NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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White Shoulders, directed by Tom Forman (who also plays Robert Lee Pitman), featured Katherine MacDonald as Virginia Pitman and Bryant Washburn as Cole Hawkins. The film was released in September of 1922 at six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Virginia Pitman, nicknamed “White Shoulders,” belongs to an aristocratic Southern family whose fortunes have been depleted.

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Now constantly in debt, the family have survived by sponging on acquaintances. Mrs. Lenore Pitman, Virginia’s mother, decides to set her daughter up with the rich, but elderly, Colonel Singleton. She gets the Colonel to pay for her daughter’s clothes, but Virginia is unaware of this. Virginia reluctantly agrees with the upcoming marriage. The family gathers to celebrate, and Virginia poses with her brother Robert Lee.

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But when the Colonel proposes, she turns him down. Angered by the rejection, the Colonel smears Virginia in front of a crowded room, denying the two were ever engaged, and declaring he has paid for the clothes which Virginia is wearing. Robert Lee hears this slander, and demands an apology from the Colonel at gunpoint.

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When the Colonel refuses, Robert kills him. Robert goes on trial, but the jury cannot agree on a verdict. Money is needed for a new trial, so once again, Mrs. Pitman looks for a rich husband for Virginia. The Pitmans begin life under a new name in a place where they are not known. Virginia is courted by Clayborne Gordon, whom Mrs. Pitman views as a great catch for her daughter.

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Meanwhile, Virginia has fallen for Cole Hawkins, a daredevil racing driver.

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Soon, Virginia’s past becomes known, and Clayborne refuses to marry her. Cole, ignorant of the Pitman scandal, comes to Virginia’s rescue.

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Judge Blakelock takes an interest in Robert Lee’s case. During a moonlight drive, Virginia confesses her past history to Cole, whose love for her remains unchanged. Suddenly, the car plunges over an abandoned bridge. Badly hurt, Virginia saves Cole. Then she sees another car approaching the bridge and stops them before they suffer the same fate. By a stroke of luck, the car contains Judge Blakelock and Robert Lee, the judge having secured the young man’s release. Cole reveals he is actually a millionaire. So all ends happily for Virginia, her brother, and Cole.

The still below could not be placed in context. It shows Fred Malatesta (who plays a dressmaker named Maurice), Lillian Lawrence (as Mrs. Pittman), and Katherine MacDonald. It is most likely from a scene involving wedding plans:

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In the still below, Tom Forman talks things over with Charles K. French, who portrayed Colonel Singleton:

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The next still shows Bryant Washburn, Katherine MacDonald, and Richard Headrick (who played Judge Blakelock’s grandson) relaxing between takes:

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Reviews were positive, although most had more to say about Katherine MacDonald’s charms. Exhibitor’s Herald called the film an “altogether pleasing society drama with the beautiful Katherine MacDonald well cast,” adding “it is a wholesome and convincing story of the South, of a mother’s pride and the complications arising through her trying to put up a “front” with an empty pocketbook. Its appeal is heightened by some very beautiful exteriors, excellent photography and general excellent finish.” Motion Picture News wrote “this picture is a big improvement on some of Katherine MacDonald’s recent productions. It does not depend so much on the beauty of the star to put it over as it does on the dramatic situations and a fairly absorbing story. Nowadays audiences demand more than just looking at closeups of beautiful stars,” although the magazine hastened to add “Miss MacDonald displays her famous shoulders on several occasions.” Moving Picture World noted “Miss MacDonald wears an abundance of the sort of clothes that are quite up to the minute and that are bound to catch the fancy of the feminine picture-goers,” but added “the sub-titles allude too frequently to Miss MacDonald’s remarkable beauty, which is very evident and does not need the attention to be constantly called to it.” The Film Daily wrote “this is without doubt the best story that Katherine MacDonald has had recently. It gives her a role that demands a display of her dramatic ability and doesn’t rely upon her beauty alone to make it success,” adding “it would be nice to see Katherine MacDonald in a story, sometime, that would require her to be a happy, cheerful person instead of habitually sad and distressed.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review wrote “Katherine MacDonald’s statuesque beauty is fully revealed by the many elaborate costumes she wears so gracefully and her work as Virginia Pitman is forceful and convincing.”

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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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Coming in July:

Hearts Aflame, with Frank Keenan and Anna Q. Nilsson

Mad Love, with Pola Negri

The Girl of the Golden West, with Sylvia Breamer and J. Warren Kerrigan

What a Wife Learned, with John Bowers, Milton Sills, and Marguerite De La Motte
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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Hearts Aflame, directed by Reginald Barker, featured Frank Keenan as Luke Taylor, Craig Ward as John Taylor, and Anna Q. Nilsson as Helen Foraker. The film was released in January of 1923 at nine reels some sources say seven reels), and is presumed lost.

Plot: Luke Taylor is a millionaire lumberman. He receives a telegram informing him that he has been deceived in the purchase of five hundred thousand feet of pine logs, which are lying abandoned on the Blueberry River near Pancake, Michigan. Luke summons his son, John, in whom he has little confidence. He tells John this is an opportunity to demonstrate his worth. John accepts and departs for Pancake. Once he arrives, he asks to be driven to his father’s property. The car breaks down just outside the doorway of a log house. The inhabitant of the house, Helen Foraker, is the daughter of a late scientist, whose ambition was reforestation.

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Helen invites John into her home. There, he meets Aunty May, who is the housekeeper, and little Bobby Kildare, an orphan. That evening, Jim Harris, a dishonest real estate dealer, calls on Helen and demands that she marry him. John hears this conversation and orders Harris to leave.

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Helen then gets a phone call from Thad Parker, who was a victim of one of Harris’ schemes. Parker’s wife is dying, so Helen and John head for his home. Before a doctor can arrive, Parker’s wife dies.

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The following day, Helen takes John to the location of the pine logs. Helen convinces John that the lumber can be salvaged, and proposes a fifty-fifty partnership. John agrees.

