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Centennial Summer (1946)

Approved | | History, Music, Romance | August 1946 (USA)
In 1876 Philadelphia, two sisters vie for the affections of a Frenchman who's come to town to prepare the French pavilion for the Centennial exposition.


Otto Preminger


Michael Kanin (screenplay), Albert E. Idell (based on novel by)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Jeanne Crain ... Julia Rogers
Cornel Wilde ... Philippe Lascalles
Linda Darnell ... Edith Rogers
William Eythe ... Ben Phelps
Walter Brennan ... Jesse Rogers
Constance Bennett ... Zenia Lascalles
Dorothy Gish ... Mrs. Rogers
Barbara Whiting ... Susanna Rogers
Larry Stevens Larry Stevens ... Richard Lewis Esq
Kathleen Howard ... Deborah
Buddy Swan Buddy Swan ... Dudley Rogers
Charles Dingle ... J.P. Snodgrass
Avon Long ... Specialty
Learn more

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Philadelphia in the summer of 1876 and lots of celebration to mark America's first hundred years. The Rogers family are visited by their aunt Zenia (Constance Bennerr), who brings with her a young Frenchman, Philippe Lascalles (Cornel Wilde), who is in charge of the French pavillon. Rogers family daughters, Julia (Jeanne Crain) and Edith (Linda Darnell), fall in love with Philippe, while their father, Jesse Rogers (Walter Brennan), tries to promote his inventions and hang onto his railroad job. With Zenia's help, he does both, while Julia wins the love of Philippe and Edith finally says yes to her devoted suitor Dr. Ben Phelps (William Eythe). Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


History | Music | Romance


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Did You Know?


The film was a blatant attempt by 20th Century-Fox to duplicate the success of MGM's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Fox's own State Fair (1945). Michael Kanin's screenplay appears to be a deliberate hybrid of the two earlier films. See more »


Referenced in Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker (1991) See more »


Up with the Lark
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Leo Robin
Sung by Jeanne Crain (dubbed by Louanne Hogan), Linda Darnell (dubbed), Barbara Whiting Buddy Swan, Constance Bennett and Walter Brennan
See more »

User Reviews

Glorious, enchanting, warm-hearted musical--Jerome Kern's last, haunting score.
5 August 2002 | by sdiner82See all my reviews

If remembered at all, "Centennial Summer" is generally dismissed as 20th-Century-Fox's failed attempt to copy "Meet Me in St. Louis."

I'd like to set the record straight, and urge Fox to release this neglected treasure on VHS, DVD, cable-TV, whatever, so today's movie-lovers can savor one of the most endearing, original, lovingly crafted musicals ever made.

This lavish Technicolored production is indeed a visual knockout, but what truly matters is so much more than its dazzling visuals. Set against the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, this exquisitely designed valentine to a bygone era focuses on a suburban middle-class family's troubles and turmoils, highlighted by Jerome Kern's final (and one of his finest) scores.

Jeanne Crain and Linda Darnell are the daughters of railroad/laborer aspiring/inventor Walter Brennan and his understanding wife, the lovely Dorothy Gish in one of her rare film appearances. Their humdrum lives are sparked by the arrival of a glamorous Parisian relative (the dazzling Constance Bennett)and a dashing young French man (Cornel Wilde) in charge of setting up his country's exhibition at the Centennial.

That's the plot, and it's a more-than-sufficient frame for a charming, low-keyed, often surprisingly moving dramatization of a family in crisis. Ms. Crain & Ms. Darnell are heartbreakingly beautiful as the sibling rivals in romance; Otto Preminger's direction is subtle and refreshingly modest; and though none of Kern's songs became hits, the underrated score includes some of the loveliest ballads ever written--Listen closely to the melodic "The Right Romance," "In Love in Vain" and "All Through the Day." "Up with the Lark" is as captivating, tuneful, brilliantly photographed and sung a showstopper as one could wish for. And the rousing "Railroad Song," plus an unexpected diversion "Cinderella Sue" (performed by Avon Long and several black children, sans one iota of the racial condescension typical of films of its era) are two more rousing highlights.

The cast is uniformly superb (Ms. Crain's plaintive beauty and heartfelt sincerity set the screen aglow; William Eythe, a talented, appealing actor whose life and career were tragically short, adds a special poignancy as Ms. Darnell's spurned suitor), the production design exquisite, and the screenplay (based on a long-forgotten novel) will touch you in ways you wouldn't expect from a movie musical.

"Centennial Summer" deserves stature as one of the finest musicals of all time. That few people have even heard of it, much less seen it, is sad indeed. It deserves to be revived, re-evaluated and cherished for the work of art it most certainly is.

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Release Date:

August 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Tia de Paris See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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