The Eve of St. Mark
|The Eve of St. Mark|
Original Broadway cast poster
|Directed by||Lem Ward|
The Eve of St Mark is a 1942 play by Maxwell Anderson set during World War II. It later became a 1944 film by 20th Century Fox that featured some of the same actors who repeated their roles in the film. The title is derived from the legend of St Mark's Eve and the title of an uncompleted 1819 poem by John Keats.
Quizz West is conscripted into the United States Army in late 1940. Prior to being shipped out first to San Francisco, then the Philippines, Quizz and his hometown girlfriend Janet discuss their future plans.
When America enters the war Quizz and his friends are manning a coastal artillery gun against overwhelming odds. Quizz communicates with his mother and Janet through dreams, where he asks them whether he and his friends should stay with their gun to sacrifice themselves by covering the withdrawing American troops or leave by boat for a chance of survival.
Anderson dedicated the play to his nephew Sgt. Lee Chambers who was killed in an accident in the military. When researching the contemporary US Army for the play at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Anderson was assigned a soldier from the Army’s public relations named Marion Hargrove. The two became friends with Anderson basing one of the characters in the play, Pvt. Francis Marion on him and recommending Hargrove’s stories of army life to his publisher. When published as See Here, Private Hargrove, Anderson wrote a forward to the book.
The play opened on October 7, 1942, and closed June 26, 1943, after 307 performances.
A London stage version was directed by Gabriel Pascal with many of the roles played by American servicemen posted in England. One of the soldiers in the play was John Sweet playing Pvt. Marion  who Michael Powell chose for the lead in his A Canterbury Tale.
Several Hollywood motion picture companies bid on the film with 20th Century Fox obtaining the rights for $300,000. The studio agreed not to release the film before January 1944 when the play was expected to finish. The film was directed by John M. Stahl with Michael O'Shea, Stanley Prager, George Matthews, Joann Dolan, Joven E. Rola and Toni Favor repeating their original stage roles in the film. The film featured Anne Baxter, Harry Morgan and Vincent Price as Pvt. Marion.
The film version avoided censorship problems with some of the sexual references and language with a modified screenplay. The film featured the original ending of the play that was overwhelmingly rejected by the war weary test screening audience. A new ending giving hope to those who had loved ones in the Philippines was filmed.
The film cost $1.4 million.
Screenwriter George Seaton recalled that he was unable to meet with the director before or during the filming and was unsatisfied with the end result. Though Seaton’s screenplay remained intact, Stahl had emphasised different things then Seaton had intended with Stahl recommending that Seaton become a director himself.
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- p.135 Goldstein, Richard Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II Simon and Schuster, 13/04/2010
- p.48 Conant, Jennet The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington Simon and Schuster, 09/09/2008
- p.25 Hunter, Jefferson English Filming, English Writing Indiana University Press, 15/03/2010
- HOLLYWOOD JOTTINGS: No Strings on Paramount's Purse -- Metro's Record Budget for Western -- Addenda By FRED STANLEYHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Sep 1943: X3.
- p.134 Stempel, Tom Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film Syracuse University Press, 01/09/2000