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The White Cliffs of Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover(1944)


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The working title of this film was The White Cliffs. The opening credits include the following written quotation from Alice Duer Miller's poem The White Cliffs: "I have loved England,/dearly and deeply,/Since that first morning,/shining and pure,/The white cliffs of Dover, I saw rising steeply/Out of the sea that once made her secure./I had no thought then of husband or lover,/I was a traveler, the guest of a week;/Yet when they pointed 'the white cliffs of Dover,'/Startled I found there were tears on my cheek." That excerpt, as well as other excerpts from Miller's poem and poetry by Robert Nathan, written in the style of The White Cliffs, are also heard in a voice-over narration, delivered intermittently by Irene Dunne as the character "Susan Ashwood." Miller's poem became a best-seller in 1942 after actress Lynn Fontaine gave a dramatic reading of it during a radio broadcast. According to a November 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item, Ronald Colman, who owned the rights to the poem, and Bette Davis announced that they wanted to star in the screen adaptation for no money and requested that all profits go to the American and British Red Cross. According to June 1942 Hollywood Reporter news items, director Clarence Brown bought the rights to the poem from Colman and initially planned to make the film independently. Although several Hollywood studios were reportedly in negotiation with Brown for the project, Brown announced on June 8, 1942 that he was making the film in England, with British financing and stars. United Artists was set as distributor at that time. In addition, Brown announced he was considering adapting the poem first as a Broadway stage play, and would finance and direct the production himself. By June 15, 1942, however, M-G-M had purchased both the screen rights to the poem and Brown's services as director of the film.
       Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: As late as December 1942, Brown was still planning to film the picture in England, but the only shots taken there were background shots of London's Piccadilly Circus and aerial shots of the Dover Cliffs, which were filmed by a British aviator. In late July 1942, Hollywood Reporter announced that Brown was contemplating launching a nationwide radio poll to find a "typical" American "boy and girl" for leading roles in the picture. Karl Freund was announced as cameraman in early May 1943, but by the time production began in late May, Robert Planck had been assigned. George Folsey, however, received onscreen credit as cameraman. Although Margaret Adden, Harold DeBecker, twins Joan and Janet Brubaker and Ronald and Harold Butterbaugh, Mary Elliott and Alex McQuoid were listed as cast members in Hollywood Reporter, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some exterior scenes were filmed at the Clarence Brown Ranch in Calabasas, CA. Proceeds from the Los Angeles opening of the film went to the volunteer Army Canteen service, according to the Hollywood Citizen-News review. The White Cliffs of Dover was announced in Hollywood Reporter as the first of three M-G-M films to be dubbed into Spanish for Latin American release, along with Bathing Beauty and Gaslight. The picture was named as the tenth most popular film of 1944 by the National Board of Review. Folsey received an Academy Award nomination in the Cinematography (Black-and-White) category. In November 1976, a benefit screening of the film was held in Hollywood, with proceeds going to the preservation and restoration of the lands and buildings along the cliffs of Dover. The song "(There'll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover," written by Nat Burton and Walter Kent and sung by popular British singer Vera Lynn, became a hit in 1942, but was not used in the film.