Escape Me Never (1947 film)

Escape Me Never is a 1947 American melodrama film directed by Peter Godfrey and starring Errol Flynn, Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young.[3] It is the second film adaptation (the first was in 1935) of the play Escape Me Never by Margaret Kennedy, which was based on her 1930 novel The Fool in the Family. That book was a continuation of her story of the fictional Sanger family of musical geniuses introduced in The Constant Nymph, but there is a disjunct among the books and the films: The Sanger brothers are never mentioned in the 1943 film of The Constant Nymph, and their names are changed in this picture.

Escape Me Never
1947 film
Directed byPeter Godfrey
LeRoy Prinz
Produced byHenry Blanke
Written byThames Williamson
Leonore Coffee
Based onEscape Me Never
1935 play and
'The Fool of the Family
1930 novel
by Margaret Kennedy
StarringErrol Flynn
Ida Lupino
Eleanor Parker
Music byErich Wolfgang Korngold
CinematographySol Polito
Edited byClarence Kolster
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
November 7, 1947
Running time
104 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million (US rentals)[2] or $1,569,000[1]


The story takes place in Venice at the turn of the 20th century. A young composer by the name of Caryl Dubrok (Gig Young) has a love affair with wealthy English heiress, Fenella MacLean (Eleanor Parker), until her parents by mistake start believing that Caryl is living with young widow Gemma Smith (Ida Lupino) and her baby.

The MacLean family leaves Venice in a hurry and takes refuge at a safe distance up in the Dolomite mountains. It turns out that Gemma is really living with Caryl’s big brother Sebastian (Errol Flynn), who took pity on the lonely young mother and let her stay with him. Sebastian is set on helping his brother explain the misunderstanding to the MacLeans.

Caryl and Sebastian bring Gemma and her baby along on the trip into the mountains. They survive by singing in the streets for money, since both Caryl and Sebastian are aspiring composers and musicians.

When Caryl hurts his foot one day, Gemma and Sebastian sing alone in the street, and encounter a very beautiful woman whom Sebastian instantly falls for. He is unaware that it is Fenella whom he has met in the street, and starts pursuing her while Gemma goes back to Caryl.

Thanks to the inspiration Sebastian gets from Fenella's alluring beauty, he composes a music piece as the beginning of a ballet that same night. In the morning Gemma finds out that it was Fenella they met the night before. To avoid further misunderstandings, Gemma and Sebastian leave, marry and move to London. Sebastian continues working on the ballet he started in the mountains.

A while later the MacLean family move back to London and Caryl follows them, taking a job as a music agent. Caryl and Fenella are soon engaged to be married, but as soon as Sebastian is finished composing his ballet, Fenella arranges for him to perform his piece in London.

When the ballet is a success, Sebastian and Fenella are again acquainted. Sebastian is so busy with rehearsing and perfecting his ballet that he fails to take Gemma to the hospital when her baby is sick. Fenella gets caught up in her relationship with Sebastian and breaks off her engagement to Caryl.

Fenella and Sebastian spend a weekend at the MacLean's country estate and are smitten with each other. While they are away, Gemma's baby dies from its illness and the devastated Gemma vanishes. After the weekend, when Sebastian comes back to London and finds his wife has disappeared, he is ridden with guilt, realizing how much she meant to him.

Sebastian starts reworking the ballet, inspired by his love for Gemma, and when it is finished and has its first performance, Gemma comes back to watch it and reunites with Sebastian.[4]



The original play was first performed in England in 1933 and on Broadway in 1935.[5] Elisabeth Bergner appeared on stage in a revival of the play in 1942.[6][7]

In August 1943, Warner Bros announced they would make a film version of the play, as a follow- up to the popular The Constant Nymph. Leonore Coffee was reported as working on the script with Henry Blanke to produce and Joan Leslie mentioned as a possible star.[8][9]

Lupino and Flynn were announced for the film in September 1945, with Peter Godfrey attached to direct. Shooting started later that year.[10] It was completed in February 1946.[11]

Lupino sang two songs in the film.[12] She was meant to be billed after Flynn and Parker but protested and succeeded in being billed after Flynn.[13]

This was the last film to be released with a complete musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who retired from composing for film in 1947. [14](Korngold did later adapt the music of Richard Wagnerfor Republic Pictures' 1955 biography of Wagner, Magic Fire; he wrote some original music for that film as well.)[14]


Box Office

The film took a while to be released. According to Variety it earned an estimated $2.3 million in rentals in the US and Canada.[2]

However Warner Bros records say it earned $1,221,000 domestically and $348,000 overseas, less than its production budget, causing it to fail to recover its costs.[15][1]


Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times, called the film "something harsh and unbelievable, like a terrible faux-pas in a grade-school play." He describes Lupino's performance as "downright embarrassing" and compares Flynn's to a "singing-waiter in a Hoboken café." Crowther gives Eleanor Parker his "deepest sympathy".[16]


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 28 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  3. "BFI | Film & TV Database | ESCAPE ME NEVER (1947)". 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  5. THE PLAY: Elisabeth Bergner in Margaret Kennedy's 'Escape Me Never!" Sponsored by the Theatre Guild. By BROOKS ATKINSON. New York Times22 Jan 1935: 22.
  6. NEWS OF THE STAGE: Elisabeth Bergner Will Revive 'Escape Me Never' -- Thornton Wilder's Play Is Due in Autumn New York Times 9 July 1942: 16.
  7. RETURN CANCELED FOR 'SPRING AGAIN' New York Times 22 July 1942: 23.
  8. DRAMA AND FILM: Nymph Has Successor in 'Escape Me Never' Woolley to Spend 'Centenhial Summer;' Schulberg Will Stage Plays, Film Them Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (16 Aug 1943: 13.
  9. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times ]17 Aug 1943: 15.
  11. Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 149
  12. News of the Screen The Christian Science Monitor 7 Jan 1946: 5.
  14. "Erich Wolfgang Korngold - Wikipedia". Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  15. Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921-51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995.
  16. Crowther, Bosley (1947-11-04). "' Escape Me Never' Is New Feature at the Strand -- 'High Tide,' With Lee Tracy, Bill at Rialto". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
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