Cast & Crew
In London, during World War II, elderly General Sir Roland Dane returns to his childhood home. As he dozes by the fire, murmuring about "Lark," his grandniece Grizel, an ambulance driver with the American Army, comes to his door seeking lodging. Although he has never met Grizel, Roland gruffly agrees to let her stay, and the butler explains to Grizel that Lark was Roland's father's ward. As Grizel dresses for dinner in Lark's former room, images from the past come to life: One night, Roland's father introduces his children, Selina, Pelham and Roland, who is nicknamed "Rollo," to little Lark Ingoldsby, whose parents were killed in a train accident the previous night. Dane tells his children that Lark will live with them as their sister, and Selina, who has been mistress of the house since her mother died, is immediately resentful. Back in the present, Grizel reports for duty and meets handsome Pilot Officer Pax Masterson, whose hands were burned in an airplane crash. When she returns home later, she finds Pax waiting for her, and to her surprise, he knows all about the house and the Dane family. Pax tells her that Lark is his aunt, and as he strikes a note on Lark's piano, another episode from the past is revealed: Rollo comes home on leave from the service and observes that Selina treats Lark, now a pretty young woman, more imperiously than ever. Pelham gives Lark money to buy her first new dress, and introduces her to society at a party the following night. After the party, Selina informs Lark that Rollo's regiment will be sent to India for two years. In the present, Pax finishes demonstrating his knowledge of the house for Grizel and leaves just before Roland returns. Roland is surprised to learn that the young man he passed outside is Lark's nephew, and is dismayed to hear his practical grandniece dismiss any notion of romance on principle. With his thoughts again turned to Lark, Roland recalls the past: Lark has become a popular young lady, and both Pelham and the wealthy Marchese Del Laudi are in love with her. Rollo returns from India, and when he learns it is Lark's birthday, he sells his horse to buy her a beautiful necklace. In the present, Pax recovers from the surgery on his hands, and calls on the Danes. Roland listens eagerly as Pax describes his aunt's solitary existence, soon lapsing into memories of his own: The night of Lark's birthday party, Rollo gives her the necklace, and they declare their love for each other. Their idyll is interrupted by Selina, who informs Rollo that he has been appointed to a special mission that leaves for Afghanistan the following week. When Rollo announces his intention to marry Lark, Selina replies that they must wait five years until Rollo returns. Aware that she cannot remain in the house with Pelham, Lark tearfully tells Rollo she cannot wait. Later, while Rollo is seeking a release from his appointment, Selina vindictively tells Lark that he is not coming back. Rollo returns to find Lark gone, and angrily vows not to return to the house while Selena is alive. Pelham then comes in with the news that Lark is going to marry Del Laudi and move to Italy. In the present, as Grizel is preparing to leave on her next assignment, Pax asks her to marry him, but she declines. Roland gives the departing Pax a telegram stating that his aunt Lark is dead, then urges Grizel not to cheat herself out of love the way he did. Although an air raid has just begun, Grizel rushes into the street, and finds Pax just as the bombs begin dropping around them. With their arms around each other, they watch as the Dane house goes up in flames.
Leo G. Carroll
Gerald Oliver Smith
Actress Teresa Wright was at the height of her fame when she made Enchantment. Still under a long-term contract to Sam Goldwyn, Wright had quickly risen to stardom following a string of hits and an Academy Award® win for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Mrs. Miniver (1942). Her talent and fresh-faced ingénue good looks made her perfect for the role of the angelic Lark.
Wright's co-star, David Niven, was also one of Sam Goldwyn's discoveries who had been under contract to him since the mid-1930s. After a decade of smaller supporting parts, Niven returned from his service in World War II primed to take on starring roles in films such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Bishop's Wife (1947). The part of Rollo in Enchantment presented a unique acting challenge for the elegant Englishman in that he would play the same character as both a young and old man.
While two Goldwyn veterans, Niven and Wright, starred as the lovers of the past in Enchantment, two of Goldwyn's newest rising stars, Farley Granger and Evelyn Keyes, made their mark playing the modern day World War II lovers. Goldwyn had brought Granger into his studio fold a few years earlier with the intention of grooming the handsome young talent into a major star, while Evelyn Keyes was borrowed from Columbia Studios. According to Keyes in her 1977 autobiography Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister, Goldwyn always claimed to be a fan of hers. Every time he saw her he would bellow out for all to hear, "Ahhh! My favorite actress!"
Keyes, according to co-star Farley Granger, was not Goldwyn's first choice to play Grizel -- it was actress Cathy O'Donnell (The Best Years of Our Lives ). According to Granger's 2007 autobiography Include Me Out, O'Donnell had already been cast in the part when she was suddenly fired by Goldwyn right before rehearsals were set to begin on Enchantment. It had to do, said Granger, with a long standing feud between Goldwyn and Oscar®-winning director William Wyler. Wyler, who had directed many outstanding films for Goldwyn including Best Picture winner The Best Years of Our Lives, had recently left Goldwyn Studios to form his own production company. Goldwyn was reportedly furious at Wyler's departure and never forgave him. O'Donnell was caught in the crossfire because she had quietly married Wyler's brother Robert the week before Enchantment was to begin shooting. When Goldwyn found out, according to Granger, he went "ballistic" and gave O'Donnell an ultimatum: she would either have the marriage annulled or be fired. When O'Donnell argued with him, Goldwyn terminated her on the spot. "The next thing I knew," said Granger, "Evelyn Keyes, who had played Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister, was playing Cathy's part."
