Edmund Goulding’s The Constant Nymph, a 1943 romantic drama starring Oscar nominee Joan Fontaine, Charles Boyer, and Alexis Smith, will be shown tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 5 p.m. PT as part of TCM’s tribute to the Library of Congress Film Archive. Tied up in legal complications for decades, The Constant Nymph will have its TCM premiere tonight. [In August 2010, The Constant Nymph had a rare screening at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus.]
According to Matthew Kennedy’s Edmund Goulding biography Edmund Goulding’s Dark Victory, Jack Warner initially considered Errol Flynn for the role of the British music teacher. Goulding wanted either Robert Donat or Leslie Howard for the part, but eventually gave up on the British-ness of the music teacher and settled on by then two-time Best Actor Oscar nominee Charles Boyer.
Joan Fontaine’s role was initially supposed to have gone to Joan Leslie, but Goulding wasn’t happy with that choice. Through then-husband Brian Aherne, who had played the music teacher in the 1934 version, Fontaine accidentally ran into Goulding while he was looking for a replacement for Leslie. Obviously not one to miss out on a good opportunity, Fontaine suggested herself as Leslie’s replacement. Goulding went for it.
"Alfred Hitchcock, George Cukor, and Edmund Goulding were my favorite directors," Fontaine told Kennedy. "Eddie … knew the problems of actors and he solved them — the need for reassurance, to feel a part of the whole. To be cosseted, to be aware of the subtleties of the role, to be gently, kindly guided. He did this for me in The Constant Nymph." Kennedy, for his part, calls Fontaine’s performance as the youth in love with Boyer’s Older Man one of Goulding’s "supreme directing accomplishments."
Adapted by Kathryn Scola from Margaret Kennedy and Basil Dean’s play, itself an adaptation of Kennedy’s novel, The Constant Nymph also features Brenda Marshall, Joyce Reynolds, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, Dame May Whitty, Jean Muir, Montagu Love, Eduardo Ciannelli, Crawford Kent, and Marcel Dalio.