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Shortly thereafter, they blast an old dam, releasing the logs down the river towards Helen’s mill.

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Luke receives a letter with John’s news. He is delighted, and later receives a telegram from John offering a tract of 10,000 acres of pine for Luke to buy. Luke sends his secretary, Philip Rowe, to secure the deal. Soon after his arrival, Rowe, with the aid of Harris, attempts to force Helen to sell her holdings.

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Helen refuses. Rowe discovers that John has changed his mind regarding the tract, and is now on Helen’s side regarding reforestation, contrary to what Luke believes. Milt Goddard, foreman of the logging company, shows Helen the original telegram which John had sent to Luke, and accuses John of being a spy. Helen turns away from John.

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Luke, impatient for news, comes to Pancake. He learns that Rowe has taken over the local bank, and orders that the mortgages held against Helen be foreclosed. Helen goes to the bank, where Rowe accuses her of having tricked John. John overhears this, and fights with Rowe.

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Helen then realizes that John really loves her. John is arrested by the sheriff, but is later released when Luke intercedes.

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Harris, seeking revenge against Luke, bribes old feeble-minded Charley Stump to set fire to the Foraker forest.

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John sees the blaze from a distance. Mounting a horse, he makes a mad dash to warn Helen of the danger.

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Helen leads her workers in the fight against the fire.

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But by midnight, it appears the blaze is out of control.

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Luke arrives on the scene and advises Helen to blast. Helen and John drive the logging engine through the fire to reach the powder magazine, then start on their return trip.

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Harris is caught in the blaze.

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Thad Parker corners him, and attacks him with an axe. When the smoke clears, Parker, on his knees, has a vision of his wife and child. Helen and John come through the fire and place the charges. The explosion stops the fire, and the forest is saved. Luke, now a changed man, fires Rowe, and appoints John in his place. He also supports the forest plan that Helen and John have proposed.

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The film contains a prologue featuring Theodore Roosevelt, making a plea to replant every tree that is cut down.

The three stills below show filming behind the scenes. In the first, Reginald Barker (far left in hat and glasses) directs Anna Q. Nilsson, probably for the scene where the dam is blown:

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In the next still, Barker is shown with Nilsson, Frank Keenan, and Craig Ward:

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In the third still, the actors in the left half of the shot are Richard Tucker (as Rowe), Ward, and Nilsson:

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Louis B. Mayer built his own pine forest for the climactic fire scene. The photo below shows the forest after the first week of planting:

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The second photo shows what was left of the forest after it was burned:

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Twenty camera were used to film the fire scenes:

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The fire was filmed near Cranbrook, British Columbia. Press reports indicated that several members of the cast and crew suffered injuries during the fire scenes. J. M. Voshell, business manager for Mayer, wired his boss, writing “Entire cast now safe after many hardships. Fire wardens came to our rescue. All company now in Cranbrook. Barker, Keenan, Nilsson, Headrick, Hilburn, Mayo and myself cut off my flames. Mill destroyed and logs burned. Wardens got us out. Burned by cinders and heat but first aid was all that was necessary. Had to leave case of unexposed film and tripod in the fire.” Other press reports stated that Anna Q. Nilsson had been burned while driving the locomotive through the fire. This does not sound believable, considering that several trade journals published photos of a crew member, wearing an asbestos suit, who drove the train:

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The photo below shows T. H. Williams (left) of the Southern Pacific Railroad with Louis B. Mayer, and the locomotive used in the fire scenes:

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Motion Picture News wrote “there is a powerful theme and a vigorous appeal for the conservation of America’s timber resources running through this latest Reginald Barker production which give it unusual character. Don’t think this is a propaganda picture, however, or a preachy, moralizing tale. Far from it. But the theme of forest conservation is so much an integral part of the story that it is put over powerfully. … Frank Keenan’s portrayal of Luke Taylor … is a genuine triumph.” Moving Picture World wrote “although there have been several pictures with forest fires, we believe that this is the best handled one yet presented on the screen, and the use of natural colors in these scenes strikingly heightens the effect. You seem to see the whole forest on fire, a whole hillside in flames, with the blazing yellow and red tongues of fire leaping from the giant trees.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review wrote “this production has some of the most attractive photography in it that we have ever witnessed. It is a spectacle that will live long in the memory of those who see it. The story itself is interesting and is replete with thrills and occasional bits of fun.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “this is another of Metro’s bigger and better pictures and it surely lives up to the title. It has a good, consistent story based on a big theme – the conserving of American timber tracts – and under Reginald Barker’s careful direction the story is developed smoothly and logically and holds the spectator’s attention.”
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laffite
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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Hearts Aflame, directed by Reginald Barker, featured Frank Keenan as Luke Taylor, Craig Ward as John Taylor, and Anna Q. Nilsson as Helen Foraker. The film was released in January of 1923 at nine reels some sources say seven reels), and is presumed lost. ~~~SCSU1975

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Another fab film review (and more). I's amazing how do this, Rich. Wonderful screen shots and so many. It's great to read your synopsis and then a still of that exact moment. Though not watching the movie it is still experienced in a palpable way. That's amazing the casualties of the fire. Were their lawsuits, I wonder. It was more than hearts that was aflame. The trouble they went through to make this movie! Incredibly great work once again, Rich, your work on these many films is a treasure trove of entertainment and expertise.
Catherine Deneuve in The Murri Affaire
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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Mad Love, directed by Dimitri Buchowetzki, starred Pola Negri as Sappho and Johannes Riemann as Richard de la Croix. The film was initially released in Berlin in 1921 (as Sappho) at six reels. The film was then acquired by the Goldwyn Company for American release. A copy is held in the UCLA Film Archives.

Plot: (Note: the majority of this synopsis is taken from an issue of Variety, which reviewed the original 1921 release before the film was released in the United States.)

Andreas da la Croix is madly in love with Sappho.

