Saturday, October 10, 2020

THE ELEANOR PARKER BLOGATHON: Between Two Worlds, 1944


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is saluting the beautiful and versatile Eleanor Parker with a blogathon running October 10th and 11th. Join the online tributes HERE. My contribution is a look at Between Two Worlds, 1944.


Sutton Vane's play Outward Bound premiered in London in 1923. The fantasy-drama with its hopeful premise of an afterlife found a place with the post-WWI audience. Broadway audiences were equally taken with the play the following year. Warner Bros. filmed Outward Bound in 1930 retaining some cast from the Broadway production. Leslie Howard had played "Henry" on the stage and in the film took the "Prior" role. Beryl Mercer recreated the role of "Mrs. Midget", with Dudley Digges again as "The Examiner."


Of note: Helen Chandler portrayed "Ann" in the 1930 film opposite Douglas Fairbank Jr. and appeared in the Broadway revival of 1938 opposite Alexander Kirkland.


The world was once again at war and Warner Bros. believed a weary audience would be receptive to the downbeat optimism of a revival of Vane's Outward Bound. The screenplay by Daniel Fuchs was rechristened Between Two Worlds. The film was the first of three directing credits for dialogue director Edward A. Blatt. Cast with many solid Warner's contractees Between Two Worlds was moodily filmed by Carl E. Guthrie. Erich Wolfgang Korngold provided an appropriately melodramatic score.


Paul Henreid, Eleanor Parker, George Tobias

Ann Bergner: "Where are we sailing for?"
Scrubby (the steward): "Where are you sailing for? To Heaven, and to Hell. Does that seem strange? You'll soon understand, my dear. In a way, they are really both the same place."

European emigrant Henry Bergner played by Paul Henreid is suffering in London. Trauma from fighting with the Free French weighs heavily on his mind and heart, and he has lost his ability to earn a living as a pianist. Told that the paperwork to take a ship to America would not be forthcoming for at least six months, the depressed Henry chooses suicide as an escape from his depression.

Eleanor Parker plays Ann Bergner, Henry's devoted wife. They are so close that she senses his drastic decision and his resolve. Knowing she cannot change his mind, Ann decides she cannot live without Henry and joins him as the gas fills their flat. Unexpectedly, the couple finds themselves on the very ship upon which Henry was earlier denied access. They remember their deaths and know that they are in some sort of a transition phase in existence.

Onboard are the passengers that Henry saw at the steamship office. They are the same people Ann saw struck by a Nazi bomb. These passengers are not aware of their transitional status. It should come to them when they are ready to accept it.

Dennis King, Sara Allgood, John Garfield, Faye Emerson
George Tobias, Gilbert Emery, Isobel Elsom

John Garfield is Tom Prior, a hot-shot journalist who allowed his cynicism and a chip on his shoulder to drink away his career and prospects. Faye Emerson is Maxine Russell, a wrong side of the tracks gal who hoped show business would be her entree to the good life. She is bitter and has a history with Tom Prior.

Isobel Elsom and Gilbert Emery are Genevieve and Benjamin Cliveden-Banks. She is a social-climbing snob and he is her essentially kindly but a cowed husband. George Colouris is Lingley of Lingley Limited, a business magnate and war profiteer for whom money is his god and protector.

George Tobias is Pete Musick, a merchant marine heading home to a wife he adores and a kid he has yet to meet. Dennis King is Reverand William Duke, a shy clergyman looking forward to expanding his horizons in the wide world. Sara Allgood is Mrs. Midget, a humble woman with a secret and a goal.

Edmund Gwenn

The passengers are served by the steward Scrubby played by Edmund Gwenn. Sydney Greenstreet is The Examiner, who will send each passenger on their allotted way. Be warned that they bring their own Heaven and Hell with them.

Eleanor Parker's Ann is a woman continually on the edge emotionally. In life, she cared for nothing but her husband's peace of mind and was unable to help him attain it. In death, she struggles between trying to be strong in the face of the overwhelming unknown and giving in to the fear that somehow she will be separated from her beloved. 

Henry has become accustomed to his new existence; Ann is by his side and they have no further concerns about the inhumanity of man. His musical skills have returned, and he is open to helping Scrubby with his duties. Henry does not yet realize that it will be his fate, the fate of suicides like Scrubby, to remain on shipboard traveling forever. Ann, being collateral damage to Henry's decision will be allowed to go forward. However, she refuses to leave Henry. In an unprecedented move, Scrubby begs The Examiner to find a way to help the young woman with such deep love. Is there a way?



Warner Bros. kept Eleanor Parker a very busy actress in their organization. During 1944 she appeared in six films including a bit in Hollywood Canteen. Eleanor and Paul Henreid would again co-star in the 1946 version of W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. Later, of the eight episodes of the series Bracken's World which Paul Henreid directed in 1969, two would feature Eleanor Parker.












24 comments:

  1. Hi Paddy. Great piece on a film I am desperate to see. Sounds like such an interesting story concept. After reading this it sounds every bit as good as I've hoped. Thanks so much for joining me to help celebrate Eleanor and her work.

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    1. My pleasure, Maddy. Thanks for hosting the event.

      My late dad was a fan of Eleanor's so we consider her one of our "legacy actors."

      A few years ago TCM was showing Between Two Worlds and I phoned my mom and recommended it. She and my sister put it on, but grudgingly on my mom's part - she always "pretends" not to like older movies. She was enthralled by the movie.

