This is yet another fine drama from the period 1912-1913 directed by Thomas Ince's brother Ralph for Vitagraph to be found among the Desmet collection preserved and restored by the EYE institute. Ralph Ince's work does not really resemble that of his brother , the two pursuing quite separate careers, but this drama, based on a typical "great outdoors" story set in the North-West by James Curwood, has the virtue of being straightforward. Two men, rescued from the elements at different times by a father and daughter who live in a remote spot in the forest, become bitter rivals for the girl's love and eventually agree to a river-race to decide the issue between them. They end up fighting but by this time a forest fire has broken out and, in the course of fight and fire, one man is blinded and the other gets his legs broken. Survival demands that the two forget their rivalry and co-operate in order to escape the fire alive. Both eventually recover and it seems of a moment that their rivalry will resume as well, but the girl has made her choice, and the other man accepts it, allowing all three to finally be friends.
It is a moral story of the kind Curwood favoured but the drama is well played and the river-race and the forest-fire excellently dramatised, making it one of the more memorable US drama shorts of the year. Elsewhere (The Red Barrier) I gave a personal list of some of my favourites from 1912 (the great majority to rediscoevr amongst the EYE collection). 1913 is a thinner year but other notable shorts are The District Attorney's Conscience (Tefft Johnson for Lubin, also in the EYE collection, and Lois Weber's well-known Suspense. The year also's sees the best and best-preserved of a series of highly eccentric but very individualistic animations by Emile Cohl for the US market based on the McManus comic-strip The Newly-weds - He Ruins his Family's Reputation.
Theer are fewer good shorts in 1913 because this was the first important year in the US for feature films although few survive intact
the first real blockbuster, the sadly lost Battle of Gettysburg
(Thomas Ince), Kalem's version of the Passion, From the Cradle to the Cross, Traffic in Souls (which seems to survive only in an abbreviated version), Vitagraph's Pickwick Papers with John Bunny (probably rather good but only a short snippet seems to survive), IMP/Universal's not very wonderful swashbuckler Ivanhoe (in the EYE collection), Pilot's Streets of New York, a rather drab and confusing version of the Dion Boucicault melodrama (in the EYE collection but incomplete) and Hiawatha (with an all native American cast). All these, note, two years before Griffith's A Birth of the Nation.
It should however be said that there is nothing amongst these to compare with Feuillade's Fantômas or Capellani's Germinal (France), Bauer's Twilight of a Big City (Russia), Caserini's The Last Days of Pompeii or Oxilia's In hoc signo vinces or Guazzoni's Quo Vadis? (Italy), Sjöström's Ingeborg Holm (Sweden)or Rye's Der Student von Prag or Froehlich's Richard Wagner (Germany)or Blom's Atlantis (Denmakr) which all come out in Europe during the same year. The US till had a lot of catch-up to do.
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