Cast & Crew
C. Aubrey Smith
In the 1860's, New England shipping magnate William Marlowe tries to force his vivacious daughter Mary to marry stuffy Lord Hurley, but she becomes enamoured of John Carlton, one of Marlowe's clerks. Marlowe intercepts the couples' love notes and fires John, who later meets with Mary on the night of the party celebrating her engagement to Hurley. John tells Mary that he is moving West and will send for her, but she insists on coming with him, even though it will mean much hardship. The lovers are married that night and soon begin the torturous journey West with other pioneers. They arrive in the valley that is to be their new home, and as time passes, they build a small house and have a son, little John. One day, John and the Carltons' handyman, "Sunshine," go to town while Mary stays home. After the men leave, notorious cattle rustler Jake Houser, his brother Davey and their gang take over the house. A terrified Mary cooks for them when they threaten to kill the baby, and they leave with John's cattle. As John and Sunshine are on the trail homeward, they pass the Houser gang and recognize their own cattle. The pair are outnumbered and grimly return home, where Mary puts on a brave front. John believes that nothing can be done, but once he realizes that the gang threatened his family, he becomes angry and leaves to organize the other ranchers. John and Sunshine are gone for two days, during which time the ranchers lynch Davey and other gang members. John and Sunshine return home to discover that little John is ill, and that Jake is gunning for them. Jake and his gang swarm over the cabin, and during the attack, the baby dies from his fever. Mary shoots Jake as he is about to shoot John in the back, and the gang is defeated. John's part in ending the Houser gang's reign of terror makes him well-known, and as time passes he gains more political power. Years later, the Carlton family now includes children William, Audrey, Susan and Robert, and John is running for the post of governor of California. On the eve of the election, the Carltons throw a huge ball, and the family is shamed when John's mistress, Señora Lolita Martinez, makes an appearance. Lolita tells Mary that John wants his freedom so that he can marry her, but John denies this and declares that the affair is over. Lolita threatens to make their relationship public and storms out, after which a crushed but still-loving Mary forgives John this and other infidelities, of which she has known all along. Despite the scandal, John is elected governor, and after serving with distinction, he is elected to the U.S. Senate. Many years later, John, now the senior Californian senator, decides to step down so that Mary and he can leave Washington and return to California. Their now middle-aged children try to convince them to stay, but Mary tells them that each married couple has their own secrets, secret joys and sorrows, and that they now want to be alone with theirs. The old couple sneak away from their complaining children, and as they drive off, they reminisce about their fifty years of marriage.
C. Aubrey Smith
Theodore Von Eltz
M. C. Levee
Pickford had been interested in the story for years. Secrets had first been made into a silent film in 1924 with Norma Talmadge as Mary, directed by Frank Borzage, who was building a reputation as a great romantic director (he won the first ever Academy Award for directing one of the silent era's most touching love stories, 1927's Seventh Heaven). Pickford's follow-up to Coquette, The Taming of the Shrew (1929), co-starring her husband Douglas Fairbanks, had not been a success, and making it had further strained the couple's deteriorating marriage. Her confidence shaken, Pickford wanted to make an epic on her own, and in 1930 she decided to re-make Secrets as a talkie. Her close friends and frequent collaborators, writer Frances Marion and director Marshall Neilan, would work with her. Unfortunately, Neilan's drinking had gotten out of control, and after filming for a month and spending $300,000 on the project, Pickford cancelled the production and ordered all the negatives burned.
Instead, she made Kiki (1931), but she was badly miscast as a Parisian chorus girl. It too flopped. Pickford then decided to revive her plan to make Secrets, and approached Marion to take another crack at it. Marion was reluctant. She thought there was "too much story," and was unhappy with the play's flashback structure. Still, Pickford was insistent, and Marion, who had heard rumors about Fairbanks' infidelities, suspected that the story about a woman standing by her unfaithful husband resonated with Pickford. Perhaps it was Pickford's way of sending a message to Fairbanks. So Marion swallowed her misgivings and agreed to work on the script, re-structuring it and telling the story chronologically instead of with flashbacks. Pickford hired Borzage, who had made the silent version, to direct.
In her autobiography, Sunshine and Shadow (1955), Pickford blamed the failure of Secrets on bad timing, saying she made "what I consider a creditable picture. Unfortunately, Secrets opened in twenty-five key cities on the day President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday. Very few people were spending money on entertainment in the weeks that followed, and while the film was well received, it was a financial disaster." Time magazine's grudgingly respectful yet dismissive review hints at another reason for the film's failure: "Mary Pickford is now 40....She has never quite grown accustomed to talkies or to any type of acting for which a close-up view of her smiling profile is not an adequate substitute, but her failure has never embarrassed her. In Secrets she exhibits the same curious knowledge of how to keep the sympathy of an audience that made her a star in two-reel pictures before an audience knew her name."