Even though David Niven had a starring role in Enchantment, there was tension between him and longtime boss Goldwyn. The two had a complicated relationship, with Niven often fighting with Goldwyn over everything from money to his disdain at being loaned out to other studios. Then in his late thirties, Niven found himself starring with the younger Goldwyn discovery Farley Granger in a part where he was required to spend half of his screen time in makeup that aged him into an old man. Still, the role of Rollo was a showy one that Niven sunk his teeth into, determined to make the best of it. "I'd never played a really old man before," Niven told columnist Hedda Hopper, "and after watching a few I decided that they did everything just a bit slower than I did. So I had about 32 pounds of lead distributed about my person: my sleeves were so weighted down that I could hardly get a glass up to my lips. Then Sam Goldwyn said I had to bleach my hair to make it look silver on the screen: when I got home that night the dog bit me and the children burst into tears, but what was really embarrassing was that, when it finally washed out, it left my hair looking bright mauve. Then I went for a holiday and the sun turned it magenta, and for about two years I had hair all the colors of the rainbow, mainly in stripes. Then the film finally came out and one critic wrote, 'Niven's performance was ruined by a totally appalling wig.' I think that was when I really began to lose patience with Goldwyn."
Niven's performance in Enchantment impressed his co-star Teresa Wright. "I believe Enchantment was where David first became a character actor," said Wright according to Sheridan Morley's 1985 biography of Niven The Other Side of the Moon. "It was the first time he hadn't been able to trade on that youthful charm of his, and in that sense I think it led on to Separate Tables  ten years later. A lot of people were surprised by the performance he gave in Enchantment, including maybe himself."
Niven's ability to get lost in his character -- especially as the elderly Rollo -- may have worked too well. According to Evelyn Keyes, Niven was so convincing as an old man that people started to treat him as one on the set without realizing it. "One day as [Farley Granger and I] stood giggling about something between takes," she recounted in her autobiography, "David, who was standing nearby, spoke up rather querulously, 'You two are ignoring me as if I really were old and can't understand your youthful chatter.' It was true. I couldn't remember the other David at all."
While some of the actors dismissed Enchantment as a sentimental trifle, Sam Goldwyn loved it and decided to promote the film as "Just About the Most Wonderful Love Story Ever Filmed." Goldwyn told the New York Times that he envisioned Enchantment as "something which might counteract the trend of tough, hard, gangster pictures and others of a similar type...springing up again after the war...I wanted to say in Enchantment that there was more to life than bitterness and disillusionment or escape through slam-bang crime stories."
Unfortunately, Goldwyn's marketing plan for Enchantment didn't work. While the film received generally favorable reviews, it failed to catch on with audiences and was considered a box office failure. Evelyn Keyes felt Goldwyn's disappointment firsthand. "Sam stopped calling me his favorite actress," she said. "He had to blame somebody, and he owned all the other players."
Shortly after the release of Enchantment Sam Goldwyn and Teresa Wright parted ways professionally. According to some accounts, Goldwyn canceled her contract over a dispute regarding Wright's refusal to help promote the film. Although Wright continued to act for the rest of her life, her later film career never regained the prestige of the projects she had worked on under Goldwyn's guidance.
Enchantment also marked the last film that David Niven made at Goldwyn Studios. After two more loan outs to other studios, Niven asked Goldwyn to release him from his contract. Niven struggled to regain his footing as a leading man, but bounced back nicely in the 1950s with several hit films and an Academy Award® win as Best Actor in the 1958 film Separate Tables.
Enchantment is also notable for being the final film that cinematographer Gregg Toland worked on before his sudden death just a few weeks after the film's release from a coronary thrombosis at the age of 44. Toland, whose credits included Citizen Kane (1941), Wuthering Heights (1939) and The Best Years of Our Lives, had been one of Goldwyn's prime assets. Toland, who was known for having perfected the deep focus technique, had photographed almost all of Goldwyn's talking pictures, providing an invaluable contribution to the style that became known as the "Goldwyn Touch."
Producers: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: Irving Reis
Screenplay: John Patrick (writer); Rumer Godden (novel "Take Three Tenses")
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Art Direction: George Jenkins
Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Film Editing: Daniel Mandell
Cast: David Niven (General Sir Roland 'Rollo' Dane), Teresa Wright (Lark Ingoldsby), Evelyn Keyes (Grizel Dane), Farley Granger (Pilot Officer Pax Masterson), Jayne Meadows (Selina Dane), Leo G. Carroll (Proutie), Philip Friend (Pelham Dane), Shepperd Strudwick (Marchese Guido De Laudi), Henry Stephenson (General Fitzgerald), Colin Keith-Johnston (The Eye).
by Andrea Passafiume
Teresa Wright (1918-2005)
She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria.
She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status.
She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract.
As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.
She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Teresa Wright (1918-2005)
The working titles of this film were Take Three Tenses and Enchanted. The film begins and ends with a voice-over narration in which the old Dane house itself talks about what makes a house special. A August 30, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that British actor Frederic Worlock would supply the voice of the house, but William Johnstone is credited onscreen with the narration. According to a September 1, 1948 news item in Hollywood Reporter, cinematographer Gregg Toland and grip Ralph Hoge developed the first automatically counter-balanced camera crank head for use in the film.
Shortly after the film's release, Samuel Goldwyn terminated Teresa Wright's seven-year contract because she was "uncooperative" and refused to make personal appearances to promote the film, according to news items in Hollywood Reporter. However, she did make an appearance at the film's San Francisco opening on March 9, 1949. Enchantment marked the American screen debut of British actor Philip Friend and Toland's last film. The cinematographer died September 28, 1948. This was also the last film David Niven made for Goldwyn, to whom he had been under contract since the mid-1930s. The following year, Niven was loaned out to independent producer Colin Miller for the final film under his Goldwyn contract, A Kiss for Corliss.