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But she is also seeing his employer, wealthy George Bertink. She soon tires of Andreas.

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Her indifference towards him drives him insane. His brother Richard goes to a café with his friend Teddy, hoping to forget his brother’s fate. When Richard is asked to toast a dancer at the café, he curses all womanhood. Sappho enters the café and hears Richard’s outburst. Her interest is piqued, and she manages to engage him in conversation. Bertink orders her away from Richard. But Sappho, falling for Richard, asks him to escort her home. There, Sappho attempts to work her charms on Richard, but is surprised by his coldness.

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He then tells her about his brother. Sappho is determined to keep her past a secret. Bertink threatens to tell Richard the truth about Sappho, so she allows Bertink to keep seeing her.

Richard and Sappho go to a seaside hotel.

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Bertink, mad with jealousy, tracks them down and tells Richard the truth about Sappho. Disillusioned, Richard goes to his fiancée, Maria Garden, and quickly marries her. During the wedding breakfast, Richard is plagued with thoughts of Sappho. He leaves his bride and the wedding guests and takes a train to find her. Meanwhile, Andreas escapes from the asylum after killing his guard. Sappho, learning of Richard’s marriage, sets out for the great annual fancy dress ball. At the theater box, she makes a show of gaiety to mask her depressed mood at losing Richard. Richard arrives at the theater, and the pair flee up two flights of stairs into a private dining room, where they profess their love.

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Andreas, walking blindly around the city, encounters Bertink in his limousine, who is on his way to the ball. Andreas murders him, and learns that Sappho is to be crowned a queen at the ball. He reaches the theater, and opens the door to the private box. He shoves Richard out of the room. Richard beats wildly at the door, shouting for help. When the door is broken down, Sappho lies dead at Andreas’ feet.

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The three stills below could not be placed in context. The first shows Riemann at far right, but I could not identify the other actors:

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The second shows Negri and an unidentified actor, probably during the climactic scene:

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The final still shows Negri with an unidentified actor:

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The Ontario Board of Moving Picture Censors banned the film in Canada, not because of its content, but because it had been produced in Germany.
There are some discrepancies in various reviews and synopses. For the American version, Sappho’s name was changed to Liane, and the rest of the cast were uncredited. According to some reviews, Richard’s name was changed to Pierre, and Andreas’ name to Andre. Some reviews stated that Pierre and Andre were cousins, not brothers.

Variety, reviewing the original German release, wrote “the film lacks any artistic originality in direction, photography or scenery, but it has a well-constructed, swiftly moving scenario and gives ample opportunity for acting.” Regarding the American release, Moving Picture World praised Negri’s work, writing “probably more than any of the other of this star’s pictures so far imported shows her remarkable ability as an actress. At all times she acts with sureness and decision, bringing out finely every little change in the mood of the heartless flirt who at last finds love only to lose it.” They added “the picture is finely mounted and unusually well lighted and photographed, and characteristic of the better class of German-made productions.” Screen Opinions noted that Negri was “refreshingly natural, becomingly gowned, and always alive to the moods of the story.” Screenland wrote “Pola Negri, with the same divine gift that makes her pre-war gowns look like an advanced model, creates out of this trite stock character a vibrant personality of strong emotions.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review wrote “Pola Negri’s exotic beauty is well adapted to the role of Sappho, which she plays with perfect artistry and intense earnestness.” However, Photoplay was unimpressed, writing “Pola’s playing has abandon but it is too broad. The male roles are all over-acted and the handling of the various episodes is highly inadroit.”
Last edited by scsu1975 on July 16th, 2023, 1:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Dargo
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by Dargo »

scsu1975 wrote: July 15th, 2023, 11:54 am
The second shows Negri and an unidentified actor, probably during the climactic scene:

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Well, if ya ask ME here Rich, I'm thinkin' THIS guy could be Bill "Ya doesn't have'ta call me Johnson" Saluga...and...

scsu1975 wrote: July 15th, 2023, 11:54 am
The final still shows Negri with an unidentified actor:

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...THIS guy is givin' me some very strong Edgar Bergen vibes here!

(...however, considering how old this flick is, I doubt it's either one of 'em, of course...especially Saluga!) ;)
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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The Girl of the Golden West, directed by Edwin Carewe, starred Sylvia Breamer as The Girl, J. Warren Kerrigan as Ramerrez, Russell Simpson as Jack Rance, and Rosemary Theby as Nina. The film was released in May of 1923 at seven reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: The Girl runs the Polka Saloon at Cloudy Mountain.

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Ramerrez, the notorious bandit, arrives in town.

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He stops at the Polka Saloon, and dances with The Girl, who is unaware of his identity.

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Sheriff Jack Rance, who is in love with The Girl, wants to drive the stranger from out of town, but The Girl vouches for Ramerrez.

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At Ramerrez’ headquarters, Nina, who is in love with Ramerrez, learns of his interest in The Girl. Furious, she brings a photograph to Vance, revealing the outlaw’s identity. Meanwhile, Ramerrez is dining at The Girl’s cottage, and is forced to take shelter there when a storm arises. A posse arrive, to make sure The Girl is safe.

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While Ramerrez hides, he overhears them tell The Girl whom he really is. After they leave, Ramerrez admits the truth to The Girl.

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He leaves, but is shot by Vance, who had been stalking him.

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Ramerrez staggers back to the cabin, where The Girl conceals him in a loft on the second floor. Rance arrives at the cabin, and The Girl denies that the outlaw is there. Rance is about to depart when a drop of blood hits his hand, revealing Ramerrez’ hiding place. The Girl and Rance then gamble at cards for the outlaw’s fate; if The Girl loses, she will marry Rance, but if she wins, Rance will free Ramerrez.

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The Girl wins, and Rance upholds his end of the bargain. Nina tells the posse where Ramerrez is. When he tries to escape, they capture him and plan to lynch him near the Polka Saloon.

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The Girl heads for the Saloon, where she confronts Nina.

