Cast & Crew
In turn of the century New York City, newlyweds John and Abby Edwards evade the enormous crowd escorting them from their wedding to their hotel and sneak back across town to their new Victorian home. John carries Abby into the bedroom and proudly shows her the four-poster bed he made himself. Abby responds with alarm when John shyly suggests they will pass the bed on to their children. John brings their bags upstairs while singing a racy French tune, prompting Abby to ask him whether he has ever had a lover before. When John evades her question, Abby wonders if she has made a mistake in marrying him. John soothes her and Abby tells him that she married him because they were good friends. John offers Abby a drink, hoping it will calm her, while she talks about the solid future they can look forward to because of the the teaching job her father got for him. Abby tries to get John to read his poetry to her, but he changes clothes, appearing moments later in an old-fashioned monogrammed nightshirt and cap, which makes Abby laugh as they climb into the four-poster bed. Several months later, John's informal teaching style at the rigid Dean Killan's Academy puts him at odds with his staid fellow instructors, who demand the Head fire him. While bicycling home from school in a snowstorm, John is taken ill with a cold. Although expecting to give birth any moment, Abby tends to her husband and keeps up with the household chores. John frantically awaits the day's mail and when Abby rushes into their bedroom with a letter from John's literary agent, he discovers that his poetry book has been rejected by every major publishing house in New York. In a fit of pique, John defies Abby and burns all his writing. While he frets about finding a job, Abby suggests he write about what he knows, not fantasies, and even proposes a title for his first book, "Whither Thou," a line from the Bible. John worries about competing with the baby for Abby's attentions, but when her contractions begin, he hastens out for the doctor. With the enormous success of "Whither Thou," John becomes a best-selling author of romantic novels, a particular favorite with women's literary groups. Twelve years into their marriage, Abby, weary of John's egotistical behavior, shows little interest when he reveals he is seeing another woman who appreciates his writing. Her casual response alarms John and after a quarrel, Abby throws him out of the bedroom and refuses to let him back in. After declaring she will get a divorce, Abby panics, thinking that John has left the house, but is relieved when he returns to their room through the window. When he tries to kiss her, however, Abby knocks him down. She then demands that he read her his new manuscript and they reconcile. Over the years New York City expands around their home, and John and Abby worry about their son Benjamin's interest in the European war. When Benjamin goes to war and is reported killed in action, John struggles to comfort Abby, but she cuts herself off from him. A few years later, at their daughter Florence's wedding, John finds Abby sulking in their bedroom. She announces that she will not waste her life further and, having found a young poet whom she inspires, is leaving John. The next day as Abby packs, John offers to take her anywhere in the world for their second honeymoon. John mocks the work of the young poet, but when he confesses how much he needs Abby and pleads for her to stay with him, she hugs him in gratitude and agrees. John and Abby go to Paris for their second honeymoon and upon returning, John begins writing seriously. One evening several years later, John proposes a toast with Abby to celebrate his latest contract and the fact that her recent physical examination went well. Just as Abby is about to drink the cognac, however, John knocks the glass from her hand and admits he had poisoned the drink. He confesses that his latest book is a failure, he has no new contract and she is deathly ill. He had intended that they should die together and now feels utterly lost. Abby embraces him and tells him that they will always be together. Years later after Abby's death, an elderly John, now bestowed with numerous literary awards, struggles to continue writing, but is constantly interrupted by visions of Abby throughout their marriage. When he demands that she leave him alone, Abby tells him it is time for them to reunite. John dies and, as a young newlywed again, joins Abby forever.
January de Hartog's two-character play The Fourposter, which opened in London on October 12, 1950 and starred Michael Denison and Dulce Grey, ran for only 68 performances. De Hartog added a lighter tone and a more sentimental ending before the play's Broadway premiere on October 24, 1951. The Broadway production starred husband and wife Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. In 1955 Cronyn and Tandy repeated their roles for a two-week revival at the New York City Center, under the direction of José Ferrer. During the film's production, the title was spelled Fourposter. The film featured animated sequences under the opening credits and between each act. The interscenes, which advanced the story, were created by United Productions of America studios.
The film's stars, Lilli Palmer and Rex Harrison, were married to each other at the time of production. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography (Black and White). Among the many television versions of de Hartog's play are a 1955 NBC-TV movie, a 1961 German television movie starring Maria Schell and O. W. Fischer, and a 1962 CBS-TV television movie. Playwright Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt adapted de Hartog's play into the musical comedy I Do! I Do! which opened in New York on December 5, 1966 and starred Mary Martin and Robert Preston, under the direction of Gower Champion.