Click above to watch the content of this web site in video form. After watching the eighty-six minutes in the playlist (which consists of six segments), you will have seen all of the material on this site, except for a small number of items identified in the text portion of the web site as “Web Bonus Content and the contents of the Appendices page.”

[Following playback of the six-part series, the playlist will continue with a seventh video (running under two minutes) which is not part of the series but supplements one aspect of it.]

Those who prefer to read rather than listen to the narration in the video, can get the same facts by remaining on this page and continuing with the succeeding pages. Visitors who experience the content in this way won’t miss the film clips interspersed within the full video, because the film clips have been isolated for one-subject playback and have been placed between the same text passages as where the clips appear in the full video.

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Actors Chosen for Ayn Rand Roles

This web site is divided into four main pages plus a page of appendices.
Use this navigation pane to go directly to a particular page.

1. • Ayn Rand’s Early Hollywood Years
    • “Night of January 16th” under its original Broadway producer . . . . current page
2. • “Night of January 16th” as a movie
    • We the Living adapted for Broadway . . . . go there
3. • Ayn Rand returns triumphantly to Hollywood . . . . go there
4. • Other “Night of January 16th” productions
    • Juries and Jurors
    • Cast ideas for Rand’s Magnum Opus . . . . go there
Appendices. Contents include: the proper title for “Night of January 16th,”
        Ayn Rand’s cast choices for Atlas Shrugged,
        and further information about the actors discussed in the main pages . . . . go there


Ayn Rand’s Early Hollywood Years

If you are a fan of Ayn Rand’s writings, you likely know that she wrote the screenplay for The Fountainhead, adapted from her novel, made into a movie with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. If you’re a bigger fan, you likely know that she wrote the screenplay for Love Letters, based on another writer’s novel, and that it was made into a movie with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. And if you’re still more knowledgeable, you likely know about the movie You Came Along, where she and another screenwriter both received credit, the other writer having originated the story, and with the lead roles played by Lizabeth Scott and Robert Cummings, with two other actors in significant roles.

[In the video counterpart of this web page, the above text is narrated over shots of the press books of these three movies. Those shots are omitted here; aside from these shots, virtually all of the visual material from the video is incorporated into these web pages.]

You may also know about a two-part Italian production of We the Living filmed in 1942, and that Alida Valli and Rossano Brazzi starred in it.

images: Alida Valli and Rossano Brazzi in stills shot for Hollywood productions of the late 1940s.

There were many more actors selected to play Ayn Rand characters, actors who were never filmed performing those roles. That’s what you’ll learn about in this video (or this web site). You’ll see them perform roles which demonstrate their abilities to handle Ayn Rand stories.

Ayn Rand’s first professional sale was her story “Red Pawn” to Universal in 1932. The Los Angeles Times reported it.  There’s an error here. [In the video counterpart of this web page, animation strikes out “Paramount,” and writes over it “RKO.”]

image: Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1932, pg. A4

Two weeks later, the same newspaper reported that “Red Pawn” had been approved by the studio’s story committee. The Times reported (accurately) that the “Red Pawn” story is one of Russian political prisons.

image: Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1932, pg. 11; story reprinted Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1932, pg. A7

Variety limited its report on “Red Pawn” to it being one of two films intended for a particular star after the actress finished her current film.

image: Variety, October 11, 1932, pg. 29; Variety misspells the name of the current film: “Nagama” is a misspelling of “Nagana.”

Neither newspaper story mentions it, but Fox Film the prior year made a film about an innocent woman’s abuse by Russian officials and Russian policy, The Yellow Ticket.

images: (left) detail from an advertisement for Fox’s The YellowTicket movie, published in the Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1931;
(below) three ads which ran in newspapers 1931.

[The text below mostly describes what is seen in the next video; the text is that of the narration.]
Hollywood had realized that there was drama in events of 20th Century Russia. Tempest had been an extravagant production four years earlier, at the end of the silent-film era. The great John Barrymore had starred as a military officer in Czarist Russia who is invited by aristocrats to be a guest at a party for the wealthy. He romances a daughter of his host. The revolution comes. Scruffy proletarians, worn down by envy, rejoice in embarrassing the former aristocrats, dehumanizing them.
A scoundrel elevates himself into a leadership role of the communist regime, and uses it to decide the fate of the former aristocrats paraded before him, choosing instantly verdicts of life or death. His habit becomes throwing down his arm to pound paper with a rubber stamp indicating “death.” Barrymore has also risen to an important role, but his conscience won’t allow for his one-time betters to be treated so capriciously. He puts a stop to the “death” verdicts.

film source: film source: Tempest (1928), starring John Barrymore

Depictions of the barbarity endemic in the Soviet system had been rare during the era of silent movies, and after it remained so in the early 1930s, when Ayn Rand sold her story, which would require a small cast and modest sets.