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Then she learns that Ramerrez has told everyone about the gamble and how Rance agreed to the deal. Ramerrez is set free.

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The stills below could not be placed in context. In the first, the background was painted on glass:

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The next still suggests a holdup:

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The story was filmed earlier as a silent, and then there were two sound versions. The silent version, from 1915, was directed by C. B. DeMille and is held in several archives. The first sound version featured Ann Harding, and is presumed lost. The later version showcases Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and shows up on TCM from time to time. Although the film was based upon a stage play by David Belasco, the story is based upon Puccini’s opera of the same name. I’ve seen the opera (performed by The Met), but none of the film versions.

Reviews were generally positive. Motion Picture News called the film “about as good a western as has marked the screen in some time.” The Film Daily wrote “Carewe has supplied an excellent production besides manipulating the story to hold the interest all the way, even in spite of the anti-climax which, ordinarily, would tend to cause a break in it. The exteriors are very fine and the photography of a high order.” Moving Picture World singled out Russell Simpson’s performance, noting “among the fine individual performances none is more effective than Russell Simpson’s characterization of the sheriff – a part which he made popular on the stage as well. He wrests the full entertainment value from the character of the stalwart gambler with a strain of unconscious humor and pathos in his make-up.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “here is an exceptionally interesting drama of the West, beautifully and carefully staged and very well acted,” adding “the perfect detail of the production, the superb acting and the dramatic grip of the story, holds one’s attention up to the last moment without a let-down in the dramatic tension.” Only Photoplay was negative, calling the film “disappointing,” and noting “Sylvia Breamer certainly is not the self-reliant girl of the Polka saloon. Warren Kerrigan lacks force as the heroic road agent. Evidently the difficulties of casting this revival seriously handicapped the director.”
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laffite
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by laffite »

Placido Domingo sings Eh'ella mi creda libero, the most famous aria from "The Girl of the Golden West" by Puccini.

Catherine Deneuve in The Murri Affaire
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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What a Wife Learned, directed by John Griffith Wray, starred John Bowers as Jim Russell, Milton Sills as Rudolph Martin, and Marguerite de la Motte as Sheila Dorne. The film was released in January of 1923 at seven reels. The Gosfilmofond in Moscow holds a complete copy.

Plot: Sheila Dorne, city-dweller, goes west to seek atmosphere for her first book. In Arizona, she meets Jim Russell, owner of a cattle ranch.

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Jim sets out to win her over.

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But Sheila resists, claiming that husbands and careers don’t mix. During a big cattle stampede, she sees Jim leap into action to stop it. She also observes his devotion to his crippled little sister.

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Finally, she agrees to marry him. Sheila spends all her time on her book, with Jim promising he will never interfere with her career.

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Sheila’s book is published and is so successful that she gets an offer to have it turned into a stage play. She goes to the city to collaborate with Rudolph Martin, a playwright. Jim reluctantly accompanies her. He gets a job as a truck driver and then a riveter.

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Meanwhile, Sheila becomes the center of attention in society.

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The situation soon becomes intolerable for Jim, especially when he hears that Sheila will go to New York for the production of her play. He declares he is through being “Sheila Russell’s husband,” and that she must choose between him and her career.

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Meanwhile, Jim’s employer discovers that Jim has a real talent for engineering, and offers him a position as a draftsman. Jim realizes that behind his drawings lies the same force behind his wife’s writing – the urge to create. In his rush to hurry home to Sheila to beg forgiveness, he falls from the building on which he is working, straining ligaments in his right shoulder and hand so that he is unable to use them. Sheila, thinking that Jim has deserted her, goes to New York. Jim bitterly returns to his ranch. He finds an outlet for his frustration in the building of a great dam that had been abandoned by another company. He mortgages his ranch, in spite of the advice of friends and neighbors who believe the project is not feasible. Nevertheless, Jim sets to work, and the structure is near completion when a season of heavy rain sets in. The rising waters fill an upper dam, and Jim realizes that if that dam gives way, his new dam will be destroyed, and with it, his dream of achieving a work of which his wife would be proud.
Word comes from the east that Sheila’s play is soon to be produced, and promises to be a big hit.

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A paragraph in a gossip column insinuates that the divorce of Rudolph Martin and his wife may result in a new romance. Sheila’s play opens to a big success.

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Then she gets word that Jim’s little sister has been taken ill, so she heads for Arizona. Martin, who loves her and believes her career and happiness lie in the east, accompanies her on the trip.

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They arrive at the critical moment when the new dam, just completed, is threatened by the surging waters of the upper dam, which has given way. Jim and Martin are both caught in the rising flood waters. As Sheila watches the two men struggling in the water, she realizes she loves her husband so much she is willing to give up anything for him.

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Jim rescues Martin*, believing that Sheila loves the playwright. Sheila and Jim reconcile, and he comes to an understanding of the creative drive behind her work.

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Martin returns to the east, leaving Jim and Sheila to build their future together.

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*Some reviews state that Martin is killed in the flood waters.

The still below shows, left to right, John Bowers, Marguerite de la Motte, Producer Thomas Ince, Screenwriter Bradley King, and Milton Sills:

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The crew from the Thomas Ince Studios erected a temporary dam near the Laguna Dam in Yuma, Arizona. Construction materials were transported eleven miles by pack mules. The dam took eight days of work, sixty thousand feet of lumber and fifty tons of cement. It took five minutes to destroy it for the climax.

The scenes with John Bowers as riveter were filmed atop a 12-story skyscraper in San Francisco. Ince obtained permission (for a price) to have construction work halted on the skyscraper for ten days, long enough for him to film the scenes. Bowers was completely comfortable working at those heights, and did not use a double. He even said to his director, John Griffith Wray, “why not make a shot of me balancing on one foot on the end of an I-beam?” Wray angrily replied “we’re in this picture a hundred thousand dollars already and I don’t propose to take any unnecessary chances before it is finished. If anything happened to you we would have to make it all over. Just the straight scenes are dangerous enough.” Indeed, shortly after, Bowers slipped and fell from the girder, injuring himself slightly. A similar fall needed to be filmed for the story, so a net was spread below the actor before the actual shot was made.

