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  • Writer's pictureHenry K. Miller

Monday 8 May

DeMille’s Forbidden Fruit opens in London.

In March 1939, while passing through New York on his way to Hollywood, Hitchcock give reporters a list of his ten favourite films, first reprinted in Donald Spoto’s biography. It is a strange assortment, possibly not to be taken wholly seriously, possibly of some deeply personal significance we have yet to discover. The list includes only one non-American film, E. A. Dupont’s Variety (1925), and only one sound film, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), both among the better-known titles. Probably the most ‘canonical’ choice is Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), followed by Sternberg’s The Last Command (1928). Two others are less well-known films by major directors: Rex Ingram’s Scaramouche and Tourneur’s The Isle of Lost Ships, both from 1923.

Of the remaining four, two are directed by John S. Robertson: Sentimental Tommy (1921), adapted from James Barrie by Josephine Lovett, the oldest film on the list, and The Enchanted Cottage (1924), also adapted by Josephine Lovett, from Arthur Wing Pinero. The other two were the work of Cecil B. DeMille.

Forbidden Fruit, written by Jeanie Macpherson, had opened in the US in early 1921, and came out to little or no fanfare in London more than a year later. DeMille himself gave it less than half a sentence in his autobiography: ‘a rather slighter story with a Cinderella theme’, slighter that is than Something to Think About, which was still not his ‘principal production’ that year. Walter Wanger claimed that it was the first film of DeMille’s to have benefitted from his advice – it was made during his brief spell at Famous Players-Lasky before coming to England.

It did have some admirers: Robert E. Sherwood, sending up DeMille’s tendency to make films about multi-millionaires, wrote that ‘DeMille, for once, has had the sense to subordinate the sex appeal and pay a little attention to the story’. Still, it is a mystery why Hitchcock named it his fourth favourite film of all time. It was not in cinemas for long, and it is doubtful he had seen it since it opened.


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