer Place (1959) and Susan Slade (1961); as well as several films for Walt Disney, including Old Yeller (1957) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960).
Director: Edmund Goulding
Producer: William Perlberg
Screenplay: Morrie Ryskind
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Editing: Robert L. Simpson
Cast: Dorothy McGuire (Claudia Naughton), Robert Young (David Naughton), Ina Claire (Mrs. Brown), Reginald Gardiner (Jerry Seymour), Olga Baclanova (Madame Daruschka) and Jean Howard (Julia).
By Jill Blake
Rose Franken's popular characters "Claudia" and "David" first appeared in a series of ten short stories in Redbook (Oct 1938-August 1939). The stories, with additional material, were printed in book form as Claudia, the Story of a Marriage in 1939. Another book, Claudia and David, was published in 1940 and included two more magazine stories that had appeared in Redbook in late 1940. Both books served as the basis for Franken's play, and she added several more short stories and books to the series.
The following information comes from contemporary news items, the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, and the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library: David O. Selznick was the first producer to purchase the rights to Franken's play, and in late March 1941, asked for the PCA's opinion about the property. In response, the PCA advised Selznick that while the basic story was acceptable, "Claudia's interest in the sex life of the animals on the farm, her somewhat naïve discussion of her own sex reactions and interests, and the discussion of her pregancy" would have to be deleted. A June 22, 1941 New York Times article reported that Joan Fontaine, Dorothy McGuire and Katharine Hepburn were "all possible Claudias," according to Selznick. A March 9, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Selznick had signed Cary Grant for the role of David and would feature McGuire in the reprisal of her well-received Broadway performance as Claudia. Selznick hired Franken and her husband, William Brown Meloney, to write the screenplay, and by April 1942, was considering starring Jennifer Jones as Claudia instead of McGuire. According to a modern source, Selznick ordered numerous screen tests of Jones for the role.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the rights to Franken's play from Selznick in November 1942. The complicated sale had ramifications for other films, including Jane Eyre and Keys of the Kingdom (see below), and provided for the equal division of McGuire's contract between Selznick and Twentieth Century-Fox.
The legal records indicate that Franken and Brown continued to work on the screenplay of Claudia for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1943, and that Franken protested the fact that she would not receive an onscreen screenplay credit. Jason S. Joy, the studio's public relations director, presented the matter to the Screen Writers' Guild, which ruled that, although the screenplay was closely based on the play, Franken did not make enough original contributions to the screenplay to warrant an onscreen credit. The Guild did suggest, however, that Morrie Ryskind be listed as the adaptor of the play rather than the author of the screenplay.
According to a February 25, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, both Frances Starr, who originated the role of "Mrs. Brown" on the New York stage, and Beverly Bayne, who appeared in the Chicago production of the play, were under consideration for the part of Mrs. Brown. March 1943 Hollywood Reporter news items reveal that Twentieth Century-Fox considered both Don Ameche and Franchot Tone for the role of David before borrowing Robert Young from M-G-M for the part. McGuire (1918-2001)made her screen debut in Claudia, for which Olga Baclanova and Frank Tweddell also reprised their roles from the original stage presentation. A April 5, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Pola Negri had been tested for the role of "Madame Daruschka" before Baclanova was signed. The film marked the last screen appearance of Baclanova, who had not appeared in a picture since the 1933 Paramount release The Billion Dollar Scandal (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0339). A August 25, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Claudia had its world premiere in Omaha, Nebraska, McGuire's hometown, in late August 1943.
In 1946, Twentieth Century-Fox produced a sequel to Claudia entitled Claudia and David, for which McGuire and Robert Young reprised their roles and William Perlberg again acted as producer. Although the studio had planned to produce another sequel, in August 1946 Hollywood Reporter announced that the film would not be made largely due to "difficulty in simultaneously obtaining" McGuire and Young. Franken's characters were also featured in a radio series entitled Claudia, which was broadcast on CBS, July-September 1941. The show re-appeared in syndication in 1947. The television series Claudia, the Story of a Marriage was telecast January 6, 1952 -June 30, 1952 on the NBC and CBS networks, and featured Joan McCracken and Hugh Reilly as the married couple.