Exhibitor’s Trade Review praised the film, writing “a clear, well constructed plot, photography of the best grade, intelligent acting by a talented cast and skilled direction are the qualities which register “What a Wife Learned” as a feature worthy the attention of all exhibitors and likely to bring golden box office returns. Exhibitor’s Herald called the film “a thoroughly convincing and well-acted drama,” adding “the characters are well drawn and the work of the entire company brings out various situations in the best light.” However, The Film Daily wrote “a much better title would have been “What a Husband Couldn’t Learn,” for certainly the husband of pretty Sheila Dorne, novelist and playwright, is certainly a stupid young man and he is made quite inconsistent at several times throughout the progress of the story,” adding” beyond the continual eruptions in the domestic life of the cattle rancher and his pretty wife, there is little of interest in the picture.” Photoplay also was unimpressed, writing “it was the husband who learned, and it required six reels. This is one of those plots where, if the hero or heroine had used a little common sense in the second reel, the complications would never have arisen and, of course, there wouldn’t have been any more picture. That would have been all right with us.”
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

Coming in August:

An Old Sweetheart of Mine, with Elliott Dexter and Helen Jerome Eddy

Backbone, with Alfred Lunt and Edith Roberts

The Last Moment, with Henry Hull and Doris Kenyon

Vanity Fair, with Mabel Ballin and Hobart Bosworth
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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An Old Sweetheart of Mine, directed by Harry Garson, starred Elliott Dexter as John Craig and Helen Jerome Eddy as Mary Ellen Anderson. The film was released in May of 1923 at six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: John Craig, rummaging through the attic of his home, finds an old Christmas card addressed to him “From An Old Sweetheart of Yours.” He thinks back to the time when he was a young boy and Mary Ellen Anderson was a young girl. Johnny shows off by walking a picket fence, but his overalls get caught and he remains suspended until Mary Allen rescues him. Thus, their relationship begins.

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Johnny, Mary, and the dog Spot play house.

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A group of boys, led by Stuffy Shade, begin to taunt Johnny. Johnny fights them all, and Mary Ellen breaks up the battle with a garden hose. John pictures the first kiss Mary Ellen gave him after school one day. Then he sees himself years later as a newspaper owner in a small town, with Mary Ellen as his assistant.

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He is admired and respected by everyone. But he is in financial stress, worried about notes held against his business. Stuffy Shade, just arrived from New York, pays John a visit and introduces his cousin, Irene Ryan. Stuffy learns about John’s financial troubles and offers to help out. He lends John $2500 and gets a receipt for it. Then he interests John in a speculative venture. Stuffy has an associated named McCann, who is posing as a geologist. Stuffy and McCann have been quietly buying up ground leases from farmers. Stuffy claims that the National Oil people want a lease on his farm. He says that this is a great opportunity for the town, and suggests the townspeople form a pool to take over the leases he holds. John prints the news in his newspaper. The people of the town, who trust John, come forward with money and organize the pool.

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Irene begins to show attention to John, and Mary Ellen is hurt when John calls off a dinner appointment in order to have a business dinner with Irene and Stuffy. The day approaches for the last payment by the pool to Stuffy. On that same day the supposed oil well is to be tested for a gusher. Irene tells John the truth about the scam, and that he had better escape town with her and Stuffy. Mary Ellen overhears part of the conversation. Meanwhile, a crowd gathers for the oil test. At the same time, Stuffy and his confederates appear at John’s office for the last payment of $10,000, which the pool has turned over to John for payment. John refuses their demand. Stuffy pulls out the receipt for the $2500 loan he had given John. To John’s horror, Stuffy had inserted a line on the receipt stating that the check was payment for helping to put over the oil scam on the townspeople. Mary Ellen arrives at the testing ground just as the crowd realizes it has been cheated. She pleads with the crowd not to judge John until they hear his side of the story. The townspeople start towards John’s office. There, Stuffy is still trying to get the money from John. But an oil-splattered messenger rushes in to tell everyone that after the crowd had left, a great gusher of oil shot up. John is vindicated, and the cheaters have cheated themselves.

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In the present, as John sits in the attic, he sees Mary Ellen, that old sweetheart of his – now his wife - entering with their two children.

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The story was suggested by a 19th century poem, of the same title, written by James Whitcomb Riley. The poem is accessible on several websites. The only semblance between the poem and the film is the beginning, where the husband (unnamed) reminisces, and the ending, where his wife (also unnamed) appears. Selected lines from the poem were used as subtitles.

Screenland gave a mixed review, writing “Elliott Dexter as the hero and Helen Jerome Eddy as The Old Sweetheart give performances that approach the ideal in screen portrayal. The old folks will love this memorial of the days when Romance was young,” but added “the unfortunate introduction of a bogus oil well that suddenly becomes valuable detracts from the romantic flavor of the picture, to some degree.” Motion Picture News wrote “there’s nothing new in this one in the way of story or anything else, but it is a picture that will certainly have the approval of the reform factions, the mothers’ clubs, yes, even the censors will like it, for they will find nothing in it to offend.” Moving Picture World noted “Elliott Dexter and Helen Jerome Eddy are good types for a performance of this kind. There is a sincerity and stability about them that brings home the significance of the picture and if the production had preserved more of the original romance of the poem, one can imagine that their performance would be quite perfect.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review praised the child actors, Pat Moore and Mary Jane Irving, who played John and Mary Allen as children, writing “as the two little sweethearts these two children put over a clean and enjoyable story with a lot of expression. As the story progresses it develops into more of the usual thing that is being seen on the screen but is nevertheless interesting owing to the fine performances given by the leading characters.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “while the opening scenes and early footage are quaintly beautiful and very well acted, the picture is somewhat draggy up until the modern story is introduced.” Finally, William E. Tragsdorf, of Trags Theatre in Neillsville, Wisconsin, called the film “a slow and draggy affair taken from James Whitcomb Riley’s poem,” adding “put this one on as a benefit for a church.”
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

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Backbone, directed by Edward Sloman, starred Alfred Lunt (in his film debut) as John Thorne and Edith Roberts as Yvonne de Mersay. The film was released on April 30, 1923, at seven reels, and is presumed lost. I was fortunate to find a very extensive synopsis in the Library of Congress, so this is as near a complete reconstruction as possible.

