S is for The Seventh Veil, a film from 1945 that won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards for Muriel and Sydney Box. Muriel was a prolific writer, with 26 film screenplays to her name that she wrote with her husband who was a film producer.
At the beginning of the film is a statement by the British Board of Film Censors: “This is to certify that The Seventh Veil has been passed for public exhibition to adult audiences.” I had not seen this certification on a film previously and found it interesting that there was that type of regulation in 1945.
Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd), a successful and renowned classical pianist, attempts to drown herself by leaping from a bridge into a river. She is rescued and institutionalized. Dr. Larsen (Herbert Lom) is called in to treat her as she has refused to speak and thus is feared untreatable. He proposes to hypnotize her and lift the veils from her mind. He tells the story of Salome who was hidden from the outside world by seven veils, and likens the process of treating Francesca to removing each veil to get to the underlying issues that led to her depression and loss of the will to live. He successfully hypnotizes Francesca and she tells him her story leading up to her suicide attempt.
Francesca was orphaned at the age of 14 and moves into the home of her second cousin Nicholas (James Mason), her guardian. Nicholas finds that Francesca is a promising pianist, and quickly sets in motion the musical education and practice she needs to reach the pinnacle of success. Mentor and protégé have a tumultuous relationship as the years pass, and Francesca leads a sheltered life due to her music study and performances.
The movie poster for The Seventh Veil provocatively proclaims, “It Dares to Strip Bare a Woman’s Mind,” and shows Francesca being held by the arms by an angry Nicholas. James Mason played Nicholas very well. His distinctive voice and cold bearing shows us why their relationship was so difficult.
Francesca had two chances at romance: Peter Gay (Hugh McDermott), an American musician, and portrait artist Maxwell Leyden (Albert Lieven), hired by Nicholas to paint her portrait at the piano. She is naïve at love and Nicholas is none too happy about her suitors.
Remember that Francesca is telling all of this under hypnosis. Dr. Larsen believes that she is ready to confront the past and experiences that have been making her so unhappy. The ending for me was quite unexpected, and I didn’t think it was the best ending, but then this was 1945, pre-women’s lib you might say. It’s not the ending I would have written. But I enjoyed watching the film.
Eileen Joyce is the pianist playing for Ann Todd. Most of the classical music is Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven.
Have you seen The Seventh Veil? Or any of the films of Muriel and Sydney Box? What did you think of it?