Falling Leaves (1912) Poster

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Worthwhile & Effective Melodrama
Snow Leopard25 April 2005
This worthwhile and often moving melodrama deals with what at the time was a very topical concern, dramatizing the effects of tuberculosis and the hope of a cure for it. The story is slightly over-optimistic, in that it implies more than was true at the time about what could be done for afflicted patients, but as a story it is well-crafted, and it is quite effective, in addition to obviously being well-meaning.

The main characters are two sisters, one of whom has tuberculosis, their parents, and the doctors who attend the sick girl. The nicely-chosen title "Falling Leaves" comes from a touching misunderstanding of the younger sister when she hears a doctor's gloomy prognosis for her beloved sister. Her innocent misconception drives the plot and makes her a very sympathetic character.

Given the somber nature of the material, the characters are quite believable, and are played with sensitivity yet without any excess emoting. The two daughters and their mother are particularly endearing characters. The story, likewise, is told with good pacing. This is one of director Alice Guy Blaché's best surviving movies, and her naturalistic approach works quite well in this story. It's easily one of the better features of its genre and era.
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"When the last leaf falls, she will have passed away"
ackstasis21 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Alice Guy (later Alice Guy-Blaché) is notable for being the first female film director – and, for that matter, one of the first filmmakers of either gender. From 1896 to 1906, she directed dozens of films for Gaumont Studios, and in 1910, along with husband Herbert Blachém, formed the Solax Company in New Jersey, USA. 'Falling Leaves (1912)' is similar to the sort of film that D.W. Griffith might have produced for the Biograph Company at about the same time, and utilises Griffith's characteristic style of melodrama. However, there are several scenes that manage to feel pleasantly naturalistic, despite the static camera-work and editing: Guy reportedly posted a sign on the studio wall, directed towards her actors, reading "BE NATURAL." One sequence, in which a young girl stands outside amid a flurry of falling autumn leaves, is particularly atmospheric and poetic.

Young girl Winifred (Marian Swayne) is diagnosed with "consumption" (a euphemism for tuberculosis), and is given until the end of autumn ("when the last leaf falls") to live. Younger sister Trixie (Magda Foy) touchingly tries to halt the falling of autumn leaves, and inadvertently comes across Dr. Headley (Mace Greenleaf), a bacteriologist who has recently prepared a serum to cure the condition. The film met with some controversy prior to its release. The National Board of Censorship, founded in 1909, found it objectionable that young Winifred receives no form of quarantine following her diagnosis, given the highly contagious nature of tuberculosis. Their concerns went unheeded, but, admittedly, the film may have treated the "consumption" too lightly. Indeed, in a sad irony, just nine days after 'Falling Leaves' was released, actor Mace Greenleaf died from typhoid pneumonia, another infectious bacteriological lung condition.
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Alice Guy-Blaché, A Pioneer Film Director In Many Aspects
FerdinandVonGalitzien17 July 2006
Dr. Earl Headley has found a wonderful serum for the cure of consumption, a terrible disease that struck people at the beginning of the last century ( fortunately we, the aristocrats, don't have those diseases; we only suffer gout or delirium tremens ). Youngster Winifred, has many serious problems; not only does she have to wear a ribbon bigger than her head, she also has consumption. The family doctor, tells her mother and father that the poor little girl will pass away "when the last leaf falls". Little Trixie, Winifred's young sister, hears the terrible news and in order to save her sister, she ties together the leaves in the family garden trying to keep her sister from dying. It is in this fateful garden, where little Trixie meets accidentally Dr. Earl Headley and this encounter leads to the doctor giving his wonderful serum to Winifred and saving her life. Three months later, Winifred is completely cured and this German Count hopes that the first medical practitioner, the family doctor, was fired for his incompetence.

