Here's a real piece of Dickensian mellerdrammer, courtesy of D.W. Griffith. George Nichols plays Paulton, a miser. Griffith establishes that Paulton's a miser by showing him gloating over his money, as if he were Ebenezer Scrooge or Silas Marner. Paulton's only daughter Alice has decided to marry, but Paulton disapproves of her choice. I don't much blame him, as Alice's beloved is played by Mack Sennett, looking very nearly as loutish here as he would be a few years later when he intentionally played burly louts in his early Keystone films. Paulton wants Alice to marry Alfred Paget, who is better-looking (and thinner) than Mack Sennett but not discernibly better otherwise. Alice marries Mack (he has no screen name here) without her father's approval, so of course Paulton disinherits her.
Time passes. (Or, as we say in Japanese: tempus Fujitsu.) Alice's husband has no discernible ability to earn a living, but he's managed to put a bun in her oven and they now have a little golden-haired child. (Is my revolver loaded?) In a contrived string of expositions, Paulton has vacated his house and he now lodges in (get this, please) the flat directly above his own daughter! Being a miser, he of course hides his money in the chimney. Oh, blimey!
Before the New Deal, banks in America were far less reliable than they are now, so I can readily understand why so many characters in American melodramas concealed their moolah in hiding-places rather than in savings accounts. I'm sure that real-life people of that time did the same thing. What utterly infuriates me is that so many fictional characters from that time period make a point of stashing their cash in stoves, ovens and chimneys ... places, in other words, where FIRE could endanger the money! This stupid cliché turns up at least as recently as the Broadway musical (and film) 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown', in the 1960s: a fictional work about an actual person.
SPOILERS COMING. Anyway, sweet Alice's husband Mack Sennett is at death's door (too many custard pies, I guess), leaving Alice penniless. Her little golden-haired child decides to pray for divine intervention, for some reason aiming her prayers up the chimney. I guess she's trying to contact Santa Claus, or maybe Mary Poppins. Of course, Paulton's money falls down the chimney. Of course, Alice and her daughter find the dosh ... and interpret it as an answer to their prayers.
I was intrigued to see future film director Henry Lehrman in this movie, in a brief role. I'd known that Lehrman apprenticed with Griffith, but I also knew that Griffith despised him. Lehrman (an Austrian) obtained work under Griffith by claiming to have worked at the Pathé studio in Paris: Griffith correctly suspected that Lehrman was lying but took him on anyway. It was Griffith who hung on Lehrman the nickname "Pathé" which followed him for the rest of his career. Lehrman, a genuinely evil man, later took advantage of the death of his mistress Virginia Rappe by claiming to have been her fiancé (and buying an engraved engagement ring to that effect) so as to aid his own career by helping to turn public opinion against the innocent Roscoe Arbuckle.
My instinctive reaction to "A Child's Faith" is to cry this film wildly implausible -- why would any sensible person keep his money in a chimney? -- but I'm aware of similar cases in real life. The Grand Ole Opry comedian Stringbean and his wife were murdered by men who'd heard a rumour that Stringbean kept a large amount of money in his cabin: after the murders, the cabin was bought by an unrelated man who discovered one day a gentle fall of green confetti in his chimney. Mice had built a nest inside the chimney, using at least one thousand $100 bills for that purpose: all ruined by the mice. I could have used that money to make a better movie than this one.
In fairness to "A Child's Faith", this movie was precisely the sort of thing that audiences in 1910 wanted to see. I found it laughably maudlin, but I recognise that Griffith made this film for audiences of his own time ... not mine. It achieves much of what it was apparently meant to do, so I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10. But this film would have been more plausible if some set-dresser had thought of putting some soot in that chimney.
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