Our Town (1940 film)

Our Town is a 1940 American drama romance film adaptation of a play of the same name by Thornton Wilder starring Martha Scott as Emily Webb, and William Holden as George Gibbs. The cast also included Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Guy Kibbee and Frank Craven. It was adapted by Harry Chandlee, Craven and Wilder, and directed by Sam Wood.

Our Town
Directed bySam Wood
Produced bySol Lesser
Screenplay byHarry Chandlee
Frank Craven
Thornton Wilder
Based onOur Town (1938 play)
by Thornton Wilder
StarringWilliam Holden
Martha Scott
Fay Bainter
Music byAaron Copland
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited bySherman Todd
Sol Lesser Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 24, 1940 (1940-05-24) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was a faithful reproduction of the play except for two significant changes: the film used scenery, whereas the play had not; the events of the third act, which in the play revolve around the death of one of the main characters, were turned into a dream from which Emily awakens — she is then able to resume a normal life. Producer Sol Lesser worked with Wilder in creating these changes.

A radio adaptation of the film on Lux Radio Theater on May 6, 1940, used the altered film ending.

The U.S. copyright of the film was not renewed after its first term expired in 1968. However, because it is a derivative work from a play that is still under U.S. copyright, it is not deemed to be in the public domain.



Aaron Copland accepted the invitation to compose the musical score for the screen version of life in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. He explained, "For the film version, they were counting on the music to translate the transcendental aspects of the story. I tried for clean and clear sounds and in general used straight-forward harmonies and rhythms that would project the serenity and sense of security of the story." Copland arranged about ten minutes from the film score for a suite. It is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein.[1]


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.[2] Scott, who reprised her stage role as Emily Webb, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Aaron Copland was nominated for Best Score and Thomas T. Moulton was nominated for Best Sound.[3]


  1. "Copland, Aaron Our Town (1940) Music from the film score". Boosey.com. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  2. "NY Times: Our Town". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  3. "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-13.


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