Cantakerous, opinionated Peter Grimm is a seventh generation member of a Dutch immigrant family that founded a family flower farm two centuries earlier. Realizing he has a bad heart, Grimm extracts promises and concessions from those he expects will survive him and draws up his will appropriately. He extracts a promise from his beloved foster daughter Catherine that she will marry his newly-arrived nephew Frederik although she loves James, a hired hand on the farm. Grimm's hopes that the farm will remain in the family are given a blow when the mercenary Frederik announces his intentions to sell the entire operation to a hated Grimm rival When Grimm returns as a spirit he discovers a terrible situation of his own creation. His "friends" are dissatisfied with their bequests, young William's health is failing, and Catherine seems headed for an unhappy marriage. Through the dying William and his old friend and confidante, Dr. Macpherson, Grimm's spirit tries to reverse the harm he's done. Written by
The Return of Peter Grimm as presented on Broadway back before World War I was the subject of some contention that Cecil B. DeMille related in his autobiography. Before going west to do films, DeMille was a Broadway actor and aspiring playwright who wrote a play while he was in the employ of David Belasco, The Return of Peter Grimm.
DeMille's version had the lead character of Peter Grimm as a manufacturer who stole a patent and built a fortune. Grimm comes back from the dead to try and undo some wrongs he did while here on Earth in the flesh. Belasco changed the character to a Dutch nursery man who is also a dominating sort of fellow. And instead of a séance that DeMille had that the spirit of Peter Grimm manifested itself, he had him come to life through the eyes of a very ill child.
Came the opening night of The Return of Peter Grimm, DeMille was expecting to have co-author credit, but instead was listed way down in the program as having the idea for the play. It was a bitter disappointment and he never worked for Belasco again.
Though he was vague on the subject as he was in a lot of other things in his memoirs, DeMille said he really wasn't in any position to take legal action. Nor did he want to because Belasco was a friend of his father's and a great influence on his film career.
There was a silent version of The Return of Peter Grimm and this one that starred Lionel Barrymore as Peter Grimm. Barrymore gives a good performance in the title role as does his ward Helen Mack who he makes her promise to marry his no-good nephew. As a spirit he finds out what a bum he was.
Also look for good performances by Edward Ellis as Barrymore's friend and confidante the doctor and George Breakston as the child who only wants to go to the circus with Uncle Peter. If the kid was Belasco's idea, it was a good one, his scenes with Barrymore are quite touching.
You might want to check The Return of Peter Grimm out yourself and see if you can find some traces of DeMille.
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