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The House of the Seven Gables

(1940 b 89')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, a brother tries to gain the estate by getting his brother sent to prison.

On cursed land in 1828 lawyer Jaffrey Pyncheon (George Sanders) is called home and learns his brother Clifford Pyncheon (Vincent Price) is selling the house. Clifford reviews the crimes of their ancestors. Their father Gerald Pyncheon (Gilbert Emery) asks Hepzibah (Margaret Lindsay) to persuade Clifford; but she loves and supports him. At night Jaffrey looks in a trunk and tells Clifford that Charles II granted land to a Pyncheon. Word spreads the house is sold. Gerald tells Clifford he does not want to sell and tells him to leave the house, collapsing in anger. Jaffrey calls Clifford a murderer, and people see Clifford try to strangle Jaffrey. The Judge summarizes the evidence. Clifford is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Clifford says he is innocent and blames Jaffrey for stealing the house, cursing him. Jaffrey asks Hepzibah not to leave. Philip Barton (Cecil Kellaway) brings the will and says insurance covers the debts; Hepzibah has $400 a year and the house. She laughs and castigates Jaffrey, expelling him. Hepzibah closes all the shutters.

Twenty years later Clifford gets a letter from Hepzibah she is visiting a new governor. Abolitionist Matthew Maule (Dick Foran) is put in Clifford's cell. Hepzibah rents rooms and tells Barton that Phoebe Pyncheon (Nan Grey) is coming to stay with her. Hepzibah plans a cent shop and tells Matthew, but he wants to stay. Phoebe arrives and offers to help. Matthew at an anti-slavery meeting plans to help an escaped slave while Deacon Arnold Foster (Miles Mander) holds $5,000. Jaffrey demands that Hepzibah close the shop, but Barton says that Clifford is being released. Phoebe has feelings for Matthew.

Clifford returns home and finds holes in his clothes. Clifford thanks Hepzibah for her loyalty and courage. Matthew asks Phoebe to be his wife. Hepzibah asks Clifford not to seek revenge. Press reports Clifford studied old documents about Pyncheon gold. Matthew is summoned by Judge Jaffrey and laughs about Clifford's claims of secret treasure. Jaffrey tells Hepzibah that Clifford is crazy. She and Phoebe find Matthew tapping, and Hepzibah tells him to move out. Abolitionist Arnold tells Jaffrey he needs his money back. Matthew gets a letter from Garrison to collect the money. Clifford explains to Hepzibah he can't marry her until he is proven innocent. Jaffrey tells Arnold he invested the money in a slave ship. Jaffrey goes to Clifford, who asks him to sign a statement to get the house. Arnold demands the money from Jaffrey and shoots himself. Jaffrey asks Clifford to hide him and signs the statement. As the abolitionists enter, Jaffrey goes into convulsions and dies. In the final scene Clifford weds Hepzibah as Matthew weds Phoebe.

This film alters the relationships of the novel but captures the spirit of the cursed house because of the crimes committed for it. The greedy Jaffrey investing abolitionist money in a slave ship is the ultimate outrage that undoes him.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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