Louis Bromfield Film Festival

A checklist of movies attributed to Mansfield’s Hollywood storyteller

It has always been true in US popular culture that there are considerably more people who have ‘seen the movie’ than those who have ‘read the book.’

So even though Louis Bromfield is mostly known as a best-selling author of the early 20th century, he was more popularly known in his time as the storytelling man behind blockbuster movies.

From 1925 to 1956 there were 14 trendy Hollywood films that he had a hand in; and most of those carried his name prominently in the opening credits, and banked heavily on the popularity of his name in promotion and advertising.

These were high dollar major Hollywood productions based on the novels or short stories that Bromfield had already published and popularized as printed literature.

Treatments

There were 3 movies of his however, that were based on stories written by other authors.

Hollywood movies demand a certain approach to any story—a rigorous attention to laying out the sequence of scenes to gradually unveil the plot. A director can recognize the writer who instinctively understands how the story must be told.

That’s why Hollywood directors loved Louis Bromfield. He was a natural storyteller; he understood the steps required to lead a story to its powerful conclusion.

It’s called a ‘treatment.’ It is not the script: it is the outline that the script will follow.

Bromfield’s attempts at writing dialogue for film or for the stage were sadly lifeless, but his understanding of how the plot must unfold was peerless.

In 1941 Paramount paid Ernest Hemingway $150,000 for the rights to For Whom the Bells Toll; and then paid Bromfield $25,000 to adapt it for the screen writers.  Twentieth Century Fox hired him to turn Mormon history into a suitable scenario for filming of Brigham Young in 1940.

That’s why they asked him to do a treatment for Hemingway’s best seller when it was made into a movie. That’s why they asked him to read the history of the Mormons and do a treatment of how that story could be told in a film.

There is one of his treatments that is still very well known. His greatest achievement in this this stage of the film writing process is not even credited on the film, though it was has been tremendously appreciated by directors and critics alike for 80 years.

Louis Bromfield did the treatment for Bram Stoker’s novel that became the 1931 classic landmark in Hollywood filmmaking: Dracula.


These are the movies based on Bromfield stories:


Bobbed Hair

1925 Warner Brothers: with Marie Prevost, Kenneth Harlan

Based on a 1925 novel by 20 authors; Bromfield wrote Chapter 3 in the book, and shared credits on the movie.  “The point of each chapter in the book was to put the characters in such a tight predicament that the next writer would have to be exceptionally clever to get them out of it. The film that resulted from the book was fast-paced and had almost constant action.”

It is the only one of the Bromfield movies that is unavailable and considered lost.


One Heavenly Night

1930 Samuel Goldwyn: with Evelyn Laye, John Boles

Written when Bromfield was living in Hollywood under contract to MGM Studios, this story would today be called a ‘musical;’ at the time it was an ‘operetta’ intended to introduce a British singing star to the American filmgoing public. Bromfield wrote the story, and later all of the music and slapstick was grafted into the plot.


Twenty- Four Hours

1931 Paramount: with Clive Brook, Kay Francis

Based on Bromfield’s best-selling novel, Twenty-Four Hours, it was produced before the famous Hollywood ‘code’ and was considered daring for its time.

Though the novel was considered “experimental” at the time, it sold very well and introduced the popular element of gangsters and crime into Bromfield’s writings. 

The book was adapted into a Broadway play that was so well received Paramount jumped at the chance to use it with their biggest stars.


Night After Night

1932 Paramount: with Mae West, George Raft

Based on Bromfield story No. 55, collected in Here Today Gone Tomorrow, originally published in Cosmopolitan Magazine as Single Night.

This movie is famously noted as the screen debut of Mae West, who stole every scene she was in; and provided her with a line that followed her career all the way to her autobiography, “Goodness had nothing to do with it.”


A Modern Hero

1934 Warner Brothers: with Richard Barthelmas, Jean Muir

Based on Bromfield’s novel, A Modern Hero; often overlooked because of its “pre-code” morality, yet very popular at the time.


Life of Vergie Winters

1934 RKO Radio Pictures: with Ann Harding, Lon Chaney

Based on Bromfield short story The Scarlet Woman published in McClure’s Magazine 1927, winner of an O. Henry Short Story Award: collected in Awake and Rehearse as The Life of Vergie Winters.

Still shows up on classic movie channels.


Caption from Motion Picture Herald, Sep. 23, 1939 reads: “Crowds from here to way over there are jamming their way not into a bomb shelter, but into the Roxy theatre on the tenth day of Twentieth-Century Fox’s “The Rains Came.” The total attendance exceeded 250,000 on the 12th day of the run.”

The Rains Came

1939 20th Century Fox: with Tyrone Power, Myrna Loy

Academy Award 1939: Best Special Effects, based on Bromfield’s best-selling novel The Rains Came.

The film was a contender for best Movie but was up against Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. This is the movie that paid for Bromfield’s Malabar Farm.

It is one of the few movies of the 20th century that enjoyed two world premiers: one in Mansfield, and the second a week later in Los Angeles.


It All Came True

1940 Warner Bothers: with Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan

Based on Bromfield story Better Than Life, collected in It Takes All Kinds. This was the last of Bromfield’s roaring-20s gangster stories to make it to the movies; an apt role for his friend Bogart.


Johnny Come Lately

1943 United Artists: with James Cagney, Grace George

Based on Bromfield story McLeod’s Folly, collected in It Takes All Kinds, originally published serially in Cosmopolitan as You Get What You Give.

Folks in Mansfield recognized elements of Bromfield’s career as a reporter for the Richland Shield and Banner.


Mrs. Parkington

1944 MGM: with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon

Based on Bromfield novel Mrs. Parkington, this was the first novel that Bromfield sold to Hollywood before it was even written.


The Rains of Ranchipur

1955 20th Century Fox: with Lana Turner, Richard Burton

A glamorous remake of The Rains Came, with a huge budget and wide screen for a new generation of movie fans. Louis Bromfield (1896-1956) died only months after its release.


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