Pickford never intended for Secrets to be her final film. A fan of Mickey Mouse, she worked with Walt Disney on plans for a film version of Alice in Wonderland, which would combine animation with live-action and star Pickford as Alice. A screen test and stills of Pickford as Alice exist, but the film never happened. Her marriage to Fairbanks ended in 1935, and Pickford, who had been a secret drinker for years, began drinking in earnest. She remarried (her second husband was Charles "Buddy" Rogers), and over the years talked about returning to the screen, but she never did. She died in 1979, at the age of 87.
Director: Frank Borzage
Screenplay: Salisbury Field, Frances Marion, Leonard Praskins; Rudolph Besier, May Edginton (both the play)
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Richard Day
Music: Alfred Newman
Film Editing: Hugh Bennett
Cast: Mary Pickford (Mary Marlowe Carlton), Leslie Howard (John Carlton), C. Aubrey Smith (Mr. William Marlowe), Blanche Frederici (Mrs. Martha Marlowe), Doris Lloyd (Susan Channing), Herbert Evans (Lord Hurley), Ned Sparks (Sunshine), Allan Sears (Jake Houser), Mona Maris (Senora Lolita Martinez).
by Margarita Landazuri
Virginia Grey (1917-2004)
She was was born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, and was exposed to the film industry at a very young age. Her father, Ray Grey, was a Keystone Cop and acted in several other of Mack Sennett's comedies with the likes of Mabel Normand, Dorothy Gish and Ben Turpin. When her father died when she was still a child, Virginia's mother encouraged her to join the acting game and audition for the role of Eva for Uncle Tom's Cabin, a big budget picture for Universal Studios in the day. She won the role, and acted in a few more pictures at the studio: The Michigan Kid and Heart to Heart (both 1928), before she decided to temporarily leave acting to finish her schooling.
She returned to films after graduating from high school, and after bouncing around Hollywood doing bits for various studios, she hooked up with MGM in 1938. Her roles in her first few films were fairly non-descript: In Test Pilot and Ladies in Distress (both 1938), she did little more than look pretty, but in the following year she had scene-stealing parts in The Women (upstaging Joan Crawford in a delicious scene as a wisecracking perfume counter girl) and as the suffering heroine in Another Thin Man (both 1939).
Despite her versatility (she could handle comedy or drama with equal effectiveness), MGM would cast her in some above-average, but hardly starmaking movies: Whistling in the Dark, The Big Store (both 1941), and Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942). She left MGM in 1943 and became a freelance actress for several studios, but her material as a leading lady throughout the '40s were mediocre: Swamp Fire, House of Horrors (both 1946), and Mexican Hayride (1948) were sadly the more interesting films in her post-MGM period. But by the '50s she was a well-established character actress, appearing in fairly big-budget pictures: All That Heaven Allows, The Rose Tattoo (both 1955), Jeanne Eagels (1957).
In the '60s, Grey turned to television and found work on a variety of hit shows: Wagon Train, Peter Gunn, Bonanza, My Three Sons, I Spy, and several others; plus she also captured a a couple of notable supporting parts in these films: Madame X (1966), and Airport (1970), before retiring completely from acting in the early '70s. She is survived by her sister, Lorraine Grey Heindorf, two nieces and two nephews.
by Michael T. Toole
Virginia Grey (1917-2004)
May Edginton's story "Secrets" first appeared in Harper's Bazar [sic] in December 1918. This was legendary actress Mary Pickford's last film appearance. After retiring from the screen, she concentrated on her successful career as a businesswoman. According to the film's pressbook, "sling-shot champion" Charles Cline was responsible for breaking the dishes during the scene when the Houser gang attacks the Carltons, because real bullets could not be used. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Buddy Rogers, whom Pickford married in 1937, "lobbied heavily" to play the male lead. Hollywood Reporter also noted that plans to shoot on location in the Mojave Desert had to be abandoned because of adverse weather conditions. Rudolf Besier and May Edginton's play was first filmed in 1924 as a silent starring Norma Talmadge and directed by Frank Borzage (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.4888). According to modern sources, a remake of the 1924 film, produced by and starring Mary Pickford, co-starring Kenneth MacKenna and entitled Forever Yours, was begun in the spring of 1930, but was halted one third of the way through production because Pickford was dissatisfied with the results. The 1930 footage, which was directed by Marshall Neilan and scripted by Benjamin Glazer, was later destroyed. Pickford turned over the project to Frances Marion and Frank Borzage, who, in 1933, announced that Gary Cooper would be cast in the leading role. Modern sources also note that the working title of the 1933 film was Yes, John, and that it was budgeted at $450,000. Modern sources list silent film star Elsie Janis as the film's technical and story advisor.
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1993
Marion Francis was called into the project later in its developement resulting in a total revision of the screenplay. She had previously worked on the 1924 version of the film.
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1993 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Salute to Film Preservation) June 10 - July 1, 1993.)