Saturday, March 14, 2015

Her Sister's Secret (1946) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

One of the most interesting films I saw last year at the TCM Classic Film Festival was HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946), starring Nancy Coleman and Margaret Lindsay. I reviewed the movie here.

I had the wonderful opportunity to see the film again today as part of the top half of a double bill at the UCLA Festival of Preservation. I was even more impressed with the movie the second time around, as it is beautifully and thoughtfully made in every respect.

Readers can learn more about the film in a perceptive review by Moira Finnie at Silver Screen Oasis.

One of the really nice things which occurred as a result of writing about the movie last year was the chance for me to connect on a personal level with Winston Severn, who at just three years of age appeared in the movie as Billy Jr. Winston has a number of scenes and is wonderfully natural in the film; my favorite moment is when he and Margaret Lindsay sit on a bed while she's on the phone and he seems to very spontaneously say, "I want to dial!"

Winston is seen in this still with the film's leading ladies, Nancy Coleman and Margaret Lindsay.

Very happily Winston and several members of his family were able to attend today's screening and enjoy seeing him as a child in an absolutely gorgeous restored print.

After the film the UCLA Film and Television Archive director, Jan-Christopher Horak, and director Edgar Ulmer's daughter, Arianne Ulmer Cipes, shared thoughts on the film and its restoration. The movie had been made for about a million dollars and was generally well-received when it was first released.

Although Producers Releasing Corporation, the studio which made the film, is long gone, UCLA discovered a 35mm negative amidst its collection of 350,000 films and restored it.

Thanks to a question from the audience, Winston was able to share some of his memories, which included the smell of the soundstage, the extreme heat in front of the set lights, and being afraid of the tractor which was being used to move equipment around inside the soundstage.

After the screening Winston also told me he recalls playing with the ball in the park scene, and he remembers Regis Toomey, who plays his father.

Winston is from a large family of child actors -- check out a story in the March 10, 1947 edition of LIFE Magazine -- and he told me that making the film seemed very natural to him, as that was what everyone in the family did. He was very used to his siblings rehearsing their parts at home; they would all go to movie sets extremely well-prepared!

I hope to chat with Winston about his movie-making memories and family history at greater length in the future and share some of that information here. To give an idea of just a couple of the films his siblings were in, Christopher played Toby Miniver in the Best Picture of 1942, MRS. MINIVER. He's seen here with Greer Garson:

That same year William Severn played Peter in a touching story about orphans of the London Blitz, JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942). Here he is with Robert Young, Laraine Day, and Margaret O'Brien:

Raymond Severn appeared with Charles Laughton in THE SUSPECT (1944), which incidentally will be shown at the Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood on April 9th. (Update: Here is my account of seeing THE SUSPECT, along with more info on the Severn family!)

After today's screening I took this photo of Winston and his family; he's immediately flanked by his brother Chris and his wife Jan. On the far left is William (Bill) Severn's son Bill, and Bill's daughter Robin Severn Fischette is on the right.

What a pleasure to meet everyone! A very special screening in every way.

I only saw one movie at the festival today, due to other plans, but I expect to return to the festival one more time on Monday evening for a double bill of THE BIG BROADCAST (1932) and THE MILKY WAY (1936)


Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura
Sounds like a really nice occasion and a good movie.
I am interested to note your comments that the film was thoughtfully and well-made. Producers Releasing Corporation was usually known as a maker of VERY cheaply-made series westerns starring such as Buster Crabbe or Lash LaRue. Around 1946, when this film was made though, they did attempt to raise their game and produced some of the first series westerns in color, starring Eddie Dean. Quality was pretty-well same old PRC but they looked nice and Eddie possessed one of the finest singing voices you will ever hear. PRC was gone within 2-3 years though.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Yes, what a neat experience for him and family and for you as a movie fan to have the contact. Must watch this movie soon since you so highly recommend it!

12:22 PM  

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