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What's Worth While? (1921)

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A poor, lonely bootblack with little money and fewer prospects one day meets Sophie, the girl of his dreams, and they both fall in love. However, her father is dead set against their ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
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Phoebe Jay Morrison
Arthur Stuart Hull ...
Mr. Morrison
Mona Lisa ...
Sophia
...
'Squire' Elton
Edwin Stevens ...
Rowan
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Storyline

A poor, lonely bootblack with little money and fewer prospects one day meets Sophie, the girl of his dreams, and they both fall in love. However, her father is dead set against their relationship because he doesn't want his daughter wasting her life on a poor man. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

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27 February 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O que Vale a Pena  »

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Referenced in Women Who Made the Movies (1992) See more »

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A recently restored print by a top woman director of the silent era.
17 August 2005 | by (Culpeper, Virginia) – See all my reviews

Lois Weber was one of the great women directors of the silent era - a time when women directors weren't such a rarity. She began her career as a stage actress in New York. It is there where she met her husband, Phillips Smalley, the manager of the road company in which she was playing. By 1911, Weber and Smalley began working in film: acting, writing scenarios, producing and directing. In the mid-teens, Weber became a top salaried director at Universal Studio. She directed 18 pictures in 1916 alone, including the controversial pro birth-control feature Where Are My Children? The film was banned in Philadelphia and tried by censorship boards across the country. Proving the adage "any publicity is good publicity," the uproar attracted crowds to the theater and made for good box office.

Known primarily for "message" films, Weber, a one-time street corner evangelist, only agreed to helm a production if she approved of its moral stance. Her subject matter included political corruption (Hypocrites, 1914), the evils of child labor (Shoes, 1916) and capital punishment (The People vs. John Doe, 1916). Few of her films survive, though The Blot, made the same year as What's Worth While? is now available on DVD from Milestone Film & Video. Both films utilize two of the same featured players, macho Louis Calhern and luminous Claire Windsor.

By this time, Weber's social commentary had moved to domestic situations (snobbery of the upper class and "don't try to change the one you love" in WWW) and her popularity was waning. Audiences of the jazz age wanted fun and light entertainment – they were tired of being preached to. In a few years she divorced the alcoholic Smalley, lost her film company and suffered a nervous breakdown. In the years before her death in 1939, Weber's work was largely forgotten and she could only find employment as a script doctor.

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The heroine of What's Worth While?, Phoebe Morrison (Claire Windsor) is a spoiled upper-class southern belle, bored with life. When her father (Arthur Stuart Hull), the owner of an oil field out west, shows her a photo of his partner the rough and rugged "Square Elton," Phoebe likes what she sees and decides to accompany her father on his next trip to meet Elton. In spite of their differences, the pair are attracted to each other. Elton senses though, that his uncultured ways are offensive to Miss Morrison and that a match between them would only embarrass her. He decides to travel to London to become educated and refined. They meet again two years later, and while she still has feelings for him, Phoebe discovers that she prefers her man the way she found him.

Critics of the day were not especially kind to the film, finding it slow moving and overly long. The performances were praised however ("…the acting is excellent in general." – Motion Picture World) and Exhibitors Trade Review lauded the photography and lighting: "There are several fine interior views, with luxurious settings, excellent Western shots of rolling plains and woods, and perfect lighting controls every scene." Indeed, close-ups of the fair Miss Windsor will take your breath away.

The restoration of What's Worth While? has been a work in-progress for the Library of Congress for a number of years, using both 16 and 35 mm source material. This film had long been considered too incomplete to show. One reel found in the vaults was misidentified as The Blot. Additional scenes and another reel was preserved under a spurious title and only recently was correctly identified as being from What's Worth While? While the print you will see today is nearly complete, the opening scenes still have not been found. To make up for the missing footage, titles have been created to introduce the characters and to set up the story. Cinesation 2005 in Massillon Ohio will be the first screening of this restoration.


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