Plot: André de Mersay rules the countryside of Northern Maine, through his lumber mills. In his chateau in the little town of St. Croix, he sits with his friend, Colonel Tip. Tip, a midget, is the proprietor of the village hotel. Tip asks de Mersay if there is any news from his granddaughter, Yvonne, who is in France. De Mersay produces a postcard from Yvonne, stating she will return soon. The housekeeper, Mrs. Whidden, admits a visitor, Anthony Bracken. Bracken manages the lumber mills, and is a distant relative of de Mersay. Bracken’s arrival casts a shadow over the house. Tip leaves, and de Mersay tells Bracken that after dinner, he wants to see the private ledger and bank books for the business. Bracken nods and leaves. De Mersay then drifts off to sleep, dreaming of Yvonne, and of the past.

He dreams about a romance, a story handed down from one generation to the next. The setting is the time when Henry II was King of France. A young André de Mersay waits in the anteroom of the royal ballroom for the arrival of his fiancée, Yvonne de Chausson. But she never arrives. In the dungeon below de Mersay, Yvonne also waits, while her father, wounded in her defense, lies feverish at her feet. Upon hearing of de Mersay’s engagement to Yvonne, the Minister of State, who had longed for Yvonne, had her arrested, along with her father, as the pair journeyed toward Paris.

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Yvonne attempts to bribe the jailer by offering him a gold chain from her neck. The jailer snatches it, and promises to convey her message to de Mersay, which she has scratched upon the locket: “prison … Yvonne …” Upstairs, during the ball, the locket is slipped to de Mersay. As he heads for the outer door, he is met by the Captain of the Guard, and two men. De Mersay draws his sword and holds the three men at bay. The King applauds de Mersay, while the Minister frowns.

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Although de Mersay fights off the three men, he is eventually surrounded by other guards and marched off to prison. Meanwhile, Yvonne, finding her prison door open, sneaks out into the corridor. But when she turns to rescue her father, she finds the dungeon door has been closed and barred by an unseen hand. Terrified, she wanders about the prison, until she runs into the Minister of State. She angrily asks him how he dares to subject her and her father to such indignity. The Minister sneers, removes a screen at the back of the room, and shows her de Mersay, bound and gagged. When Yvonne rushes to her lover, the Minister grabs her and says “Mademoiselle, I offer you my hand in marriage. Choose life or death for your father and André de Mersay. Their fate hangs on your answer.” When Yvonne hesitates, the Minister takes her to the torture chamber, where an old man, similar to her father’s age, is bound to a rack. “Wed me,” says the minister, “and your father shall remain at your side. De Mersay will be free – but banished.” Yvonne consents, and the Minister allows the two lovers a moment to say farewell. A week later, Yvonne is led up the aisle to marry a man she detests. At the same time, de Mersay, is standing aboard a ship sending him to exile. Just before the ship departs, he receives a letter which says “Separation of love like ours can not be eternal. Some day, somewhere down the centuries our hearts will join again, and we shall know the bliss that we are now denied. Let hope live. Thine forever, Yvonne.” De Mersay presses the letter to his lips and weeps.

In the present day, old André reads that same letter which has been handed down for generations. He again falls back to sleep. Doc Roper, the village vet, enters Anthony Bracken’s office, knife in hand. He demands money from Bracken. Bracken replies that he has none, and that de Mersay is suspicious and wants to see the books. Roper accompanies Bracken back to de Mersay’s chateau. When they arrive, Bracken enters with the ledgers and Roper waits outside. De Mersay examines the books, then accuses Bracken of tampering with them. He orders Bracken out of the house. Mrs. Whidden encounters de Mersay lying across a table, having a fit. She runs after Bracken, who returns with Roper. De Mersay regains consciousness and says “Tell Yvonne – the tail of the dragon!” Bracken and Roper carry the old man to his room.

In the hotel of St. Croix, a young man named John Thorne arrives from New York City. The next morning, Mrs. Whidden appears in the village, and tells everyone that Bracken, under orders from de Mersay, has discharged her and the other servants from the De Mersay household. De Mersay is under the care of Roper and is not allowed visitors. An Indian, known as a horse-thief and ruffian, stands guard at the chateau. Thorne goes to the chateau, and is told de Mersay’s illness may last for weeks. He takes an immediate dislike to Bracken, Roper, and the Indian, and promises that he will wait weeks, if necessary, to see de Mersay. Yvonne arrives from Europe, and is met by Colonel Tip. He warns her what to expect at the chateau and takes her there. She finds the door locked, and the Indian on guard.

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Bracken meets her, and when she asks to see the doctor, he points to Roper. She makes several attempts to get past the Indian, but is pushed away. Thorne arrives to ask for news of de Mersay.

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Yvonne is abrupt with him, and Thorne replies “I do not believe that Yvonne de Chausson would have turned away a stranger who came to offer his friendship.” Yvonne is puzzled, and asks where Thorne has heard that name. Thorne evades the question, then leaves. Bracken gives Yvonne a written message from her grandfather, in which he welcomes her, but forbids her to talk to anyone about his illness. Yvonne notes an ink spot on Bracken’s finger and suspects he forged the letter. Yvonne is given a room in the house, where a friendly Chinese servant cooks for her. As weeks pass, Thorne continues inquiring for de Mersay, while Bracken draws money from the old man’s account. One day, Tip sees Roper coming from the bank, stuffing banknotes into his pockets. When Tip confronts him, Roper lifts him up and prepares to spank him. Thorne appears on the scene and grabs Roper’s arm. “Never spank a gentleman on Friday,” says Thorne. “It’s bad luck.”