At the end of 1932, Warner Bros. would release its own film about people caught up in the turmoil of the Soviet take-over: Scarlet Dawn.

Images: all three are from newspaper ads in 1932. The image below is a detail area of the center image.

That release was still in the future when the family who owned and ran Universal planned for their star Tala Birell to headline more films—including “Red Pawn”—after the one she was doing then: Nagana.

image: (left) Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1932, pg. A9

Universal was banking that Tala Birell would be to Universal what Greta Garbo was to M-G-M and Marlene Dietrich was to Paramount. Box-office returns from several films proved that Birell was instead what Anna Sten would be to Samuel Goldwyn.
Tala Birell convincingly portrayed women of proud European sensibilities and grim determination, as we’ll now see. We catch up with her twelve years later, and see she still played bold unyielding women.

film source: Tala Birell in The Monster Maker (1944) and Isle of Forgotten Sins (1943), the latter with Gale Sondergaard (at left during “my captain” conversation), Veda Ann Borg (“How do you get that way?”) and Betty Amann (seated with Birell)

[The following comment is stated within the video, at the point where clips from the first film give way to the second:]

In a 1943 role, she shows she could appear lighthearted and carefree—characteristics which shine through the bad dialogue.


Only two months after buying “Red Pawn,” Universal put Ayn Rand to work, likely without creative input, on a screenplay called “Black Pearl,” for which background film had already been shot in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and elsewhere in the South Seas. Where Variety says Ayn Rand was assigned to “continuity,” industry people understood it meant she would perform detail-oriented tasks such as assuring the script was properly formatted to prevent scheduling foul-ups, and prevent errors of detail from being filmed. “Black Pearl” was never made, but its story may not end there.

[The following comments accompany film footage in the video:]
The cameraman sent to the South Seas by Universal may have photographed these background shots for Universal, or he may not have. He is connected to this footage as director and co-photographer of the movie in which these shots appear, Island Captives. Kerschner’s connection to both films suggests that Kerschner, with no previous director credits, was able to get Island Captives made by low-budget production company Falcon Pictures after securing a deal whereby Universal sold at modest cost the right to use the scenery footage which had gone unused the past five years.

images: Variety, November 29, 1932, pg. 12;
Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1932, pg. A5;
Los Angeles Times, November 28, 1932, pg. A9

Notes: see the appendices page for more about what “continuity” meant in the movie industry circa 1932.

Web Bonus Content 1937 was the first full year of Universal under the ownership and operation of Standard Capital Corporation, the Laemmle family having lost control in 1936 when it could not repay its loans when due. New heads of film studios have, throughout the history of the film industry, disparaged the projects spearheaded by the previous management, so the “New Universal” may have been willing to make a deal with Kerschner which the Laemmles had been loath to. (The story of Universal’s upheaval is told in The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era, by Thomas Schatz, chapter 13, particularly pages 234-35. Statements about the possible sale of unused footage is strictly my speculation. An inquiry to the custodians Universal’s archival contracts and other documentation did not lead to an answer.)

The writers of Island Captives were not carry-overs from the Universal project, and of course they wouldn’t have had any material thought up by Ayn Rand while at Universal even if she had ever put any idea of her own there to paper, or even if the other writers wanted her ideas.

[Within the video, after an appropriate example about what is to be said, the following remark is made in the narration:]

Depictions of businessmen like these would be something Ayn Rand sought to stamp out through her writing.

film source: Island Captives (1937), with Henry Brandon (young man)

Note: The narration talks of “the writers” of Island Captives in the plural, despite only one writer being credited, on the assumption that other participants contributed to the script without credit.

Ayn Rand had not been the last to work on the script at Universal. Three weeks after her assignment to it, a new screenwriter was named, and eight months later, yet another in what Variety recognized was a project which had licked many writers.

