Our Town (1940 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Our Town
Original movie poster for the film Our Town (1940 film).jpg
Directed bySam Wood
Screenplay byHarry Chandlee
Frank Craven
Thornton Wilder
Based onOur Town (1938 play)
by Thornton Wilder
Produced bySol Lesser
StarringWilliam Holden
Martha Scott
Fay Bainter
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited bySherman Todd
Music byAaron Copland
Sol Lesser Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 24, 1940 (1940-05-24) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

Our Town is a 1940 American drama romance film adaptation of a play of the same name by Thornton Wilder starring Martha Scott as Emily Webb, and William Holden as George Gibbs. The cast also included Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Guy Kibbee and Frank Craven. It was adapted by Harry Chandlee, Craven and Wilder, and directed by Sam Wood.

The film was a faithful reproduction of the play except for two significant changes: the film used scenery, whereas the play had not; the events of the third act, which in the play revolve around the death of one of the main characters, were turned into a dream from which she awakens, allowing her to resume a normal life. Producer Sol Lesser worked with Wilder in creating these changes.

Wilder wrote producer Sol Lesser that "Emily should live.... In a movie you see the people so close "to" that a different relation is established. In the theater, they are halfway abstractions in an allegory, in the movie they are very concrete.... It is disproportionately cruel that she die. Let her live...."[1]

A radio adaptation of the film on Lux Radio Theater on May 6, 1940, used the altered film ending.

The U.S. copyright of the film was not renewed after its first term expired in 1968.[citation needed]


The residents of the small town of Grover’s Corners in New Hampshire live peacefully and in harmony. Dr. Gibbs, his wife Julie, and their two children George and Rebecca are the neighbors of the Webbs, who have a lovely daughter, Emily, and a younger son, Wally. George and Emily fall in love and after three years of courting they get married. Time goes by and Emily becomes very sick with the birth of her second child. While she is dying, she meets all the people who have left this world in the years before. Emily, who remains in a kind of in-between world, remembers her previous life, but in the end the young woman decides to live and she wakes up from her dream.



Aaron Copland accepted the invitation to compose the musical score for the screen version of life in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. He explained, "For the film version, they were counting on the music to translate the transcendental aspects of the story. I tried for clean and clear sounds and in general used straight-forward harmonies and rhythms that would project the serenity and sense of security of the story." Copland arranged about ten minutes from the film score for a suite. It is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein.[2]


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.[3] Scott, who reprised her stage role as Emily Webb, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Aaron Copland was nominated for Best Score and Thomas T. Moulton was nominated for Best Sound.[4]


  1. ^ "Our Town (notes)". Turner Classic Movies. TCM. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Copland, Aaron Our Town (1940) Music from the film score". Boosey.com. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  3. ^ "NY Times: Our Town". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  4. ^ "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-13.

External links[edit]