"Falling Leaves" was directed by Dame Alice Guy, also known as Alice Guy-Blaché, a pioneer film director in many aspects. She was French ( not a remarkable fact, at all ) and the world's first woman director, and was very prolific and even experimented with sound in several of her early films. She worked in France and USA, where she formed the production company that made this film. "Falling Leaves" is a good example of those early films for which Dame Alice Guy was known. It's a one-reel production that depicts a simple story with a static camera but in an effective way ( the garden sequence has a special oneiric atmosphere ). The actors play their roles with extravagant gestures but the only thing that really matters in this one-reel production was the message not the messengers.
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The Belief of a Child
kidboots2 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In 1907 Alice Guy Blanche became president of the Solax Company in Manhattan after finding married life a bore. Before that though she had made her name as being the first woman director after starting in 1897 and amassing over 100 short films to her credit. After domestic dramas like "A Child's Sacrifice" and "Falling Leaves" she went on to adapt operas and even experiment with animation. Both films mentioned featured the entrancing Magda Foy who as the "Solax Kid" had real talent.

"Falling Leaves" was a beautifully realised film that combined harsh reality with the wonder of a child. A young girl is stricken with T.B. and her mother desperately consults the family doctor who predicts "when the last leaf falls she will have passed away". Little sister Trixie (Foy) has a plan - to put all the leaves back on the tree so her sister will live. Famed T.B. specialist is intrigued by Trixie's actions - he has found a cure and is sure the sister can be saved. The film has a rich feel and the outdoor setting with the falling leaves, shows again that Biograph was not the only studio to impress.

Highly Recommended.
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Tender Story of Sisters
Michael_Elliott23 November 2013
Falling Leaves (1912)

*** (out of 4)

Melodramatic but good film from Alice Guy-Blache about a young girl who overhears the family doctor saying that her older sister won't live by the time the last leaf falls off the tree. The sister is dying of tuberculosis so the young girl goes outside and starts to tie leaves back to the tree and by doing this she gets the attention of a doctor who knows a cure. FALLING LEAVES is exactly the type of film that D.W. Griffith had been making for about three years but Guy-Blache manages to bring her touch to the subject and while it's way too dramatic at times, the heart of the story is certainly brought to the screen with care. Again, if you're not used to movies from this era then it's best you don't start here but I thought for the most part the film's story was told with a certain loving care that makes it worth viewing. Guy-Blache manages to make the film move at a very good pace and there's no question that she knows how to build up some tender moments and especially the scene with the young girl trying to put leaves back on the trees. The cinematography is actually pretty good throughout with some nice shots and the new music score also benefits to the film quite well.
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An early film about tuberculosis.
MartinHafer10 November 2010
This film begins with Dr. Headley showing off his success at treating tuberculosis (in this film called by the old term 'consumption')--a serious epidemic in the early 20th century throughout the world. Then rather abruptly, it switches to a dramatization of a tuberculosis victim. However, instead of realistically portraying its effects, the actress goes from seemingly normal to grandiose spasms in a matter of seconds. The mother shows great concern, while the youngest child (Trixie) just seems kind of lost--wandering about the frame. When the doctor comes out after examining the young lady, he waxes poetical and talks about falling leaves--more like he's delivering a speech than a real doctor.

Fortunately for the sick girl, Trixie snaps out of her useless wandering about and decides to take action (even though she looks to be only about 6 years-old). She sneaks out of the house at night and locates Dr. Headley who then agrees to treat her older sister. Then, with the aid of Headley's serum, the girl is cured and lives happily ever after.

