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Let No Man Write My Epitaph

Let No Man Write My Epitaph(1960)


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The film's working title was Reach for Tomorrow. The film's title card is superimposed over an image of one of the lions that flank the entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago, which becomes a motif in the film. The same shot is then repeated at the end of the film. Toward the beginning of the film, "Nellie Romano" lies to her son "Nick" that his late father bequeathed him one of the lions as a symbol of his love. Later in the film, after Nick and "Bobby" decide to go steady Nick designates one of the lions as a symbol of his affection for Bobby.
       Willard Motley's novel was a sequel to his 1947 book Knock on Any Door, which featured the character of "Nick Romano," the father of the character Nick Romano, who appears in Let No Man Write My Epitaph. The 1947 novel was the basis for the 1949 Knock on Any Door (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), which, according to a March 1958 Los Angeles Times news item, was so successful that Harry Cohn, the head of the Columbia, bought the film rights for Let No Man Write My Epitaph.
       A May 1958 Daily Variety news item indicated that Charles Schnee was originally to produce the project and that George Zuckerman was to write the screenplay. A December 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Lana Turner was considered for the role of Nellie Romano, a May 1959 Daily Variety news item noted that Columbia was negotiating with Henry Silva to play the role of "Louie Ramponi," and an October 1958 Hollywood Reporter item in the "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Michael Callan was to play the role of Nick. Although various Hollywood Reporter news item added Ed Shrinker, Thomas Tarzan, Michael Vandever and Richard Gering to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       Studio publicity contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library noted that the studio originally considered shooting the picture in Chicago, but was precluded from doing so by the winter weather. Instead, art director Robert Peterson traveled to Chicago, where he sketched the skid row area which he then reproduced at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA. Although studio publicity indicated that Ella Fitzgerald sang the songs "Misty" and "Who's Sorry Now?" they were not heard in the viewed print.
       The film's title, "Let No Man Write My Epitaph," is also a quotation that "Judge Sullivan" carried in his wallet. It was from the "Speech from the Dock," a speech originally delivered by Irish Nationalist rebel leader Robert Emmet in 1803 when he was sentenced to be beheaded for leading an abortive rebellion against British rule. The entire text reads, "Let no man write my epitaph. Let my character and motives repose in obscurity and peace, till other times and other men can do them justice."