Under Your Spell

Under Your Spell is a 1936 American romantic comedy film with music directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Frances Hyland and Saul Elkins is based on a story by Sy Bartlett and Bernice Mason.

Under Your Spell
Directed byOtto Preminger
Produced byJohn Stone
Screenplay byFrances Hyland
Saul Elkins
Story bySy Bartlett
Bernice Mason
StarringLawrence Tibbett
Wendy Barrie
Music byArthur Lange
Charles Maxwell
CinematographySidney Wagner
Edited byFred Allen
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 6, 1936 (1936-11-06)
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States


Chicago socialite Cynthia Drexel arranges for New York City opera star Anthony Allen to sing at a private party for a $15,000 fee but, tired of his arduous performance schedule and the silly promotional stunts devised by his agent Petroff, he flees to his hometown in New Mexico, then his secluded cabin in the Sierra Madres. Determined to make him fulfill his commitment, Cynthia pursues him in her private plane, but he refuses to return with her, despite the efforts of her Uncle Bob and his valet Botts to convince him otherwise.

When Cynthia leaves without her suitcase, a now intrigued Anthony returns to Chicago with her belongings. When he arrives at her home, an angry Cynthia criticizes his singing and tells him she has no romantic interest in him as she is engaged Count Raul Du Rienne. Cynthia sues him for breach of contract, but in court Anthony argues he refused to sing for her because she does not appreciate his talent, and the case is dismissed. Outside the courtroom, Uncle Bob tells him her betrothal to Raul is a mistake and all she needs is a good spanking to make her come to her senses. Anthony conceals himself in a doorway, and when Cynthia walks by, he pulls her inside and proceeds to spank her. Petroff calls a press conference at which he announces their union, and the happy couple signs their marriage license.



Otto Preminger had been working as an apprentice at 20th Century Fox for nearly eight months when studio head Darryl F. Zanuck assigned him to the film,[1] a remake of the Spanish language release Las fronteras del amor, which Frank R. Strayer had directed for Fox two years earlier.[2] Zanuck had opera baritone Lawrence Tibbett under contract, and following the commercial failure of the high-budget Metropolitan in 1935, he was anxious to rid himself of the singer and thought Preminger could serve as his hatchet man.[1][2] Tibbett was aware of Zanuck's feelings and didn't blame the director, who was anxious to helm a film, for accepting the assignment, and he proved to be amiable both on and off the set.[1]

Filming began under the title Love Flight in mid-August 1936, soon after Preminger filed his Declaration of Intention to become a naturalized American citizen.[2] Well under budget and ahead of schedule, principal photography was completed on September 15,[1] and Zanuck was so pleased with Preminger's efficiency he signed him to a one-year contract at $1,000 per week, effective October 6.[2] Prior to the film's release, its title was changed to Under Your Spell, after one of three songs Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz had written for the score, the other two being "My Little Mule Wagon" and "Amigo." Tibbet also performed "Largo al factotum" from The Barber of Seville and "Le veau d'or" from Faust in the film, which proved to be his last.

The film opens with a lengthy tracking shot in a recording studio that established Preminger's preference for allowing camera movement to bind together all the elements of a scene. In another sequence, set during a trial, the director presaged his 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder with his use of loud, overlapping dialogue to create a sense of courtroom reality.[1]

Critical reception

In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther noted that the film had been released as the second feature of a double bill and commented, "The picture itself is not nearly as black as this fortuitous circumstance has painted it." He praised Lawrence Tibbett's voice, calling it "the richest, the most dramatic, the most beautifully controlled vocal instrument on the contemporary screen, and no amount of soldiering by the Messrs. Schwartz and Dietz can disguise this amazing and gratifying phenomenon." In closing, he said, "Mr. Tibbett acquits himself as satisfactorily as could well be expected. The fact that the Tibbett voice could stand a more studiously thought-out setting will hardly be contested by any one."[3]


  1. Hirsch, Foster, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2007. ISBN 978-0-375-41373-5, pp. 56-60
  2. Fujiwara, Chris, The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger. New York: Macmillan Publishers 2009. ISBN 0-86547-995-X, pp. 16-17
  3. New York Times review
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