On the same page of the trade paper as the report that a new writer was hired for “Black Pearl” eight months after Ayn Rand’s name was associated with the script, there appears an oddly-related item. Within a few years, Hollywood would cease mounting major productions with stars of John Barrymore’s magnitude depicting the evil that collectivist ideology leads to when put into practice. Key Hollywood personnel would see to that.

The name given on this page as president of the Screen Writers Guild is John Howard Lawson, who would become one of the Hollywood Ten, part of the movement of Communists in Hollywood who would use their connections and influence to get other Communists into studio contracts, and to keep anti-communists from getting writing assignments. Ayn Rand was to become a victim of the leftists’ abuse of their powers. But in 1933, Rand had a few years before the virulent Communists of the industry closed in on their political adversaries.

image: Variety, August 22, 1933, pg. 6.

Note: The August 1933 column shown in the illustration contains the comment that “Black Pearl” had “licked many scribes [writers]”; the project was previously reported to be one on which “a dozen writers have worked without success” (Variety, December 20, 1932, pg. 28), when Dale Van Every assigned as writer.

Web Bonus Content Discussing her experiences in Hollywood before and after her 1947 testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Ayn Rand said in 1976, “The communists work[ed] their way into every position of influence, and so the friendly witnesses [those who testified in 1947 against communists] suffered for their testimony, in one way or another. That’s never mentioned.” Long before that testimony, her speaking out against “Reds” had earned her opponents in Hollywood. She said, “I was a victim for many years, before The Fountainhead was published, when I couldn’t find work in Hollywood anywhere. But then The Fountainhead was too much for them; they couldn’t stop employers from hiring me after that. Gary Cooper, a very good witness against the communists, had a name. But those who didn’t have a name or a contract—younger junior writers, and some prominent freelance writers—were out of work shortly after the hearings. Within a year, most of them were not working. … The worst cast that I know of was the junior writer Fred Niblo Jr. (son of the famous silent film director Fred Niblo). Within a year after appearing at the hearings, he had to work at Lockhead in an airplane factory.” Although Ayn Rand never worked under a new screenwriting contract after her testimony, she was careful not to state she was among those who unwillingly “did not remain working in Hollywood. I am not a victim in this respect, because I had a long-term contract, which I later canceled to finish Atlas Shrugged.”
   Ayn Rand in the question-and-answer session of “The Philosophy of Objectivism,” lecture six (1976), as it appears in Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q&A, edited by Robert Mayhew (New American Library, 2005), pgs. 83-85. I have not checked the edited version word-for-word with the original recording, but I did compare Mayhew’s version with my copious notes from when I listened to that lecture, and found no conflict in content.
   Similar remarks made by Ayn Rand at the Ford Hall Forum in 1967 appear in Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood, by Robert Mayhew (Scarecrow, 2005), pgs. 91-92.

First Ayn Rand sold “Red Pawn,” and less than a year later she made a second sale: “Penthouse Legend,” which you may know only by its best-known title, “Night of January 16th.”

Note: RKO used the studio name RKO Radio, hence the story using “Radio” to refer to the studio.

image: Weekly Variety, July 25, 1933, pg. 7

Rising MGM star Myrna Loy was planned to be the headliner of “Penthouse Legend.”

Ayn Rand wasn’t yet known, hence the typo. [In the video, after time to allow viewers to notice “Ayan Rand,” an “X” appears over the lowercase “a” in “Ayan.”]

image: Hollywood Reporter, August 4, 1933, pg. 4

Myrna Loy at this time was playing man-stealer roles, aggressive, only partially concealing it with feminine allure.

film source: Myrna Loy in The Animal Kingdom (1932) with Leslie Howard, and Vanity Fair (1932)

“Red Pawn” was poised for production again in the summer of 1934. As reported here, “Red Pawn” was one of two prospective films for Marlene Dietrich.

This newspaper item from the Hartford Courant—of Hartford, Connecticut, no less—reported Ayn Rand’s name as writer.

