Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Within Our Gates (1920)
Powerful and Shocking!!
This movie is a mighty epic and many critics believe it was a response to Griffith's fairytale vision of the South and was trying to show that "primitivism" belonged to the White Southern culture. Just the year previously was the Chicago Race riot where white mobs had killed blacks and burned residential districts leaving thousands homeless. Oscar Micheaux worked with a very limited budget, borrowing costumes and props and having no money to reshoot scenes.
Dealing with the value of education and the right to vote, this race movie has some shocking scenes involving a lynch mob - no one watching this would not be moved and sick to their stomachs. The plot is extremely convoluted with characters established then disappearing. Sylvia (Evelyn Peer) is visiting her cousin, Alma, who secretly loves Conrad, the man Sylvia is engaged to. She intercepts a telegram sent to Sylvia to tell of Conrad's surprise arrival and arranges for the girl to be caught in a compromising position with Alma's brother, Larry, a criminal who is wanted by the police. Sylvia returns to the South after being rejected by Conrad and knowing Larry to be a murderer.
She then becomes involved in the running of a school for poor black children but soon returns North when funds run out and she promises to do what she can to try and meet the right sort of people. She meets Mrs. Warwick, a wealthy philanthropist who is eager to help Sylvia's people gain knowledge and suffrage but unfortunately the lady seeks advice from Mrs. Stratton, a racist Southern woman who feels that "black people are only good as slaves and education is wasted on them - all they care about is getting to heaven"!! The film then goes off on another tangent showing Preacher Ned bowing and scraping to the white man but full of self loathing and disgust at the way he has to behave. Micheaux is quick to show that while Preacher Ned is an "Uncle Tom" he is not an evil man. The school ends up with a $50,000 donation as Mrs. Warwick is sickened by the other woman's remarks.
Back in the South once more Sylvia is visited by Larry who wants her to get rid of some stolen property or he will tell her new friends about her unsavoury past. She runs, rather than become involved in crime, straight to the arms of Dr. Vivian who has always loved her and wants to help her forget her unhappy past (Alma, now repentant, has confessed all to the doctor, which includes a very graphic depiction of a family being lynched).
At the time critics feared riots if certain scenes were not deleted from the print and it was banned from cities which had just experienced the race riots.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)
Primitive - But it Was Bringing Literature to the Masses!!
It may have been only over 8 minutes long but films like this one bought literature to the masses, many of whom may not have been able to read. Thanhouser, based in New Rochelle, was able to take advantage of suburban streets, parks etc and it also boasted a popular group of players - later famous director James Cruze, beautiful Florence La Badie and little Marie Eline. In this Cruze plays the title role and the change over is done pretty seamlessly, Florence plays his worried fiancée and little Marie plays a little girl, knocked down by Hyde as he is fleeing to his laboratory after realising he has no control over keeping his evil ego Hyde hidden. Excellent little movie that belies it's age.
The Love Flower (1920)
Stunning Location Scenery Is the High Point
Carol Dempster was a protégé of D.W. Griffith's and many people felt at the time she didn't help his career. She was just an ordinary actress, there was nothing special about her that made her memorable in the way of Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh and many critics of the time felt that Griffith was trying to turn her into another of his stellar creations but she just didn't have what it takes. She even appeared in a mediocre retelling of "Broken Blossoms" entitled "Dream Street"(1921). At the time she really divided critics with most not warming to her at all and regarding "The Love Flower", her first starring role as a film unworthy of the Griffith name.
The film's theme is that peace and tolerance are only possible away from the madding crowd and love will "forgive these deeds done for it's sake". Carol plays Stella Bevan who, along with her father Thomas, lives on a beautiful island. A typical Griffith title designed to show the lengths Carol will go to, to support her father - "How many deeds have been committed by women in the name of love". Clara Bevan's (Florence Short) ideal life does not include the humdrum existence of a Caribbean island village or the care of a lovely step daughter, even though the step daughter is prone to leaping about and dancing at the drop of a hat ("stop jumping around and behaving like an idiot"). Clara has her hands full but she still has time to "turn to follies that are not unseen by the servants" - namely a lover!!
