Sunday, September 19, 2021

On This Day... The Howards of Virginia (1940)

Released today back in 1940, The Howards of Virginia was Cary Grant's 37th full length feature film.


Aristocratic young Virginian Jane (Martha Scott) steps down from her upbringing when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard (Cary Grant). Matt joins the Colonial forces in the American War of Independence which puts him in conflict with Jane's brother, Fleetwood (Cedric Hardwicke), who supports the Crown.


Cary Grant...Matt Howard
Martha Scott...Jane Peyton-Howard
Cedric Hardwicke...Fleetwood Peyton (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Alan Marshal...Roger Peyton
Richard Carlson...Thomas Jefferson
Paul Kelly...Captain Jabez Allen
Irving Bacon...Tom Norton
Elisabeth Risdon...Aunt Clarissa (as Elizabeth Risdon)
Anne Revere...Mrs. Norton
Tom Drake...James Howard at 16 (as Richard Alden)
Phil Taylor...Peyton Howard at 18
Rita Quigley...Mary Howard at 17
Libby Taylor...Dicey
Richard Gaines...Patrick Henry
George Houston...George Washington
Ralph Byrd...James Howard
Dickie Jones...Matt Howard at 12
Buster Phelps...Tom Jefferson at 11
Wade Boteler...Uncle Reuben
Mary Field...Susan Howard
Roy Gordon...Colonel Jefferson (as R. Wells Gordon)
Charles Francis...Mr. Douglas

Did You Know?

Elizabeth Page's book, The Tree of Liberty, served as the source material for this film. Adapting the screenplay from Page's book to the film's 116 minute run-time proved quite a task, as Page's novel is 985 pages long.

With World War II raging in Europe, Columbia Pictures foresaw a need for more patriotic projects and initiated this film early in 1940. Studio executives mentioned that they believed that many Americans felt that the country would be going to war soon and were desirous of patriotic films.

The millionaire heir, John D. Rockefeller Jr., recently had restored Williamsburg, Virginia as a model colonial town for educational, tourism, and amusement purposes. Rockefeller offered Columbia the rights to film exterior scenes for this picture in the newly restored colonial town. This offer saved the studio millions of dollars in set construction and location shooting. Much of the film was shot on location in Williamsburg. What was not shot there was shot on location in Northern California.

Martha Scott lauded Cary Grant's professionalism and assistance to her while shooting this film. This was Scott's second feature film (She only just had finished acting in her debut film, Our Town (1940) several months before.), and she was quite new to the acting world. Scott claimed that Grant was extremely patient, kind, and helpful to her. He made precise lighting and staging demands for her benefit.

The film's failure hit Cary Grant so hard that he refused all period roles he was offered with the he exception of The Pride and the Passion (1957), which ultimately failed to make a profit.

This film garnered Cary Grant some of the worst critical reviews of his thirty-five year acting career. In general, neither audiences nor critics found much to praise about Grant's performance. Grant did not feel the sting of failure for very long, however. 1940 proved to be a busy year for the actor, and this was only one of four films he acted in that year. The other Grant films of 1940 were: His Girl Friday (1940), My Favorite Wife (1940), and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Those films were not only profitable, but they also charmed critics and audiences and, even today, are widely felt to have stood the test of time as prime examples of classic Hollywood comedies.

Alternative Titles:

(original title)                 The Howards of Virginia
Argentina                 Pasión de libertad
Belgium (Flemish title) Howard de opstandeling
Belgium (French title) Howard le révolté
Brazil (alternative title) Flama de Liberdade
Brazil                         A Flama da Liberdade
Canada (English title) The Howards of Virginia
Finland                         Virginialaisia
France (DVD title)         Howard le révolté
Italy                                 Quelli della Virginia
Japan (Japanese title) 明日への戦ひ
Mexico                         Pasión de libertad
Poland                         Howardowie z Wirginii
Portugal                         Paixão da Liberdade
Romania                          Familia Howard din Virginia
Soviet Union (Russian title) Ховарды из Вирджинии
Spain                         Pasión de libertad
Sweden                         En hjälte i Virginia
UK                                 The Tree of Liberty
USA (working title) The Tree of Liberty
USA                         The Howards of Virginia
Uruguay (original subtitled version) Pasión de libertad
Venezuela                 El árbol de la libertad


Directed by Frank Lloyd.
Produced and distributed by Columbia.
Running time: 117 minutes..

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

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