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Forever Amber. 1947. USA. Directed by Otto Preminger. Written by Philip Dunne, Ring Lardner, Jr., Jerome Cady, from the novel by Kathleen Winsor. With Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, Richard Greene, George Sanders. DCP. 138 min.
The studios were fighting over the screen rights to Kathleen Winsor’s scandalous novel, about a farmer’s daughter who becomes the most notorious courtesan of the court of Charles II, even before the book was released in 1944 (even though Joseph Breen of the Production Code office had peremptorily judged it “utterly and completely unacceptable”). Fox paid $200,000 for the rights, tying the record for the period, and sent it into production under John Stahl’s direction with the studio’s new discovery, Peggy Cummins, in the lead—though after a month of filming it became clear that the 19-year-old Cummins was uncomfortably young for the role. Filming was resumed with Otto Preminger directing and studio stalwart Linda Darnell in the lead, yet what should have been Darnell’s Scarlett O’Hara moment failed to register with the press or public. The film is nonetheless an impressive example of the Hollywood production machine at work, shortly before television would permanently undermine its economics.