Paramount was Ayn Rand’s employer this time, Paramount being Marlene Dietrich’s studio and the new owner of the “Red Pawn” property after Universal traded it while phasing out Tala Birell films.

images: (top) Chicago Tribune, June 27, 1934, pg. 16;
(bottom left) Marlene Dietrich;
(bottom right) Hartford Courant, July 8, 1934, pg. A5

Paramount put Ayn Rand on salary to write, but unlike Universal, did not keep her around to shape another screenplay once the “Red Pawn” assignment was finished. (Once again, Miss Rand’s name was misspelled, with “e” in “Ayne.”)

image: Variety, July 28, 1934, pg. 3

Notes: Readers wanting to know more about “Red Pawn” should keep in mind that Ayn Rand first wrote it as a story synopsis, which she then expanded into a screenplay. The synopsis, running fifty-eight or seventy-four pages in print (depending on type size of the edition), is published in The Early Ayn Rand: a Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction, edited by Leonard Peikoff (New American Library, 1984; revised edition (adding one story), 2005). The screenplay itself remains unpublished. Paramount continues to own the right to produce a movie from the screenplay.
     Additional background on the efforts to bring “Red Pawn” to screen are discussed by Jena Trammell in Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living”, edited by Robert Mayhew (Lexington Books, 2004/2012), chapter 11 (first edition), chapter 12 (second edition).

The first professional performance of an Ayn Rand work occurred when Ayn Rand’s play “Woman on Trial” was presented on stage in a Hollywood live theater.

image: Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1934, pg. 19

“Woman on Trial” was a new title for “Penthouse Legend.” In between having the titles “Penthouse Legend” and “Woman on Trial,” the play had one more, a nearly-meaningless one at that. (In the video counterpart to this web site, “The Verdict” is highlighted on the newspaper image at this point.) Events in the play were suggested by the suicide of industrialist Ivar Kreuger in March 1932.

image: (left) Variety, October 11, 1934, pg. 3;

image: (left) Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1934, pg. 11

The suicide of Kreuger had been dramatized previously in a movie titled The Match King, which Warner Bros. rushed to the screen before 1932 was out. Its story is much different from that of Ayn Rand’s play.
Four movie studios were reading Ayn Rand’s play within a week of the play premiering. Warners Bros. was one of four; though Warner had released The Match King less than two years earlier, Ayn Rand’s script would have demonstrated to them that her story was sufficiently different was Warners’ 1932 dramatization of Kreuger that a second movie would be marketable.

image: Variety, October 29, 1934, pg. 1

[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Barbara Bedford had been a leading lady in silent films, such as this one from 1925, before she became the first actress to play an Ayn Rand heroine before an audience, nine years after this movie, in that Hollywood stage production of “Woman on Trial.”

Barbara Bedford had minor parts in insignificant sound films, such as the one we’ll see and hear next, from the same year as “Woman on Trial” (where she portrayed Karen Andre, the woman lead part in the play).

film source: Barbara Bedford in Tumbleweeds (1925), with William S. Hart, and Tomorrow’s Youth (1934)

The actor playing the butler is E.E. Clive, who produced “Woman on Trial,” ran the theater, and was a supporting player in major and minor films. Here he explains finding a body.

film source: E.E. Clive in The Dark Hour (1936), with Ray Walker (detective) and Berton Churchill (portly consultant)


“Night of January 16th” under
its original Broadway producer

A New York production beckoned after the live Hollywood production of “Woman on Trial” ended its short run. Producer Al H. Woods selected yet another title for what had been “Woman on Trial”: “The Night of January 16,” which with slight change became its best-known title thereafter.

The leading lady named in the story—Wera Engels—had done several low-budget films for faltering Hollywood studios, but nothing significant there.

image: The New York Times, January 8, 1935, pg. 27

Note: Clarification as to whether the title of the play is properly “The Night of January 16” or “Night of January 16th” is discussed in an appendix to this site.

[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Here’s Wera Engels in 1935.

—Engels could alternate between playing guilty and innocent—or hard-to-tell.

—It was important in “Night of January 16” that the lead actress play her role so that the audience couldn’t tell whether she was innocent or guilty, because at each performance a jury drawn from the audience determined her verdict.

film source: Wera Engels in Hong Kong Nights (1935) (shots of fear in bed), Sweepstake Annie (1935) (with Ivan Lebedeff playing “dirty double-crossing gigolo”), and Fugitive Road (1934). Excerpts appear in this order, after which additional excerpts appear from Hong Kong Nights (with Cornelius Keefe declaring “I’ve gone strait”), Sweepstake Annie (with Tom Brown), and Hong Kong Nights. The points at which one film gives way to the next are apparent through changes in quality of picture (contrast, sharpness, clarity) and sound (static, clarity).

