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The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

Approved | | Thriller, Drama | 12 April 1940 (USA)
Fighting over an inheritance, one Pyncheon brother frames the other for murder.

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(screen play), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Philip Barton
...
Gilbert Emery ...
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Deacon Foster
Charles Trowbridge ...
Judge
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Storyline

In 1828, the bankrupt Pyncheon family fight over Seven Gables, the ancestral mansion. To obtain the house, Jaffrey Pyncheon obtains his brother Clifford's false conviction for murder. Hepzibah, Clifford's sweet fiancée, patiently waits twenty years for his release, whereupon Clifford and his former cellmate, abolitionist Matthew, have a certain scheme in mind. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

AN ANCIENT HOUSE! A MURDER SECRET! A HIDDEN TREASURE! (original print ad - all caps)

Genres:

Thriller | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Casa das Sete Torres  »

Box Office

Budget:

$178,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Vincent Price was brought in at the last minute to substitute for Robert Cummings, who had become indisposed through illness. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Vincent Price: The Sinister Image (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

THE COLOR OF YOUR EYES
(1940)
Music by Frank Skinner
Lyrics by Ralph Freed
Sung by Vincent Price (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The HOUSE Of The SEVEN GABLES (Joe May, 1940) ***
13 May 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

To begin with, my father owns a copy of the "Classics Illustrated" edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, which I recall reading myself as a kid. This movie version was produced by Universal, then going through its second Horror phase. Though not quite falling into that category, the Gothic trappings of the narrative at least evoke its recognizable style (in the same way that the fine Charles Dickens adaptation MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD {1935} would not have been amiss alongside the studio's remarkable initial outburst within the genre). Besides, that same year saw director May and cast members Vincent Price and Nan Grey (elevated to lead status) re-united for the well-above-average sequel THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS!

The plot involves the fraudulent purchase of the titular abode and the subsequent retribution of its rightful owner in the form of a curse…and sure enough, the usurper dies in the exact manner decreed by the jinx! The film actually starts years later with the current owners of the house reduced so close to bankruptcy that they seriously consider selling the property. However, one of the sons (George Sanders, here possibly at his most despicable – and that is saying a lot!) vehemently objects because, legend has it, a fortune is concealed within its walls! He manages to dissuade his father from going through with the deal, but his younger sibling (Price, another of Hollywood's great villains but in this case playing sympathetic) had been counting on the sale since he wanted to marry and settle in New York as a composer (we even get to hear the actor sing, and quite well too!). Confronting the old man, the latter suffers a heart-attack and fatally hits his head upon falling to the ground! Sanders (and a gathering crowd of onlookers) accuse him of murder and he is imprisoned for life…but, before being taken to jail, he puts on Sanders the very same curse that had afflicted their family!

Sanders thinks he can now have free rein with the house, but it transpires that his father (through solicitor Cecil Kellaway, who had also undertaken Price's defence at the trial) had bequeathed it not to him but to Price and his heirs, that is to say fiancée Margaret Lindsay! The years pass, with the woman growing bitter despite her attempts to obtain a pardon from the Governor, and Price even getting to meet the descendant (Dick Foran, the hero of another Universal monster sequel from 1940 i.e. THE MUMMY'S HAND, in which Kellaway also appears) of the man who had given his kin the evil eye in the first place, incarcerated for his abolitionist beliefs – never having believed in the jinx himself, Price has no qualms about befriending him! When the young man emerges from prison, he takes up residence at the house itself albeit under an assumed name since Lindsay has decided to take a lodger to rack up some income. Later, a distant female relative (Grey) also comes to live with her and, of course, the two fall in love.

In the meantime, Sanders' career as a (crooked) lawyer has soared…but, at long last, Price's sentence is revoked (on the condition that he provides evidence of his innocence!). When he returns home, Lindsay fears Price will think her looks have faded, while himself (in cahoots with Foran) starts acting strangely by digging the earth around the house and dismantling the property itself in the pretence of searching for the fabled treasure…which, needless to say, arouses Sanders' curiosity and greed all over again. Incidentally, the latter has compromised one of Foran's associates (Miles Mander) by utilizing anti-slavery money for their very purchase. Pestering him repeatedly to return the funds before they are discovered, he commits suicide (at the Seven Gables) and, when the Police turn up soon after, Sanders' protesting voice goes hoarse and he starts bleeding from the mouth…all the symptoms that indicate he truly is the latest victim of the curse (though Price, who had bestowed it upon him in desperation, does not blink an eye at its actual accomplishment)! Curiously enough, this form of reversal-of-fortune would eventually be undergone by Price himself in the recently-viewed ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN FABIAN (1951)!

In the end, both male leads leave their mark here, yet Price's character is clearly the more rounded one (at his best when putting down his 'glorious' ancestors' legacy early on) – incidentally, this is the first of 6 films he was featured in over the course of 43 years to have the word "House" in their title! On the other hand, somewhat surprisingly, May (hailing from the German Expressionist movement) does not impose a Teutonic style on the proceedings, letting the unfolding melodrama supply its own particular mood.


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