Dragonwyck (1946): Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Directing Debut, Period Drama, Starring Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Vincent Price

After years spent on production, Joseph L. Mankiewicz made his directing debut with Dragonwyck, a period drama produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and Ernst Lubitsch (uncredited), from a screenplay by Mankiewicz, based on Anya Seton’s novel.

Dragonwyck film poster.jpeg

Theatrical release poster

The music score was by Alfred Newman, and the cinematography by Arthur C. Miller.

The film stars Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, and Vincent Price.

Raised in 1844 Greenwich, Connecticut by her strict religious parents, Ephraim (Walter Huston) and Abigail (Anne Revere), Miranda Wells (Gene Tierney) is a farm girl who daydreams of a more romantic and luxurious life.

Miranda gets her chance when mother receives letter from distant cousin Nicholas Van Ryn (Vincent Price), a wealthy patroon in Hudson. Miranda convinces her parents to let her go to Nicholas’s estate of Dragonwyck manor as companion to his young daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall).

Miranda learns that Nicholas and his wife Johanna are estranged from each other and from their daughter, and that the Van Ryn bloodline is cursed as only they can hear the harpsichord played by the ghost of Nicholas’s great-grandmother Azilde.

Miranda returns accompanied by Turner to her family in Greenwich. As they part, Turner repeats the words the patroon Nicholas van Rijn spoke when first wooing Miranda: Can he see her again? I suppose so, says Miranda. “Will a week be too soon? asks Dr. Turner, and the film ends.

Gregory Peck was the first choice for Nicholas Van Ryn when Ernst Lubitsch was to direct. But when he became ill, pre-production was delayed, and Peck dropped out.

Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells
Vincent Price as Nicholas van Ryn
Walter Huston as Ephraim Wells
Glenn Langan as Dr. Jeff Turner
Anne Revere as Abigail Wells
Spring Byington as Magda
Connie Marshall as Katrine Van Ryn
Harry Morgan as Bleecker
Jessica Tandy as Peggy

Dragonwyck was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the October 7, 1946 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney. It was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the January 20, 1947, starring Vincent Price and Teresa Wright.


Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and Ernst Lubitsch (uncredited)
Written by Mankiewicz, based on Dragonwyck, 1944 novel by Anya Seton
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Arthur C. Miller
Edited by Dorothy Spencer
Color process Black and white

Production and distribution: 20th Century Fox

Release date: April 19, 1946

Running time: 103 minutes
Box office $3 million (US rentals)