Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Forever And A Day

Gene Tierney in Dragonwyck (20th Century Fox, 1946)
"The most exciting news is that Gene Tierney is to have the lead in Forever Amber at 20th. I read the book on the way to New York. 20th will have to do a lot of censoring..." -- Louella Parsons' column, November 28, 1944

"Although the start of Forever Amber at 20th Century Fox is quite some time away, the studio's costume department has already started to work on its end of the picture, and from this source comes the information that the wardrobe for the ambitious and romantic heroine is being made to fit Gene Tierney." -- Fred Stanley, The New York Times, December 3, 1944

"Gene Tierney is practically a sure bet to play Amber in Forever Amber..." -- Sheila Graham's column, October 21, 1945

Gene Tierney in Heaven Can Wait (20th Century Fox, 1943)
"Peggy Cummins, the British babe, is the 36th tested by 20th Century Fox for the title role of the girl with the one-track mind in Forever Amber. About 60 will be tried out before a selection is made. Producer William Perlberg says he wants an unknown for the role, since the picture obviously will make the girl a star..." -- Bob Thomas' column, October 29, 1945

Peggy Cummins, 20th Century Fox makeup and hairstyle test
"Miss Peggy Cummins, 19, five feet tall, blond, delicately pretty and chalky-faced, was carrying a thick script under her arm. The title of the script was obliterated with black pencil, but Page 1 started off with (we practically had to twist her arm to get a peek) 'Amber looks into a mirror...' But Peggy would confess to nothing except that a 20th Century Fox talent scout saw her on the London stage and shipped her off, a month ago, to Hollywood for 'tests.'" -- Erskine Johnson's column, November 16, 1945

"Gene Tierney Wants Lead In Movie Forever Amber... Miss Tierney said, 'I'd dye my hair sky blue or pink to play Amber.'" -- Earl Wilson's column, December 6, 1945

Gene Tierney in A Bell For Adano (20th Century Fox, 1945)
"Am nearly as sure as death and taxes that next year at this time I won't have to be explaining to you who Peggy Cummins is because her name will be known the length and breadth of the land...As I was the first to tell my readers that Vivien Leigh was chosen as Scarlett, I'll tell you now -- Peggy will play Amber." -- Louella Parsons' column, December 30, 1945

"A blonde, Welsh-born Irish girl of 19 named Peggy Cummins will play the lead in the film version of Forever Amber...Peggy's success as the uninhibited Amber will be a tribute to her acting ability...She has a small, elfin face and appears less like Amber than Alice in Wonderland..." -- Associated Press, January 14, 1946

Peggy Cummins, 1944
"When Peggy Cummins was selected to play the title role in Forever Amber, she undoubtedly felt herself a very lucky girl...But I wonder if this young English girl is so lucky after all?...The title role in Forever Amber is a tremendous responsibility, particularly for an unknown actress. Miss Cummins will be fortunate, indeed, if the release of the film doesn't make her forever unknown." -- Jimmy Fidler's column, February 21, 1946

Peggy Cummins in the aborted version of Forever Amber (20th Century Fox, unreleased)
"20th Century Fox has suspended filming of Forever Amber, because it has 'failed to measure up to standards,' and Peggy Cummins may be out as the star of the picture..." -- United Press, May 1, 1946

"Peggy Cummins was reported to be ill at her home following the climax of one of the weirdest and most costly producing debacles in Hollywood history...It was disclosed by studio sources that, when the script is rewritten and a new start made on the picture, Miss Cummins will be replaced by another actress..." -- Harold Heffernan, North American Newspaper Alliance, May 1, 1946

"Don't count Peggy Cummins out of Forever Amber yet...'The picture will be started again in September,' she said, 'and as far as I know, I am going to play Amber.' This despite the fact that Gene Tierney, Vivien Leigh, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner and others have been rumored for the role." -- Bob Thomas' column, July 11, 1946

Gene Tierney in Dragonwyck (20th Century Fox, 1946)
Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman (United Artists,1941)
Susan Hayward in Reap the Wild Wind (Paramount, 1942)
Lana Turner in Honky Tonk (MGM, 1941)
"Linda Darnell today replaced Peggy Cummins in the title role in Forever Amber...After years of playing demure leads, [Darnell] rebelled and asked for stronger roles, even if they meant she would not get top billing. Her campaign finally resulted in her selection for the part of Amber." -- United Press, July 24, 1946

