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Confederate soldier Frank Winslow is terrified of the war and eventually runs away from battle. But when he finds himself behind enemy lines with vital information, he must decide between his fear and his conscience. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 1861, the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, Virginia's young men sign up by the hundreds to fight for the Confederacy. Plantation owner Frank Keenan (as Jefferson Beverly Winslow) wants to fight alongside handsome son Charles Ray (as Frank Winslow). Mr. Keenan is rejected as too old, but expects his son will enlist. Not so fast. Overcome with fear and dread, Mr. Ray gets cold feet at the recruiting station. Yes, he is "The Coward". So, disgraced war veteran father Keenan signs Ray up at gunpoint!
While on "picket duty" patrol, Ray is startled by wild animals, and goes AWOL. Running home to stately "Winslow Hall", he is comforted by gentle-mother Gertrude Claire (as Betty) and the family's domesticated slaves. When papa Keenan finds out his son has deserted the Confederate Army, he flies into a rage, exclaiming, "Why was I ever born to be the father of a coward?" while Ray shamefully sobs. Later, when Yankee soldiers invade his home, Ray gets a second chance to prove his mettle...
With D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" (released earlier in 1915) setting box offices on fire, this shorter Civil War epic was made to order; it also resembled Griffith's "The Battle" (1911) and others. An acclaimed stage actor, Frank Kennan had his name above co-star Charles Ray. Both men became screen stars with "The Coward" - but Ray quickly shot past his illustrious elder. Ray's performance in "The Coward" is excellent, and was recalled as an example of the decade's best acting (it still is).
Keenan (grandfather of character actor Keenan Wynn), Ms. Claire, and Patricia Palmer (as Amy) show degrees of "stagy".
The "Quigley Poll" of top ten money-making stars for the year 1916 (which took "The Coward" into account) debuted Keenan at #10. In 1917, Ray debuted at #8, one above Keenan, who subsequently left the poll. From then on, Ray was found in the upper half of the exhibitors' list, complied by Quigley Publications from 1915 to the present. Ray was a million-dollar super-star until pouring his fortune into his own production company, which famously flopped with "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (1923).
******** The Coward (10/3/15) Thomas H. Ince : Reginald Barker ~ Charles Ray, Frank Kennan, Gertrude Claire, Margaret Gibson
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