Web Bonus Content The prospect of Wera Engels playing an Ayn Rand heroine did not end after Woods began considering other actresses for the female lead in Night of January 16th. In 1937, Engels expressed interest in playing the lead in Ayn Rand’s play Ideal, which Rand completed in 1934 and which would not be performed in Rand’s lifetime. Engels at first contemplated starring in a film version which would be shot in German, French and English editions, to be made by a German producer with whom Engels was in a romance. In 1938, Engels again sought film rights, this time for a French version under producer Marcel L’Herbier. Ayn Rand’s agent, Ann Watkins, had discouraged any contract for a film, aware that a chance for a Broadway production would be sundered by an imminent film. Ayn Rand wrote in a March 22, 1938, letter to Engels that Rand had just learned of the possible Engels/L’Herbier film, that Rand “would like to go to France and do the screen adaptation,” and that the “story was really intended for you.”

   Circa 1939, Mary Pickford — retired from screen acting but active as a producer and financier — considered arranging for the full funding of production of Ideal with Engels as the star. This did not occur, and soon the outbreak of World War II made impractible a project with both German and American participants. Though she had been a star in many countries, Wera Engels made no films after this, not even for a single-country market. Engels did, however, marry a friend of Ayn Rand: actor Ivan Lebedeff.

(Information herein from a presentation by Shoshana Milgram, on July 7, 2015, at Objectivist Summer Conference 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. See also Letters of Ayn Rand, pgs. 41, 43.)

Before the month of January 1935 had ended, Al Woods changed the title of the play again, though the change was reversed soon enough. (The accompanying illustration shows the title “The Night Is Young.”)

Woods announced several interesting casting choices, actors whose Hollywood successes were considerable achievements.

This news story makes it appear Louis Calhern was and was not set for the male lead.

image: The New York Times, January 30, 1935, pg. 16

Note: Considering that Edmund Breese is also named in this story, and that Breese would portray the prosecuting attorney in the production that ultimately graced the stage, it can be surmised that Calhern was intended for the other significant male role: gangster “Guts” Regan. Additional comments about Breese appear below.


[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Louis Calhern could play brainy gangster, tough businessman, or a combination thereof, as here (the year prior to Woods’s casting efforts).

film source: Louis Calhern in The World Gone Mad (1933), with Richard Tucker

[The newspaper passage in the illustration above mentions Barbara Stanwyck, Kay Francis, and Ann Harding as desirable for the lead woman role. These three actresses are discussed immediately below.]


[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Those fast fingers belong to Barbara Stanwyck, coordinating body and brain, a quick mind which you’ll next see propose a news series to her editor (in a 1941 scene).

film source: Barbara Stanwyck in Meet John Doe (1941), with James Gleason


[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Kay Francis often embodied a world-weary demeanor.

Nonetheless, her roles were often intelligent, accomplished, romantic.

She was not a funny person, but could give in to laughter.

film source: Kay Francis in Warner Bros. out-take reels “Breakdowns of 1937,” “Breakdowns of 1938,” and “Breakdowns of 1939,” containing out-takes shot for but not used in Give Me Your Heart (“lots of reasons”), First Lady (with Louise Fazenda), and My Bill (shopping spree)


[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

Ann Harding was more soft-spoken than the others; Harding in her roles came across as intelligent and sensitive, yet ethereal.

[At a point in the video separating scenes, the following remarks are spoken in narration:]

Considering how often Ayn Rand’s writings concern integrity, it’s worth a minute to see how Ann Harding plays a scene discussing it.

film source: Ann Harding in The Animal Kingdom (1932), with Leslie Howard

Web Bonus Content

Had Ann Harding played in Night of January 16th, she would have done so having already starred in the play which inspired Ayn Rand to devise her first theatrical drama. As demonstrated by the ad at right, Ann Harding had been in The Trial of Mary Dugan in New York and was starring in it in Chicago in 1928 (the ad is within a strip under the heading “When in Chicago Visit These Hits”); Al Woods had produced that play, too. Ayn Rand saw a production of that play in California during the early 1930s, while working on We the Living, and would not have the plot point of the industrialist’s assumed suicide until Ivar Krueger’s death in 1932.

