“I have been caught in this web of flesh — caught and tortured!”
When Death (Fredric March) decides to take a holiday-in-disguise in the home of a duke (Guy Standing), he falls in love with the girlfriend (Evelyn Venable) of the duke’s son (Kent Taylor), much to the consternation of both Standing and Taylor.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Death and Dying
- Fredric March Films
- Mistaken and Hidden Identities
- Mitchell Leisen Films
- Play Adaptation
- Star-Crossed Lovers
This stagy but atmospherically filmed adaptation of a Broadway play (itself adapted from a 1924 Italian play) was one of Paramount Studios’ top box-office successes — clearly showing audiences’ interest in the subject matter. Indeed, according to TCM’s article, director Mitchell Leisen recalled, “We had seven or eight thousand letters come in from people all over the country, saying they no longer feared death. It had been explained to them in such a way that they could understand the beauty of it.” At the heart of the story is a star-crossed romance between Death and a woman (Venable) who seems strongly in touch with forces beyond earthly nature — and naturally, there is tension over whether she will choose eternal love or mortal life. It’s all handled nicely by Leisen, DP Charles Lang, and set designer Hans Dreier, but not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fredric March as Death
- Atmospheric sets and cinematography
No, though fans of March’s work may be curious to check it out. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.