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Roper releases Tip and goes away. Yvonne, who has witnessed the incident, offers her thanks to Thorne.

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Tip, thinking he is promoting a relationship between the two young people, shows Yvonne a newspaper account of Thorne’s recent purchase of lumber lands on the East River. Yvonne is furious, and exclaims “Our land! Our timber! Ours by right of years! But I too am a de Mersay, I’ll fight for de Mersay’s rights!”

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Thorne attempts to explain, but Yvonne will not listen and walks away. She meets Mrs. Whidden, who tells Yvonne what her grandfather had said about “the tail of the dragon.” Mrs. Whidden, who still has her keys to the chateau, gives them to Yvonne. The girl rushes back to the house, finds the door of her grandfather’s room unguarded, and tries one key after another in the lock. The Indian creeps up on her and grabs her from behind.

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As they struggle, Yvonne throws the keys down the staircase, where a hand grabs them. Yvonne frees herself from the Indian and confronts Bracken, demanding to see her grandfather. She explains that her family is being robbed by Thorne, and Bracken replies that he has his own way of dealing with Thorne. At that moment, the music from an old French song, often sung by de Mersay, can be heard coming from the garden. Bracken is terrified to see the figure of de Mersay, with an open song book in his hands. Yvonne runs into the garden to look for her grandfather. Bracken calls the Indian to go after her. Yvonne hoists herself up the side of the chateau and crawls towards the window of her grandfather’s room. The Indian climbs up after her.

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Yvonne stomps on the Indian’s fingers, causing him to lose his hold and fall back to the ground. The Indian climbs back, and the two fall to the ground.

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The Indian viciously chokes Yvonne, but the Chinese servant intervenes, holding a knife to the Indian’s head. The Indian releases Yvonne.
At Thorne’s lumber camp, things are going badly. Machinery is breaking down, some of the workers become drunk, and Thorne goes to Bracken, accusing him of tampering with the business. Yvonne appears, and tells Thorne she is responsible, and demands to know what Thorne is going to do about it. At that moment, Thorne’s bridge is blown up and an explosion fills the air. Thorne tells Yvonne that in her plot, she is placing the lives of innocent people in danger. He leaves, and Yvonne begins to feel remorse. She overhears Bracken and Roper talking about Thorne.

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“There he goes,” says Roper, “on his last ride to the camp.” Roper has placed a wire from one tree to another, along a route which Thorne must ride on his horse. Yvonne rushes to the stable, mounts her horse, and rushes after Thorne. Before Thorne reaches the wire, he takes a side path. Yvonne reaches the wire and her horse rears, throwing her down the side of a hill. The horse runs off. Thorne catches it and sees Yvonne’s initials on the bridle. He finds her lying unconscious. As he holds her, he speaks the words in the letter written by Yvonne de Chausson to André de Mersay: “Some day somewhere down the centuries our hearts shall join again, and we shall know the bliss that is now denied us.” Yvonne opens her eyes and says “How do you know the words of the letter of Yvonne de Chausson?” “I have known them all my life,” Thorne answers. Yvonne recovers and resumes her aloofness. She warns Thorne of the plot against him. When Thorne offers his hand in friendship, she does not reciprocate, and rides off to the chateau.

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Nightfall comes, and Bracken, tormented by the old French song and the mocking voice of André de Mersay, drinks heavily. At Thorne’s camp, he and the remaining faithful workers, are holed up in his house, surrounded by rioters. The Chinese servant brings a food tray to Yvonne. Folded under her napkin, she finds the keys she had thrown down the stairs. With the hallway unguarded, Yvonne opens the door to her grandfather’s room and slip in, locking the door behind her. The room is empty, and Yvonne calls for her grandfather. The Chinese servant enters through the window and tries to console her. Bracken, still searching for the person singing the French song, has called the Indian into the garden to search with him. They look up and see the Chinese servant and Yvonne in the upper room. The Indian climbs up to the window. When he enters the room, the Chinese servant takes out his knife, and throws it at the Indian.

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The Indian falls to the ground, dead.

At the hotel, Tip telephones Thorne and tells him that Yvonne has finally gotten into her grandfather’s room. Roper, sitting at the hotel, overhears this and starts for the chateau. Thorne orders his men to beat back the rioters. He then mounts his horse and heads for the chateau. Still in her grandfather’s room, Yvonne notices a piece of furniture which the Chinese servant is inspecting with interest. He tells her the dragon carved on it is Chinese – and this brings to Yvonne’s mind the message from her grandfather. She and the servant press their fingers to the carved tail, and a secret opening is revealed in which lies a letter addressed to Yvonne, to be read after the death of her grandfather. The letter speaks of the old romance of Yvonne de Chausson and André de Mersay, and closes with these words: “It is the ambition of my life that the romance of our family be made perfect. The last of the opposite line is John Chausson Thorne.”

Roper reaches the chateau, and begins to break down the door to the room. Bracken, still drunk, sees the ghostly apparition of André de Mersay. Roper breaks into the room and chokes the Chinaman into unconsciousness.

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Thorne enters through the shattered door and brawls with Roper.

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The pair roll down the stairs, locked in each other’s arms. Yvonne and the servant watch from above. Thorne and Roper each grab a fire iron, and finally Thorne strikes Roper a blow which sends him reeling across the room. Roper slams into a stone column and collapses. Tip arrives, and they find Bracken dead from suicide. Tip then explains that he had played the part of the ghostly voice, perched in a tree top. Roper, dying, confesses to Thorne: “De Mersay died a natural death, the night he was taken sick, and we buried him. We kept it a secret … so we could get the money … and have time to escape.” Thorne and Yvonne go into the moonlight, and exchange their first kiss.