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  2. Wait, hold up. “Collateral damage”? It sounds like Parker’s character chose to take the dirt nap with Henreid. Why does she get a free pass to the Great Beyond or wherever?

    I’m convinced there’s at least a post, if not an entire book, around 40s movies about the afterlife. WW2 probably was the cause. Can’t think of any other reason why so many filmmakers would have it on their minds at that time.

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    1. I had the feeling from the way "The Examiner" explained it to them that it was further torture for Henry. Maybe that was just me. However, he was pretty cool with how things had worked out. No more worries and he and Ann were together. This put a whole new wrinkle on the set-up.

      Yeah. A Guy Named Joe, A Matter of Life and Death, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, etc. The afterlife would be on the hearts and minds of the general public. It was no longer private grief, but shared.

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  3. I love Elanor Parker, she seems to have been almost forgotten or just remembered for being the "baddie" in the South of Music. She's great in "Caged" and "the naked Jungle".

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    1. If Caged had been released a year earlier or a year later, I think Eleanor might have received that Oscar.

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  4. ELEANOR PARKER was born Eleanor Jean Parker. There was actress JEAN PARKER that you know from LITTLE WOMEN(33). She was born LOIS MAE GREEN. Interestingly, Jean and her husband ROBERT LOWERY did a touring production of DETECTIVE STORY. I believe wiki said it was in 1951. Jean and Robert were married for 20 years until his passing in 1971. Jean Parker lived to be 90 and Eleanor Parker was 91.

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    1. Both Parker gals are favourites of mine. Jean can boast of two films with Laurel and Hardy, and Eleanor was as talented as she was glamorous.

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  5. Between Two Worlds is an intriguing, haunting film and an improvement on the earlier 1930 film version with Leslie Howard). The Warner Bros. cast and Korngold's rich score can't be beat. As for Eleanor Parker, I love her in this movie, Scaramouche, The Naked Jungle, and Detective Story.

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    1. My husband is of the opinion that while Janet Leigh is indeed "a babe", Stewart Granger is crazy for choosing her over Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche. Every time - the same rant!

      Detective Story is a favourite of mine. Wyler made it cinematic but it still gives me the feeling of a theatrical experience.

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  6. Eleanor P. was in SIX films in 1944! Whew - that's a very busy schedule.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this film. I'd never heard of it before reading your review. It sounds kind of sad, but hopeful in a way.

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    1. I have a fondness for after-life fantasies and find this and its predecessor thoughtful and engrossing films. It shows up on TCM sporadically so keep your eyes peeled.

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  7. I haven't seen this film, but I think Eleanor Parker a lovely actress with a haunting presence - she had a febrile, emotional quality similar to Deborah Kerr's. I love her in Interrupted Melody, one of my faves. I'll have to check out this particular film. Thanks for the excellent highlight!

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    1. You are so right about Eleanor. She has the quality of wearing her character's emotions on her sleeve when need be and it makes her mesmerizing to watch.

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  8. ELEANOR PARKER was a classy and elegant actress. I put her in a category with BARBARA RUSH and PAT CROWLEY. VERA MILES played a lot of roles that weren't glamorous women but she WAS glamorous in her COLUMBO ep as the killer-a cosmetics mogul.

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    1. I agree. I also remember that Columbo, Lovely But Lethal. (Nobody's ever said that about me!)

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  9. Interestingly, ELEANOR PARKER, BARBARA RUSH, PAT CROWLEY, and VERA MILES were all guest stars on HOTEL, THE LOVE BOAT, and MURDER, SHE WROTE! That was back when there was still a lot of glamour and talent. There was also something else back then that is really important-CLASS!

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    1. So much beauty and talent. We're lucky they were showcased in primetime.

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  10. This film sounds really great! I haven't seen it yet, but I think I have it on my DVR. I should make a point to watch it. Thank you for the great review!

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    1. Thank you so much.

      Sometimes I worry about the number of movies stored up on the DVR but it is a comfort to have it at our fingertips when we want it.

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  11. LEE LAWSON is 79 today! She is best known as BEA REARDON on GUIDING LIGHT. Bea was the down-to-earth boardinghouse owner who was the mother of TONY, MAUREEN and NOLA. Maureen was married to DR. ED BAUER. JOHN WESLEY SHIPP played KELLY NELSON, the medical resident that was a boarder. John Wesley has been in a lot of things since then. Do you know Guiding Light very well? What about John Wesley Shipp?

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    1. I go way back with Guiding Light. Recently, when the new series of The Flash came out, my daughter got me watching it with her and there was John Wesley Shipp (multiple Emmy winner) playing the Flash's dad. He had played the Flash in an earlier series.

      If you are interested in Daytime history, check out The Locher Report on YouTube. Alan Locher was a publicity rep for the Procter and Gamble soaps and he has been getting actors together for informal interviews. It is a lot of fun.

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  12. There is an actor named LEIGH LAWSON. He has been married to TWIGGY since 1988. Leigh adopted her daughter. He was romantically involved with HAYLEY MILLS from 1975 to 1984. Leigh is the father of Hayley's youngest son. Do you know Leigh and Twiggy from very many movies or shows?

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    1. I saw Twiggy on Broadway in the 1980s with Tommy Tune in My One and Only. It is a very fond memory.

      I watched a bit of the series "Kinsey" and Leigh Lawson played Dr. Kinsey.

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