Linda Darnell in Hangover Square (20th Century Fox, 1945)
"First big picture to feel the effects of the technicians' surprise walkout would have to be, of course, none but your old friend, much-harrassed Forever Amber. This much-jinxed affair, called off after its first 35 day start with Peggy Cummins and a cost close to $500,000 may roll up a mishap record of some sort...They say Linda Darnell, with her hair all tinted blonde for Amber, is growing pretty fat while waiting around." -- Harold Heffernan, North American Newspaper Alliance, November 2, 1946

Costume test for Forever Amber (20th Century Fox, 1947)
"The troubles that have beset the filming of Forever Amber apparently aren't over. Linda Darnell, who succeeded Peggy Cummins in the title role, went to bed yesterday with a cold and a temperature of 101. The studio announced the production was off until her return." -- Associated Press, November 12, 1946

Linda Darnell in Forever Amber (20th Century Fox, 1947)
"'I've got news for you, honey. They've taken all the sex out of Forever Amber,' Linda Darnell told me just before she boarded a plane for three month vacation...'Really, honey,' she said, '[the censors] wouldn't let me do a thing. I didn't even see a bedroom, let alone a bed. They raised the neckline of all my dresses a couple of inches. The other girls in the picture show more than I do. That shadow you'll see following me around in the picture was made by a censor.'" -- Erskine Johnson's column, May 24, 1947

Thank you, joel65913, for the suggestion!


  1. This is really interesting. I did not know a lot about the production of this movie. The comment about Peggy Cummins looking like Alice in Wonderland is interesting, considering she played the role of Alice in a stage production early in her career. Is the film good? I never saw it. Was it a box office success at the time? It kind of sounds like it was the "Fifty Shades of Grey" of the mid-1940s, with the racy subject matter and all the casting mishegas.

    1. The film is overinflated, but enjoyable (and I've always had a soft spot for Darnell). It was NOT a success, and wound up losing about a million dollars, which was an extraordinary amount at the time. It was supposed to have rocketed Darnell to superstardom, but wound up being more like an albatross around her neck. And Peggy Cummins would forever more be branded as the girl who was SUPPOSED to have played Amber -- every single bit of press I found on her, even from 20 years later, all described her in pretty much the same way: "Peggy Cummins, who was brought over from England to star in Forever Amber but was replaced by Linda Darnell..." Without fail.

    2. When Carol Burnett was growing up, Linda Darnell was a favorite of hers. I wonder why it was not a success. Maybe watering down the steaminess of the book hurt it at the box office. But the setback of having to do so much of it over after Peggy left could not have helped the bottom line. It seems to have not done good things for the careers of either Peggy or Linda. Maybe the other ladies who were vying for the role breathed a sigh of relief after all was said and done.

      It is telling about the passage of time in that the book and the machinations of getting the movie made were quite hot topics at the time, and yet today I think it is safe to say that both the book and the movie are pretty much forgotten. One never knows what will stand the test of time. I find it so ridiculous when reviews start coming out about a movie that is about to be released, and some silly critic calls it an "instant classic." That doesn't even make sense!

  2. They ended up with the right actress for the role. I'm a big fan of Gene's, a lovely china doll of an actress, but she was too genteel for Amber. The character even in the sanitized film version needed to have the lush sensuality that Miss Darnell possessed.

    Of the other proposed actresses, I know Vivien Leigh was offered it and turned it down flat. It wasn't really right for her anyway. Lana would have had no problem with the carnality but hers was more of the kittenish variety, at least at the time this was filmed, and she was better ulitilized in The Postman Always Rings Twice which she made while Amber was in production. Susan Hayward is an interesting possibility, one I hadn't heard before, she had a tart and piquant sexuality and certainly had the fire and coloring of the Amber of the book but I don't think she was a Fox girl quite yet and after the Peggy Cummins debacle Zanuck wanted and needed someone reliable and who could be available quickly.

    Someone who was never a contender but who came to mind while I was reading the book was Glynis Johns, an enchantress with the proper coloring, a saucy demeanor and a lot of spirit she would have worked wonderfully.

    The film did well on initial release because of the scandalous reputation of the book but because of all the backstage upheaval it had been tremendously expensive so didn't make as much as Fox had wanted. Wrongly Linda shouldered a good bit of the blame and the film which was supposed to push her into the top rank actually ended up hurting her standing at the studio.

  3. When I was a young girl, my mother gave me her copy of FA to read (my first "dirty" book!). It was a hardcover edition and the dust jacket featured Peggy Cummins in full Amber regalia. I have cursed myself many, many times over the past 40 years for not holding on to it.

  4. Wonderful photos. I found your page while researching Peggy Cummins, who is a second cousin of my dad, although they have never met. I don't think she ever had any contact with her father's side of the family.