image: Weekly Variety, October 10, 1928, pg. 59
Ayn Rand’s having seen Trial of Mary Dugan is connected to Night of January 16th in Ayn Rand: a Sense of Life, pg. 95

Al Woods’s stay in Hollywood had decided him on Ralph Morgan, a versatile actor who sometimes—

image: Boston Globe, July 28, 1935, pg. A48

—played creeps, loners, unemotional connivers, and oddballs. His characters could say something sincere and be taken to be unscrupulous. We’re seeing him in 1936, the year following Al Woods having decided on Morgan for a role in the debut of “The Night of January 16” that Morgan never played.

film source: Ralph Morgan in Yellowstone (1936)

Note: Again, owing to Edmund Breese having already been established as the actor who would play prosecutor, it can be assumed that Morgan was sought for the gangster role.

On opening night, the top cast members named in the advertising were Edmund Breese and Walter Pidgeon.

Ayn Rand wrote in the introduction to her published version of the play that Walter Pidgeon’s getting the male lead role, Guts Regan, “was my one contribution to the casting. At that time, … ”—

image: The New York Times, September 16, 1935, pg. 15

—“Pidgeon was regarded as through in Hollywood … He had been one of my favorites in the silent movies … and I had seen him on the stage in Hollywood, so I suggested that Woods go to see him in summer stock. … Woods was so impressed with Pidgeon’s performance that he signed him for Night of January 16th at once … Shortly after our opening, Pidgeon signed a long-term movie contract with M-G-M, which was his new start in pictures, the beginning of his rise to stardom. He told me later that he owed that contract to his performance as Guts Regan.”

[Ayn Rand quotation from her 1968 introduction to the book edition of the play which she authorized for publication.]

Days before the Broadway opening, the play had a Philadelphia try-out, and the reviewer for Variety who saw Pidgeon played Guts Regan there wouldn’t have been surprised by the MGM contract—he practically predicted it!

image: Variety, September 11, 1935, pg. 56

Pidgeon was still an MGM player nineteen years later, which is where we catch up with him attempting something shady.

film source: Walter Pidgeon in The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), with Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor

During the Broadway run of “The Night of January 16,” Edmund Breese played District Attorney Flint. Here he plays a judge.

[The following remark is spoken as narration in the video between the two scenes:]

In another film Breese played defense attorney.

film source: Edmund Breese in Police Court (1932), with Henry B. Walthall, and Millie (1931)

Edmund Breese came to his top-billed role in “The Night of January 16” have already performed in a drama based on the death of Ivar Kreuger, because he had appeared in Warner Bros.’ film The Match King in 1932.

Sarah Padden was in the Broadway run of “The Night of January 16” as Magda Svenson, housekeeper to Bjorn Faulkner who testifies that Karen Andre’s relationship with Faulkner was sinful. In this trial scene from a movie, Padden plays the woman of sordid relations.

[Between scenes in the video, this remark is made in the narration:]

Sarah Padden is more verbose explaining why a wife would leave her husband and children.

film source: Sarah Padden in Midnight Lady (1932)

Web Bonus Content In viewing the second clip from Midnight Lady, you may have surmised that the “notorious woman” whom Padden is talking about is herself, that the young man she is talking to is one of the children she abandoned fifteen years earlier, that she knows he is her son, whereas he does not. Some people who have seen many 1930s movies may sense that they’ve seen this story before, but may not be sure they’ve seen this particular film. They would be right to question whether this is a new film to them. Hollywood in the first decade of sound films presented many stories of mothers who left their children, faced trial, sacrificed their futures to prevent shame from visiting their children, and never divulged their maternal connection to the children is whose adulthood a reunion occurred. An appendix to this site catalogues several such films.

The role of Faulkner’s father-in-law was played by Clyde Fillmore (as John Graham Whitfield), who here shows he could bring the bombast and emphatic impertinence that the role calls for.

film source: Clyde Fillmore in The Shanghai Gesture (1942)


[The following remarks are spoken as narration during the video:]

The man is Robert Shayne.

