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The Secret of Delft (1917)

Het geheim van Delft (original title)
The secret from the title is the lost recipe for shiny Delft pottery, that Jan Vogel is desperately trying to rediscover. For his attempts he needs platinum, but the funds run out because ... See full summary »




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Complete credited cast:
Annie Bos ...
Lily Bouwmeester ...
Jan van Dommelen ...
Jan Vogel
Willem van der Veer ...
Willem Berg
Louis H. Chrispijn ...
Van Haaften
Frederick Vogeding ...
Leo van Haaften
Paula de Waart ...
Mevrouw Van Haaften
Minny Erfmann ...
Minny van Haaften


The secret from the title is the lost recipe for shiny Delft pottery, that Jan Vogel is desperately trying to rediscover. For his attempts he needs platinum, but the funds run out because the factory owner Van Haaften has lost his money in stock-speculations. Luckily for Jan, he finds a farewell letter in the park, including a large sum of money. Meanwhile, the owner's son Leo confesses his love for Jan's daughter Annie, but Van Haaften forbids their marriage. Because of Jan's nephew Willem Berg's ongoing spying attempts to gain knowledge of the secret recipe, Jan buys Van Haaften a gun to defend himself against the villain. One night, as Willem has secretly entered the factory, Van Haaften enters his office to find a letter from a friend with a sum of money, that is not nearly large enough to cover his losses. He writes a suicide note and shoots himself, after which Willem enters the office and steals the money and the note. When, on the following morning, Jan has finally succeeded ... Written by Gertjan van Oosten <gertjan@West.NL>

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Release Date:

9 March 1917 (Netherlands)  »

Also Known As:

El secreto de Delft  »

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The scenes supposedly taking place in Delft were shot in Haarlem. See more »

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User Reviews

Delft blue meets Pearl White; or, Yoo-hoo blue-hue boo-hoo.
16 November 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

One more 'lost' film returned from oblivion! Although popular at the time of its release, 'The Mystery of Delft' vanished soon afterward. A nitrate print was found in October 1994 and loaned to Nederlands Filmmuseum for restoration. I attended a screening of the restored version in July 1996, at the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna.

This intriguing film -- similar in spirit to American cliff-hanger serials -- stars Annie Bos, who was the most popular Dutch film actor of the time. At the climax of this movie, she performs several highly physical feats which border on the acrobatic, and the photography makes it absolutely clear that Bos herself (not a double) is performing these.

The film's title and premise refer to a genuine secret. The town of Delft, in Holland, is home to a major porcelain industry, producing chinaware with a distinctive colour known as Delft blue. From this background, the film spins a highly entertaining fictional story.

Middle-aged Jan Vogel acquires a job in the Van Haaften china factory, with the specific intent of learning the secret of manufacturing the beautiful Delft porcelain. He does indeed learn the secret ... but shortly afterwards the Van Haaften patriarch (Louis Chrispijn) commits suicide. The authorities mistake this for murder, and arrest Jan Vogel as the killer. Jan's evil nephew Willem takes over Jan's job at the factory, claiming that he too knows the secret. In fact, Williem doesn't know the secret but he tries to persuade the falsely-accused Jan to reveal it. SPOILERS COMING: Fortunately, Jan's pretty daughters Annie (Annie Bos) and Lilly save the day, proving their father's innocence while exposing Willem and protecting the precious secret.

As the heroine, Annie Bos gives a Delft performance ... I mean a deft performance, not only in the rousingly physical climax but also in her emotional scenes. In her portrayal of the brave daughter risking her own safety to clear her father, I was reminded of the American serial queen Pearl White, and that's no coincidence. Modern viewers of this movie, familiar with Hitchcock's film theory, will realise that the Van Haaften china formula (which is so very important to the characters in this movie) is what Hitchcock defined as a 'McGuffin': an object or piece of information which is meaningless to the audience yet which propels the characters through the story's motivations. In fact, the concept of the McGuffin existed before Hitchcock articulated it, and the credit goes to Pearl White: in 'The Perils of Pauline' and other films, White and her supporting cast were constantly risking each other's lives and limbs in order to acquire a roll of photographs or some other crucial prop; Pearl White herself referred to the relevant object in each of her serials as 'the weenie'.

'The Mystery of Delft' feels very much like an old-time serial, only better: because this movie is all of a piece, rather than a serialised chapter play, the rhythm and continuity are superior to those of a serial. I'll rate this somewhat implausible but highly enjoyable movie 9 out of 10.

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