The Seventh Veil

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The Seventh Veil
Seventh Veil.jpeg
The Seventh Veil film poster
Directed by Compton Bennett
Produced by Sydney Box
Written by Sydney Box
Muriel Box
Starring James Mason
Music by Benjamin Frankel
Cinematography Reginald Wyer
Edited by Gordon Hales
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Release dates
18 October 1945 (UK)
15 February 1946 (US)
DVD 2012 (UK)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £92,000[1]
Box office £2 million (by Feb 1948)[1]

The Seventh Veil is a 1945 British melodrama film made by Ortus Films (a company established by producer Sydney Box) and released through General Film Distributors in the UK and Universal Pictures in the United States.


Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd) is a silent, suicidal mental patient under the care of Dr. Larsen (Herbert Lom). Via hypnosis, Larsen leads her to describe her life history so he can investigate the events that brought her to attempt suicide. The film largely consists of a series of flashbacks in which Francesca talks about her life, removing successive "veils" to recover memories.

Only her second cousin and guardian, Nicholas (James Mason), a crippled musician, is interested in her. Nicholas, though, is a bitter man, faintly jealous of her talent and very misogynistic because of his relationship with his mother. However, he is a brilliant music teacher who encourages Francesca to excel, but also to avoid all emotional entanglements. At the Royal College of Music, Peter (Hugh McDermott), an American studying in London, becomes romantically interested in Francesca. Although she is initially unresponsive, Francesca and Peter become engaged, but she has not yet reached her majority (then 21) and Nicholas withholds his consent. He insists they leave for Paris in the morning; she completes her education, and begins her career on the continent.

Years pass. Nicholas and Francesca return to Britain when she is invited to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, but she discovers Peter has married someone else. An artist, Maxwell Leyden (Albert Lieven), is invited by Nicholas to paint her portrait; they soon fall in love and agree to live together. Still apparently her guardian, Nicholas becomes angry at the news and strikes her hands with his cane while she plays. She flees from him, but while with Max, is involved in a serious car accident and suffers burns to her hands. Francesca becomes convinced she will never play again.

After therapy — and now cured, according to Dr Larsen — Francesca finds that Nicholas is her real love rather than Peter (now divorced) or Max.


The film score was written by Benjamin Frankel (credited as Ben Frankel) with original piano works by Chopin, Mozart, and Beethoven, as well as parts of the Grieg and Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concertos.

Eileen Joyce, whose name does not appear in the credits, was the pianist who substituted for Todd on the soundtrack. She also made a short film for Todd to practise to, and even coached Todd personally in her arm movements. It is Joyce's hands that are seen in all the close-ups.[2]


Filmed on a relatively low budget of under £100,000,[3] the film was the biggest British box-office success of its year. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival[4] and won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (for Sydney and Muriel Box) in 1947. The film has the 10th top audience of all films, 17.9 million, placing it above most modern box-office successes.

In 1951 Ann Todd, Herbert Lom and Leo Genn appeared in a stage adaptation in London.

In 2004 the British Film Institute compiled a list of the 100 biggest UK cinematic hits of all time based on audience figures, as opposed to gross takings. The Seventh Veil placed 10th in this list[5] with an estimated attendance of 17.9 million people.[6]




  1. ^ a b Sarah Street, Transatlantic Crossings: British Feature Films in the USA, Continuum, 2002 p 114
  2. ^ Richard Davis, Eileen Joyce: A Portrait, p. 120
  3. ^ Michael Brooke. "Seventh Veil, The (1945)". BFI Screenonline. 
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Blood and Fire". Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Gone with the Wind tops film list". BBC News Online. 28 November 2004. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 
  6. ^ James, Nick. "Everything you knew about cinema is probably wrong; BFI releases definitive list of the top 100 most-seen films". Reel Classics. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 


  • The Great British Films, pp 88–90, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X

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