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The picture seems truthful, whether it truly be so or not

Author: deickemeyer from Chicago
10 April 2016

Care for the minutiae in a picture tells. Atmosphere is an intangible quality, but, though often neglected, is the only means of giving a sense of naturalness to pictures of a bygone day. The sense of naturalness is very strong in this very carefully staged picture of the romantic and courteous life of southern California before the Gringoes came. This sense is carried over to the spectator very subtly. At first he is conscious only of pleasure. If he be in a critical mood, and attempts to analyze it, he will suddenly awake to the fact that there are Murillos and Velasquezes on the walls of the Di Garcia home. Then his eye, using this as a clue, will discover other things in keeping in the stage settings, in the acting, furnishings and deportment. All belong with the state of culture in that locality at that time. The picture seems truthful, whether it truly be so or not. The story, thoroughly romantic, is restrained and there is little in it that is not poetry. It is made effective, although not a closely constructed drama, by an atmosphere that perfumes and colors the interesting narrative, which is kept clear. Don Ramon casts Manetta, his daughter, off because she is determined to marry a poor youth. This scene takes place in a garden. The youth is also there and Don Ramon is very angry, but acts with restraint and the scene does not leave in the spectator any sense of unreality. The youth and Manetta are married; both die and their baby daughter, Carlotta, is adopted by Donna Loretta, wife of Don Jose di Garcia, who lives in a distant part of the country presumably. These scenes are quickly passed over, leaving the greater part of the film for picturing the dramatic part of the story, which opens when this baby girl has grown up to be of about her mother's age at the time she was married. The Garcias don't know who this girl Carlotta is; they have only a locket, her mother's. The son of the house has fallen in love with her. At this point Don Ramon, Carlotta's grandfather, writes to his friend, Don Jose, that he is coming to visit him. Carlotta looks like her mother; her grandfather when he comes recognizes her. The scene where Don Ramon and Carlotta meet brings into the picture a new situation. Her attitude toward the old man is quite natural, human and typical, but we had not been prepared for it. It was not even impressed upon the spectator that she knew of her mother's sad story, much less resented it. This divides the picture again, making three clear cut parts, not integral acts, but three episodes. Each of these is clearly developed and in itself effective, but the last is the most important. The scenes of this are very carefully planned and pleasing. One quality in which they excel is the impression of background continuity. Of course they were taken in the same grounds, but what is more to the point, the way they were handled gives the sense of their being within sight of each other. This may not have been true, for in one scene the Indians are chasing Carlotta and her maid away from the gate and in the next are seen chasing them toward the gate. But nothing at all out of the way is noticeable at this point. The change in direction is a possibility and the action too engrossing for small considerations. The girl is captured at the gate and is rescued by her grandfather. This brings about a reconciliation. This picture is praiseworthy. It is not constructed on the plan of the drama. Many of Shakespeare's historical, epic plays also are not; his "Henry the Eighth," his "Henry the Fifth." They are good despite weak construction; perhaps they hold more in that form than they could otherwise. It is debatable. - The Moving Picture World, September 16, 1911

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