Exhibitor’s Trade Review called the film “an entertaining picture in which romance, adventure and clean sentiment are blended with highly satisfactory results,” while Exhibitor’s Herald called it “about as thrilling and entertaining a picture as has been offered during the present season.” Motion Picture News wrote “the picture releases some good melodramatic punches – particularly in a thrilling fight. The atmosphere is good and the acting is first rate. The continuity is rather uneven and some may wonder over the intricacies of the plot.” Moving Picture World wrote “the suspense has been handled unusually well, so that this in itself would keep the spectator entertained. … The material production is elaborate and painstaking. There is so much that will be diverting to the average spectator that the picture seems from every standpoint an advantageous offering.” But Motion Picture Magazine was unimpressed, calling the film “a long-drawn-out story which does not offer any high moments until its conclusion,” adding “the story is often confusing and what is disclosed does not warrant the cost of giving it such a production. Alfred Lunt makes his debut here. We’ll come out on record and state that his forte is comedy, not heavy heroics as displayed here.”

James “Major” Doyle portrayed Colonel Tip. He reportedly stood 36 inches tall (some reports say three feet, 9 inches), and was reputed to be the world’s smallest man. He appeared in the Ringling-Barnum and Bailey Circus, and was Mayor of Midget City at the Chicago World’s Fair. He led a movement to bar imported midgets from the Chicago Fair, claiming that promoters were planning to bring in midgets from Germany, at less pay than what American midgets would get. Doyle was also active in The White Rats, a labor union organized to support the rights of male vaudeville performers (women and African-American performers were not allowed to join). Doyle died in his sleep, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on October 10, 1938.
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laffite
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by laffite »

scsu1975 wrote: August 12th, 2023, 1:31 pm Image

Backbone, directed by Edward Sloman, starred Alfred Lunt (in his film debut) as John Thorne and Edith Roberts as Yvonne de Mersay. The film was released on April 30, 1923, at seven reels, and is presumed lost. I was fortunate to find a very extensive synopsis in the Library of Congress, so this is as near a complete reconstruction as possible.

Excellent, as usual. i see I have some catching up to do. It's always interesting to appreciate the language used in the reviews. I have a suspicion that the last one panning the movie may have been right on. Something rings true about it. What others might have been afraid to say. Seven reels. Each reel about 10 minutes?
Catherine Deneuve in The Murri Affaire
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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laffite wrote: August 12th, 2023, 10:07 pm
Excellent, as usual. i see I have some catching up to do. It's always interesting to appreciate the language used in the reviews. I have a suspicion that the last one panning the movie may have been right on. Something rings true about it. What others might have been afraid to say. Seven reels. Each reel about 10 minutes?
Yes, one reel is about 10 minutes. Sometimes a film will be listed at say, eight reels, even though it's only a few minutes over seven reels. I'm not sure if there was any standard for rounding up or rounding down, since the number of reels for some of the films I've researched is not consistent.
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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The Last Moment, directed by J. Parker Read Jr., starred Henry Hull as Hercules Napoleon Cameron, Doris Kenyon as Alice Winthrop, Louis Wolheim as “The Finn,” and Louis Calhern as Harry Gaines. The film was released in May of 1923 at six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Hercules Napoleon Cameron, “Nap,” cannot live up to the name which his parents have given him. He is bashful, self-conscious, and turns to books to find the adventures which he cannot seek in real life. Nap is in love with Alice Winthrop. He befriends a crippled newsboy, son of a longshoreman whom Nap has frequently had to drag home from the waterfront where bootleg liquor is served to the sailors.

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One day, Alice decides to accompany Nap to the waterfront saloon, in search of the newsboy’s father. She disguises herself as a youth by wearing a man’s cap. Harry Gaines, strong and courageous, who is Nap’s rival for Alice, assures Nap there will be no danger to Alice, since he will also accompany them. The proprietor of the saloon, resenting Nap’s interference, has the three shanghaied on board a bootleg schooner commanded by “The Finn,” a brutal sea captain.

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The Finn uncovers Alice’s disguise and orders her to his cabin. When she refuses, he tells Alice and Nap to look through a small opening in a cage on the upper deck of the schooner. The pair are horror struck at “The Thing” inside.

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Finn tells Alice she can choose between his cabin or the cage.

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He gives her until nightfall to decide and locks her in the hold of the schooner. A tremendous storm breaks out, during which The Thing breaks from its cage and wreaks vengeance, one by one, upon the crew. Nap attempts to rescue Alice.

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Breaking free from The Finn, the pair spend a day and night of terror in the hold.

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Alice confesses her love for Nap, which fills him with courage. At dawn of the third day, an island is sighted and Alice jumps ship, followed later by Nap. The Thing jumps in after them and the time comes in which Nap must face “the last moment.” He has read that a man can drown another if he locks him close in an embrace and goes down with him. He also believes it means death for him, but safety for Alice. So Nap turns and swims towards The Thing. During their battle, The Thing is seized by a huge abalone and is drowned. Nap is united with Alice on the island.

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There were no stills released of “The Thing,” but contemporaneous reviews describe it as an ape-like creature.

Exhibitor’s Trade Review called the film “bully good entertainment, fit to serve as a stellar attraction of unlimited box office possibilities in any theatre,” adding that the movie “piles thrills up with reckless abandon, keeps its suspense as finely tightened as a violin string and winds up with a peach of a climax.” Exhibitor’s Herald called the picture “about as thrilling and interesting tale of society and the sea as has been published in some time. Here is a feature that will make them sit up and take notice. Good cast, good direction and a first-rate story combine to make it a success.” Motion Picture News wrote “here is a combination society and sea tale that is all to the mustard. It should please those jaded folks who complain of the sameness in our screen fare.” The Film Daily described the film as “hokum with plenty of creepy stuff but it’s one strong situation made to last too long,” but added it would “please those who like their entertainment to have romance, excitement and cold chills.”
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