The Magnificent Yankee (1950 film)

The Magnificent Yankee is a 1950 American biographical film adapted by Emmet Lavery from his play of the same title, which was in turn adapted from the book Mr. Justice Holmes by Francis Biddle. The story examines the life of United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The Magnificent Yankee
Directed byJohn Sturges
Produced byArmand Deutsch
Written byEmmet Lavery (play)
Francis Biddle
StarringLouis Calhern
Ann Harding
Eduard Franz
Philip Ober
Music byDavid Raksin
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byFerris Webster
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 1950 (1950)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was directed by John Sturges, with stars Louis Calhern, Ann Harding, Eduard Franz, and Philip Ober. Calhern created the role of Oliver Wendell Holmes in the original Broadway production. Calhern was primarily a character actor in films and his portrayal of Holmes was his only true starring role in a sound film. A grateful Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased the film rights to the play specifically for Calhern in appreciation for his consistently fine work in many supporting roles during his years with the studio.

The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Louis Calhern) and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.

A Hallmark Hall of Fame television production of the same title was broadcast in 1965 starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Cast and characters


The film was well received by critics. While produced on a relatively modest budget, the movie initially earned just $487,000 in the US and Canada and $76,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss to MGM of $471,000.[1]


For his score for this film, David Raksin incorporated the songs "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", "Auld Lang Syne," and a portion of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Raksin also conducted the score.[3]

The complete score was issued on CD in 2009, on Film Score Monthly records.


  1. Glancy, H. Mark (1992). The Eddie Mannix Ledger. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 12. Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. pp. 127–144. doi:10.1080/01439689200260081. ISBN 978-1-4391-0791-1..
  2. Lovell, Glenn (2008). Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0299228347.
  3. Bettencourt, Scott (2009). David Raksin. "David Raksin at MGM (1950-1957)". Film Score Monthly (CD online notes). 12 (2).
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