Only Yesterday (1933 film)

Only Yesterday is a 1933 American pre-Code drama film about a young woman who becomes pregnant by her boyfriend before he rushes off to fight in World War I. It stars Margaret Sullavan (in her film debut) and John Boles.

Only Yesterday
lobby card
Directed byJohn M. Stahl
Produced byCarl Laemmle Jr.
Written byWilliam Hurlbut
George O'Neil
Arthur Richman
StarringMargaret Sullavan
John Boles
CinematographyMerritt B. Gerstad
Edited byMilton Carruth
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 1, 1933 (1933-11-01)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States

According to the on-screen credit, the film's story line was "suggested" by the 1931 nonfiction bestseller Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen,[1] who had sold Universal the rights to his book.[2] The film is set in a time frame close to that of Allen's book but otherwise bears no resemblance to it, and the film's title may simply have been an attempt to capitalize on the book's fame at the time of the film's release. The plot of the film appears to be based closely on Letter from an Unknown Woman (Briefe einer unbekannten) by Stefan Zweig,[3] first published in 1922 and in English translation a decade later.[4]

According to the New York Times, some moviegoers contacted Zweig's publisher, Viking Press, noting similarities between the film and his book. The Times reported that "These similarities were bought and paid for by Universal Pictures", which moved the story to the United States, "altered the story greatly, and made no mention of Zweig's name in the film". The studio also paid "a large sum" for the right to use the title of Allen's book.[5]


Billie Dove and Gloria Stuart were considered for the lead before Margaret Sullavan was cast.[6]


Unlike in the Zweig story, in the end Emerson acknowledges his son.[7]


The film was Universal's only outstanding success released that year according to a poll of movie theater managers.[8]


The film and trailer are preserved in the Library of Congress collection.[9]

See also


  1. Hall, Mordaient (November 19, 1933). "Margaret Sullavan Makes Her Film Debut in a Story Suggested by F.L. Allen's Book, 'Only Yesterday.'". New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  2. Payne, Darwin (1975). The man of only yesterday: Frederick Lewis Allen, former editor of Harper's magazine, author, and interpreter of his times. Harper & Row. p. 104.
  3. Dumont, Hervé (2006). Frank Borzage: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Romantic. McFarland & Company. p. 217. Retrieved 1 January 2018. ...the melodrama Only Yesterday (1933)–plagiarized from Stefan Zweig's Letter from an Unknown Woman.
  4. Strauss, Harold (June 19, 1932). "A Masterly Novelette by Stefan Zweig" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  5. "Book Notes" (PDF). New York Times. December 16, 1933. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  6. Gussow, Mel (January 6, 1998). "Billie Dove, Damsel in Distress In Silent Films, Is Dead at 97". New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  7. Dooley, Roger (1984). From Scarface to Scarlett: American films in the 1930s. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 135.
  8. Churchill, Douglas W. (5 November 1934). "Taking a Look at the Record" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  9. Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress, (<-p. 133) c.1978 by The American Film Institute

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