Robert Shayne played Defense Attorney Stevens in the Broadway production. We’re seeing him eleven years after that production closed. He looks old enough here. Variety had thought him too young to play defense attorney in its 1935 review.

film source: Robert Shayne in Smash Up—The Story of a Woman (1947), with Susan Hayward

After well-known actresses were sought for the leading lady role, it went to an actress who had failed in Hollywood and now had returned to New York. She was Doris Nolan, and her stint in “The Night of January 16” brought her roles as leading lady in major-studio films beginning soon after “Night of January 16” ended its successful run.

image: Washington Post, October 27, 1936, pg. X13

In Holiday, she played sister to Katharine Hepburn, fiancee to Cary Grant.


images: The first three images are from Holiday (1938).

William Bakewell had sizeable roles as young men in Hollywood films of the early 1930s before heading east in October 1935 to replace Walter Pidgeon. The film we’re seeing him in here is from 1934.

film source: William Bakewell in The Quitter (1934), with Emma Dunn (and the back of Charley Grapewin)

A month after beginning in “Night of January 16,” a news item reported that William Bakewell was being offered the same role in the London production which would not open for several months. (Bakewell was not in the London opening night cast.)

Web Bonus Content The offer for Bakewell to repeat his role in London was reported in Daily Variety, November 30, 1935, pg. 2.
   Bakewell was also reported to be Woods’s choice to play “Guts” Regan before Bakewell became unavailable, which may have precipitated Woods to heed Ayn Rand’s insistance that Walter Pidgeon be considered. Under the headline “Bakewell East Joining Al Woods Play,” Daily Variety reported October 1, 1935, page 2, “William Bakewell planes east today to replace Walter Pidgeon in part of ‘Guts’ Regan in A. H. Woods’ ‘Night of January 16’ at the Ambassador.
   “Bakewell was originally set for part by Woods on his summer coast trip, but couldn’t make the opening due to picture commitment.” Ayn Rand in her 1968 introduction to her authorized book edition of the play, reports that when she first suggested to Woods that he consider Pidgeon, “Woods’ first reaction was: ‘Aw, he’s through,’ but he went. To give him credit, Woods … told me: ‘Ah, that guy’s great.’” As Ayn Rand was quoted earlier, Woods “signed him for ‘Night of January 16th’ at once”.
   Although Bakewell was reported to have traveled by airplane on October 1, the weekly Playbill programs for the weeks of October 7 and October 14 continue to print Walter Pidgeon’s name as the actor playing “Guts” Regan. Not until the October 21 issue does the Playbill list William Bakewell as Regan. (Bakewell may have understudied Pidgeon some of that time.)

Ayn Rand did not approve of William Bakewell in the role of Regan
   Ayn Rand objected to the casting of William Bakewell as a replacement for Walter Pidgeon. She wrote that Bakewell was “much too young and has not the required strength of personality for the character portrayed, which requires ‘guts,’ as the name of the character in the play, Guts Regan, implies. The character implies menace, aggressiveness and sinister force. I am not alone in my opinion that Mr. Bakewell does not measure up to these characteristics. The character in the play is the head of the New York underworld and Mr. Bakewell can not at his age and with his appearance measure up to that type of man. I am not unreasonable in objecting to the employment of Mr. Bakewell.” (letter by Ayn Rand dated October 14, 1935, in Letters of Ayn Rand, pages 22-23) The appearance of Bakewell in the clips shown here — from a film of merely a year prior — bears out Miss Rand’s concerns. The brief moment of his character imploring that papers be signed, is the nearest to menace his performance comes in that role.


“Night of January 16” was still on Broadway six months after its premiere. This ad appeared five months after the premiere.

image: The New York Times, February 11, 1936, pg. 19

Edmund Breese and Sarah Padden were signed for a run in Boston which was advertised as presenting “Edmund Breese and the original cast.” Walter Pidgeon and Doris Nolan had gone to make movies, but the Boston cast list heavily matches the Broadway roster.

image: Boston Globe, March 29, 1936, pg. A53

When the Boston Globe reviewed the opening performance, the report stated that Edmund Breese had died and that his replacement, after “short rehearsal,” had succeeded in what the newspaper recognized was a “lengthy” role with “exacting demands.” That replacement was John Litel, and we can gauge his ability to play a district attorney by seeing his performance as an attorney three years later.

image: Boston Globe, April 13, 1936, pg. 9

film source: John Litel in Nancy Drew, Reporter (1939), with Bonita Granville

Productions were mounted by other professional theatrical companies. In San Francisco, the opening night was December 30, 1935, which made New Year’s Eve the second night. [One of the ads here is for that second night, and its wording refers to New Year’s Eve.]

image: The Best Plays of 1935-36, and the Year Book of the Drama in America, edited by Burns Mantle (Arno Press, a New York Times Company, 1975), page 23. (The red line separates text which appeared in different parts of the page.)

