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 ...
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Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
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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>
Both leading "black" characters in the film are not played by African-Americans. The role of the "Mammy" is played by Minnie Devereaux, a Canadian-born Native American. The role of the "Negro Servant" is played by white actor Nick Cogley. Both actors performed their roles in "blackface". See more »
"The Coward" should be seen in order to disprove the oft-made point that film acting in the early 20th century was overdone. The young and fresh-faced Charles Ray, who steals this Civil War melodrama from then-veterans Frank Keenan (a dead ringer for Mark Twain) and Gertrude Clair, was one of the most naturally appealing young male actors of his time, and recognized as such by contemporary audiences and critics. Few of his films have survived, and luckily this rather well preserved relic contains generous helpings of his talent and magnetism. Sadly, his career petered out in the 1920s.
There is little of general interest, however, in this simple but overly drawn-out Civil War story of a young man (Ray) whose soldier father (Keenan) forces him at gunpoint to enlist in the Confederate Army for the sake of family honor, if nothing else. There follows a melodrama of desertion, heroism and redemption which could have been told in about 30 minutes if some of the close-ups had been kept to a realistic length, but this was 1915 and cinema audiences apparently needed 60 seconds or so to identify an emotional state from an on screen face.
Some of the indoor scenes bear the telltale sign of having been shot outdoors to take advantage of the natural light (in a parlor scene Keenan's cigar smoke rushes away from his face and the dining room table cloth flutters in the breeze).
Keenan's performance, mostly slow-motion gestures and smoldering glares, seems bizarre by today's standards, but it can't be his fault because the camera and editing are obviously cooperating.
As usual for the era, house slaves are played by white actors in blackface.
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