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.
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.