LEST WE FORGET THE HORRORS
December 4, 2002
Trivia For Swords Across England
- Nominated for an Oscar for best costume design, losing to the Herbert Marshall comedy, A Day at the Brokerage (1936).
- Producer Gordon Byron purchased the rights after overhearing author Howard Firling recount the plot to Langdon Keen and Gloria Swanson at a wrap party for Fresh Out of College (1936), a Billy Pismal two-reeler now lost. Byron, presuming the book to be complete, offered Firling a check for $20,000 on the spot. Firling accepted. A year later, halfway through the completion of Perrinford Grange, the novel on which this film is based, Firling was incapacitated in the car accident that would leave him comatose for two years. Byron called in Zelda Fitzgerald to complete Firling’s manuscript. Fitzgerald delivered the book in seven months, changing the title to Lie Down in Green Pastures and adding the subplot about Mandy and Eustace. Fitzgerald declined to adapt the novel into a screenplay. That task fell to Marc Connelly, who wrote the screenplay in three weeks.
- Future political-activist Helen Caldicott was an extra in the banquet scene, where she may be glimpsed handing a wine sack to Alan Napier.
- Wary of piracy, director Raphael Zmudis personally hand colored a single frame of film in each print distributed to exhibitors to identify legitimate copies. The plan backfired when word of this leaked out after a projectionist convention in Tenafly, NJ a year later. The individual frames were highly sought after by collectors until the 1950s. In 1998, one of these hand-colored frames sold for $58.00 at auction.
- The part of Mandy was offered to Jane Withers, Darla Hood, and Gloria Jean, all of whom declined. Virginia Wiedler accepted, but backed out when her mother read the script and was appalled by the brutality of Mandy’s death. The part eventually went to Mitzi Green, whose father successfully demanded that a new ending be written in which Mandy survives the attack in the leper colony and goes on to marry Eustace. According to assistant editor Murray Helpmann, this ending was shot and never used.
- Author Horace Firling was on his way to the premiere of the film when he fell out of his limousine.
- Over five gallons of fake snow were used in the filming of Robert Taylor’s close-ups in the Battle of Leith sequence before it was discovered that the prop man, rather than using painted cornflakes, used soap flakes which, under the hot studio lights, melted onto Taylor’s suit of armor, ruining the footage. The close-ups were later reshot with painted cornflakes.
- Arden Philips dubbed Jill Barnett’s singing voice for “My Love is Like a Garden (of Yellow and Blue Flowers).” In the picture’s climactic musical number, “Beyond Beyond,” Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards took the honor.
- In her two musical numbers, Mitzi Green dubbed herself!
- Three major speaking roles were cut from the script after second-unit shooting had already commenced: Eustace’s Uncle Griffin, Emily the servant girl, and Nunzio, king of the lepers.
- Myron Schneider, father of comedian Lenny Bruce, attended the premiere. He was an usher!
- The yellow and blue gardenias seen in the musical number “My Love is Like a Garden (of Yellow and Blue Gardenias)” are actually white lilies painted pink and brown. Cinematographer Jurgen Morrison claimed that in black and white, red and brown photographed more like yellow and blue than yellow and blue did in black and white and that lilies looked more like gardenias than gardenias did. (See Goofs for Swords Across England.)
- For long shots of Little Timmy, a midget was sometimes used.
- “My Love is Like a Garden (Filled with Blue and Yellow Houseplants)” took three and a half days to shoot at a cost of $17,973.58
- Costume designer Margot was originally approached to undertake the position of costume designer, but declined, saying, “Look at this script . . . you can’t sew metal, darling.”
- The Hays Office took exception to the scene in which Eustace is interrogated by the leper king, and it was cut. It is rumored a private collector possesses the only known footage of this scene.
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