Overall, while the film has obvious dramatic flaws, it is very good for a 1912 film. Had it been made just a few years later, it would have been seen as very old fashioned. BUT, in 1912 ALL films were old fashioned and dated. So, relatively speaking, it's a very good film. Seen today, it is more an interesting curio.
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First female filmmaker delivers again
Warning: Spoilers
"Falling Leaves" is a 12-minute black-and-white short film from 1912. And even if this is already over 100 years old, this was far from the very early days of cinema where movies were only a couple seconds long. Also director Alice Guy was already fairly experienced at this stage, briefly before turning 40. This is a silent movie, do not be fooled by soundtracks that were added to it later. None of the actors in here are particularly known, but there is certainly some irony to the fact that the guy who played the doctor, a lung specialist, died pretty much exactly the time when this film came out, from pneumonia. The story is about a young woman who is dying from illness and the doctor says that she will be dead when the last leaf falls, which means by winter. So her little sister (?) makes sure that the leaves stay firm on the plants. A cute little story with some heart, a cute feel-good ending and a decent amount of drama. Guy is not like Chaplin in terms of filmmaking, this is no comedy. You could rather compare her to D.W. Griffith I think. Good little film and I recommend it.
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If the story has been told before, it is here well told again and prettily acted
deickemeyer10 October 2016
"Falling Leaves" as a title suggests a picture of sentiment in which consumption figures, put out by a French film maker last summer. This picture may have been suggested, by that, but it has freshness although there are many points of similarity. Mace Greenleaf plays in it the role of a doctor who has discovered a cure for consumption. Blanche Cornwall plays a mother whose daughter (Marion Swayne) is in a decline. The Solax Kid plays the little boy who ties the leaves on to the trees as in the old story. If the story has been told before, it is here well told again and prettily acted. It is a picture of sentiment and of a kind that is always popular. For this reason we call it a feature. It is prettily set, lighted and photographed. - The Moving Picture World, March 23, 1912
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A Child's Innocence
romanorum119 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Earl Headley (Mace Greenleaf), a bacteriologist, has developed a cure for tuberculosis (consumption: bacterial infection of the lungs) and shows two cured patients to colleagues. The scene changes to a home when the season is autumn and leaves are falling from trees. Winifred (Marian Swayne) suddenly and dramatically has a coughing fit and takes ill while playing the piano in the company of her mother (Blanche Cornwall) and six year-old little sister Trixie (Magda Foy). Winifred is taken to bed. A doctor is summoned and he helplessly tells mother, "When the last leaf falls, she will have passed away." Not only does he fail to try something, but he also fails to quarantine the patient (tuberculosis is contagious). Little Trixie overhears the conversation and gazes outside the open window.

Trixie wakes up at night with a plan to save her big sister's life. She goes outside and begins to string fallen leaves together and attaches them to the tree branches. While she does this, Dr. Headley coincidentally sees her while he is strolling outside the family garden. The doctor offers help. He tells mom of his discovery of a tuberculosis serum (not really available until the discovery of antibiotics). Soon he injects the precious fluid into Winifred's wrist.

Three months later Headley checks on Winifred, who is cured and eating heartily. He brings her flowers and feeds her a celery stick. There seems to be the beginning of a love affair, even though he is twice her age.

This silent is a pleasant effort of Alice Guy, the first woman film director. The dreamy atmosphere in the garden is spellbinding while the music score is great. Of course the stationary camera and overly optimistic realism is as one can expect for its time. The movie was released in March 1912, and ironically, before the end of the same month, Mace Greenleaf was dead at age 39 of an infection of the lungs.
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"When the last leaf falls she will have passed away."
classicsoncall13 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
At the risk of sounding morose or unsympathetic, this film would have had much more poignancy if the older sister Winifred had succumbed to her illness. It would have added a significant dimension to the heartbreaking sight of young Trixie attempting to outwit Mother Nature and the family doctor's prediction. I wasn't hoping for that by the way, but it's something I thought about as the doctor spelled out a fatal outcome before Trixie discovered Dr. Headley by chance, and he offered his medical discovery to save Winifred's life. The 'cure', miraculous as it was, didn't quite ring true within the context of the story, and the feel good ending seemed forced. Interestingly, the term 'consumption' was used in the story in place of tuberculosis, as the disease had the effect of consuming a host body from the inside out. I recall it's use as far back as the Fifties when I was a kid, along with a method of treatment known as an 'oxygen tent'. One of the outstanding benefits of these century old film shorts is to take us back to a simpler time and place, providing a unique perspective on the way life used to be.
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