Note: As the illustration from the The Best Plays of 1935-36 shows, Woods was a participant in the mounting of the San Francisco production. For this reason, the San Francisco production is discussed here rather than in the section devoted to other revivals. The Hollywood production at the El Capitan theater in 1936, using the five principal actors of the San Francisco production and mounted on the heels of the San Francisco engagement, is likewise categorized under the heading of Woods-involved productions rather than relegated to the section on revivals.
   The Dec. 30, 1935, ad (shown below right) names five actors in significant roles. Each of these performers is discussed in the following panels.

image: San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 1935

image: San Francisco Chronicle, December 30, 1935, pg. 9

Edwin Maxwell played the prosecuting attorney in the first San Francisco production of “Night of January 16.”

We see him on the right in a film shot three years later.

film source: Edwin Maxwell in His Girl Friday (1940), with Gene Lockhart

Variety said Herbert Rawlinson was “a capable defense counsel” (when it reviewed Rawlinson in a subsequent “Night of January 16” performance), and the San Francisco Chronicle noted Rawlinson’s “poise and self-assurance.”

film source: Herbert Rawlinson in Flying Wild (1941), with Bobby Jordan (sitting) and Eugene Francis (standing)

Citations: The Variety statement about Rawlinson being “a capable defense counsel” is based on Rawlinson’s performance the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, review published Daily Variety, March 2, 1936, pg. 2; the remark about Rawlinson’s “poise and self-assurance” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 1935.

John Gallaudet is in the center in the first shot and the next; he played “‘Guts’ Regan” in the San Francisco production of “Night of January 16.”

film source: John Gallaudet in The Devil’s Party (1938), with Victor McLaglen (as Marty)

Charlotte Wynters in the San Francisco production played Bjorn Faulkner’s wife, a role which would have to be played so that audiences might or might not believe testimony that Faulkner loved a woman other than her. This movie was released three years later.

film source: Charlotte Wynters in The Renegade Trail (1939)


image: Charlotte Wynters in Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1936, pg. 7

The leading lady in San Francisco was Nedda Harrigan. The San Francisco Chronicle said she “remained proud, serene, almost haughty, bringing out at the same time her inner emotional tension.”

image: San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 1935, pg. D1

Note: the above comment that Harrigan “remained proud, …” appeared San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 1935.

Harrigan, Edwin Maxwell, Herbert Rawlinson, John Gallaudet, and Charlotte Wynters retained their same five roles when the play moved from San Francisco to Hollywood, where it opened March 1st, 1936, at the El Capitan theater.

image: Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1936, pg. 17

You are seeing the cast list of the original London production, which opened September 1936.

The name Don Beddoe turns up as consistently working on Broadway 1929 to 1935, and he began a Hollywood career in 1938 playing small roles for the next several decades. The Don Beddoe of Broadway and Hollywood was also the Don Beddoe who acted in England 1936-1937. The program for the London production of “Night of January 16”—which you see here—reports that he was American and had been appearing on Broadway. Beddoe never returned to England to work; four major British newspapers don’t report any Don Beddoe acting there the dozen years before 1936 nor the dozen years after 1937.

image: (right) The Times (London), September 30, 1936, pg. 10


image: Don Beddoe credits as listed in the program for the London production

We see him in the 1950 Hollywood film of Cyrano de Bergerac.

film source: Don Beddoe in Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), with José Ferrer


Web Bonus Content The story shown (at right) takes for granted that Woods had authority to contract for talent to work in the London production. This item appeared in Daily Variety, August 8, 1936, on page 2. Hugh Marlowe is not named among the actors in the cast list for the London opening night as printed in the London Times, shown above. Hugh Marlowe has movie credits in 1937, and twelve years later had a substantial supporting role (sixth-billed) in the 1950 Oscar Best Picture winner All About Eve. Perhaps more typical of his roles were his science-minded characters in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).


This series continues on the next page.



New content © 2013, 2016 David P. Hayes

In the video counterpart to this web site, and in the video portions of the site, the Ayn Rand quotations are spoken by Susan Crawford.