6.7/10
69
4 user 1 critic

The Family Secret (1924)

A modest man unknowingly has a baby with a woman from a affluent family.Through a series of coincidences he is reunited with his daughter, forcing the family to confront its secrets.

Director:

(as William Seiter)

Writers:

(play) (as August Thomas), (novel) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Garry Holmes
Martin Turner ...
Elizabeth Mackey ...
Aunt Mandy
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Nurse Sneed
Cesare Gravina ...
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Storyline

A modest man unknowingly has a baby with a woman from a affluent family.Through a series of coincidences he is reunited with his daughter, forcing the family to confront its secrets.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

28 September 1924 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Burglar's Kid  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Miss Abigail Selfridge: Whose child is that?
Margaret Selfridge: She - - - she's mine.
Simon Selfridge: You shameless girl! You - -...
Margaret Selfridge: Garry and I married for love. I have no reason to be ashamed.
Simon Selfridge: So that fortune-hunter tricked you into marrying him! Go to your room!
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User Reviews

 
Interesting Curiosity with Fun Moments
27 June 2011 | by (Guerneville, CA) – See all my reviews

The Family Secret is an early film adaptation of a popular 19th century melodrama. The plot concerns the daughter of a wealthy man who has secretly married a man below her station of whom her father violently disapproves. The father, in an excess of parental concern, separates the lovers by sending his daughter away so that she might forget her inamorata, unaware of their married state; during this time, she gives birth to a daughter. After some months, the young mother returns to her family manor and presents her father with his new granddaughter, which causes a most unfortunate scene. Unbeknownst to the young woman, her enraged father falsely accuses his son-in-law of theft and has him incarcerated in order to separate the lovers in an irrational attempt to force his daughter to forget this "unworthy" young man.

Three and a half years pass, the imprisoned son-in-law is released, the no-less-imprisoned mother is languishing for her husband (long believed dead), and Baby Peggy bursts upon the scene as the charming young daughter (suffering under the neglect of her governess and the abuse of her mother's nurse), ready to tackle her family-in-crisis with her youthful exuberance and charm... if only she can escape from the nursery! The remainder of the movie is a very peculiar mix of slapstick comedy and melodramatic, sentimental weepiness which the 5-year-old Baby Peggy handles with surprisingly mature professionalism and charm. It's easy to see why this little girl was such a big star.

Edward Earle as the wronged son-in-law is very sympathetic and underplays his scenes in a relatively modern manner which plays well today. Gladys Hulette as the languishing young mother is surprisingly sympathetic for someone who spends most of the picture fainting or throwing her hands to her forehead in antiquated gestures of despair. Frank Currier is effective as the tyrannical father who eventually comes to see the error of his ways in the flash of enlightenment which adorable young children seem inevitably to bring to hopeless old codgers in these sorts of affairs. I enjoyed most the character actresses like Lucy Beaumont as the stuffy Aunt (with her tea parties for her legions of antiquated old fidgets) and the actress who played Baby Peggy's prune-faced governess with her heart melting only for the revolting utterances of the characters in her nauseating romantic penny-dreadfuls. The film was full of little bits of delightful character comedy which I found enchanting.

This film stands in a silent-movie crossroads of sorts. On one hand, we have melodramatic, overplayed scenes of Victorian sentimentality with a somewhat unconvincing storyline; on the other, we have charming pieces of physical and character comedy which are a lot of fun and feel more contemporary with the making of the film, even timeless. William Seiter, who later directed some very enjoyable films (like Roberta, You Were Never Lovelier, and the Marx Brothers' Room Service), seems lost here, trying to reconcile these oddly dissimilar styles into a unified whole. The film doesn't quite gel, but it has many entertaining moments which hold up well.

I had the privilege of seeing a clean vintage print of this film today in Niles, CA on the big screen, introduced by Baby Peggy herself (Diana Serra Cary, a very spry nonagenarian), with an excellent accompanist on piano. It was a great experience, not only because we got to hear Mrs. Cary speak about making her movies, but because I was able to devote my full attention to the film and I could see and appreciate all the details. But be prepared: although it has much wonderful comedy, entertaining performances and a lot of fun camp value (a la Attack of the 50 foot Woman), the film as a whole is supposed to be a drama and as such is not very convincing, although reasonably well paced. This is a curiosity, not a great film... but well worth watching if you're looking for a glimpse into this last gasp of the Edwardian era.

(I know, the Edwardian Era ended in 1910... but this film, despite being set in and made in 1923, FEELS Edwardian to the core.)


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