Sanctuary (1961 film).jpg
Directed byTony Richardson
Written by
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
CinematographyEllsworth Fredericks
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Music byAlex North
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
April 18, 1961
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

Sanctuary is a 1961 drama film directed by Tony Richardson. The film, based on the William Faulkner novels Sanctuary (1931) and Requiem for a Nun (1951), is about the black maid of a white woman who kills the latter's newborn in order to give her employer a way out of a predicament, and then faces the death penalty.[2]


In 1928, in the county of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi, Nancy Mannigoe, a 30-year-old black woman, is condemned to death for the willful murder of the infant son of her white employer Mrs. Gowan Stevens, the former Temple Drake. On the eve of the scheduled execution, Temple tries to save Nancy by telling her father, the governor, of the events leading up to the murder.

Six years earlier, Temple was a pleasure-loving college girl carrying on a flirtatious romance with young Gowan Stevens. One night, Gowan got drunk and took her to a backwoods still where she was raped by Candy Man, a Cajun bootlegger. The next morning, although in a state of semi-shock, she willingly submitted to more of his lovemaking, and then agreed to live with him in a New Orleans brothel. Nancy became her personal maid, and Temple reveled in her new life, until Candy Man was reported killed in an auto accident and Temple was forced to go home. Marriage to Gowan followed; but for Temple it was a dull life, and she hired Nancy as a servant to remind her of the brothel life she had loved so much. Suddenly, Candy Man returned, and Temple decided to abandon her home and marriage and once more run off with him. To bring Temple to her senses and prevent her from ruining her life, Nancy sacrificed the infant child by smothering it to death.

Though shocked by the candor of his daughter's confession, the governor is unable to grant a pardon for Nancy. The next morning Temple visits Nancy in her cell. As the two women beg each other's forgiveness, Temple realizes that it is only through Nancy's sacrifice that she has been able to find salvation.

E. Pauline Degenfelder of Worcester Public Schools estimated that thirty percent of the plot takes place in the present time with the remainder in flashback; of that seventy percent flashback material, she attributed forty percent to the original novel, eight percent to the sequel novel, and the remainder to "a transition between Sanctuary and Requiem".[3] The Lee Goodwin/Tommy element is not included.[4] A car accident was used as a plot device for Temple to be discovered as, due to the absence of the aforementioned element,[5] Horace Benbow is not in this version and therefore cannot track her down.[6]


Richard D. Zanuck produced the film.[7] He made it an adaptation of both Faulkner novels because there were more commercial opportunities and because he believed the sequel novel alone could not be properly adapted into a film.[8] Zanuck acquired the filming rights to both novels, and as part of this he spent $75,000 on the rights to The Story of Temple Drake as he was required to do so to get the said rights to the original novel.[3]

James Poe wrote the script,[9] using an outline and prologue made by Zanuck because the latter was unable to contact Faulkner through employees sent to visit the author.[3]

Richardson stated that he wished to work on the film partly due to the depiction of the 1920s and 1930s United States in the original script, but he disliked the editing process for American films at the time and therefore he disliked the completed film.[10]


Horace Benbow, Lee Goodwin, and Tommy do not appear in this version.[4]

Degenfelder wrote that the merging of characters results in "ludicrous coincidence" being a feature of the plot.[3]


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Phillips characterized the reaction from the general audiences and from film critics as "lukewarm".[10]

Crowther wrote that the film "no more reflects or comprehends the evil in the Faulkner stories or the social corruption suggested in them than did" the previous adaptation, and that Sanctuary was a "melodrama of the most mechanical and meretricious sort" that lacked the explanation for Temple's behavior.[9] Crowther praised Remick's acting.[9]

Degenfelder argued that the source material was poorly combined and adapted, with the work "woefully deficient in movement", resulting in "an artistic disaster."[3] In addition she felt this version was misogynistic.[11]

Phillips argued that the film does have "much of the flavor of Faulkner" and that it would be difficult to depict the original novel's events in a film that would be acceptable for general audiences.[10]

See also



  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p253
  2. ^ TCM Database entry
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Degenfelder, 554.
  4. ^ a b c d e Phillips, "Faulkner And The Film: The Two Versions Of "Sanctuary"," p. 269. Note that the article says "Ira Stevens" is the new name even though credits state the name is "Ira Bobbitt".
  5. ^ a b Phillips, Gene D. Fiction, Film, and Faulkner: The Art of Adaptation. University of Tennessee Press, 2001. ISBN 1572331666, 9781572331662. p. 82.
  6. ^ Phillips, "Faulkner And The Film: The Two Versions Of "Sanctuary"," p. 269-270.
  7. ^ Degenfelder, 553.
  8. ^ Degenfelder, 553-554.
  9. ^ a b c d Crowther, Bosley (1961-02-22). "The Screen: 'Sanctuary':Adaptation of Faulkner Novels Has Premiere". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  10. ^ a b c d Phillips, "Faulkner And The Film: The Two Versions Of "Sanctuary"," p. 271.
  11. ^ a b Degenfelder, p. 555.
  12. ^ a b Phillips, Gene D. Fiction, Film, and Faulkner: The Art of Adaptation. University of Tennessee Press, 2001. ISBN 1572331666, 9781572331662. p. 80.
  13. ^ Phillips, Gene D. Fiction, Film, and Faulkner: The Art of Adaptation. University of Tennessee Press, 2001. ISBN 1572331666, 9781572331662. p. 82-83.