Bevan is tipped off, there is a scuffle and soon father and daughter are on the run, chased by a private detective (Anders Randolph, in a solid part) who has been told by hysterical Clara that the victim was killed without cause. Always being pursued, with wanted posters following them whenever they try to moor at big ports. Bevan and Stella finally arrive at a small South Sea island. There are some provocative shots of a graceful Miss Dempster high diving into the water with some very interesting under water swimming sequences. Meanwhile wealthy Jerry Treverton (Richard Barthelmess)is following in the footsteps of R. L. Stevenson in exploring the South Seas. He meets Stella and it is love at first sight for both of them but he is the accidental means of putting the detective on the fugitive's tail - and Stella can't forgive that.
The film has some beautiful location shooting (Florida, the Bahamas) which is the highlight, with the beaches and the rocky crags, along with the very attractive Miss Dempster. But even the presence of Randolph and Barthelmess is not enough to save the film from the big minus of over acting!! When Florence Short realises her lover is dead she tears out her hair and behaves like a crazy person but Dempster is the one who doesn't seem to have been given any acting guidance apart from being told to look searchingly into the camera!! In one scene she tells her father "I've seen a man", the father looks worried and says "did he look like an officer" to which she giggles, gives him a hug and then dances off!!
Once the officer arrives on the island Stella feels, to save her father, she must kill the officer - making it look like an accident of course!! Using her swimming skills, she attempts to drown him by dragging him under the water - he is convinced it is an octopus!! As a last resort she tries to persuade him to cross a rickety foot bridge that she has already tampered with - the girl definitely needs psychiatric help!!
It was only towards the end of her career that Carol Dempster really found her acting feet. With solid roles in "Isn't Life Wonderful" and "The Sorrows of Satan", unfortunately it was too late with Griffith almost at the end of his career and Carol not caring enough about acting to carry on without him.
For His Son (1912)
Once Again Dorothy Bernard Handles Her Role With Gusto!!
Cocaine was sufficiently news worthy and sensationalized in 1912 for a Prohibition act to be passed on it in 1914. This movie precedes Douglas Fairbank's "The Mystery of the Flying Fish" and is another of D.W. Griffith's cautionary sensation shorts. Charles Hill Mailes is a physician who gives his all to his son (Charles West) but that isn't enough for the selfish boy and the weak father can't keep up. He decides to concoct a soft drink called "Dopokoke"!! - the secret ingredient being cocaine. Obviously the idea is to get patrons wanting more so his fortune will be made - the downside is his son has become addicted!!
While Blanche Sweet plays the son's long suffering fiancée, once again the unsung Dorothy Bernard is given the only role with any gusto. She plays the doctor's prim secretary who is shocked to learn that cocaine is the "miracle" ingredient - that doesn't stop her becoming an addict and then eventually eloping with the son "united in their vice"!! It wouldn't be a moralistic tale without a "dire consequences" ending which leaves the doctor a sadder but wiser man!!
Won in the Clouds (1928)
Dare Devil Stunts Win the Day!!
Billed as the "daredevil aviator", Al Wilson was handsome enough to be a leading man but he had been passionate about flying since he was a kid. He managed the Mercury Aviation Company, founded by one of his students, Cecil B. De Mille, and he started producing his own movies until 1927. After completing stunts for "Hell's Angels" he died in 1932 at an air show in Ohio.
"Won in the Clouds" seems to run like a cut down serial, there are plenty of cliff hanger endings some of which are not resolved. Still there are a few hair raising stunts including a particularly dangerous one that had already claimed the lives of some stunt men in the past. This was a specialty of Wilson's and involved climbing down a rope ladder from a flying plane then scooping up the person on the ground who was facing an uncertain future at the hands of some angry natives. Another scarifying stunt had Wilson straddling the roof of a car while he again grapples with a rickety ladder attached to a high flying plane!!!
The story is actually set in Africa where the manager of the Consolidated Diamond Mines is trying to hold up shipment while he organises his own speedy get away - with all the diamonds of course!! To gum up proceedings, along comes Dr. James who is on a double mission - to check up on manager Woods and also to see if he can give any aid to the natives who are dying of a mysterious illness. With him is his daughter Grace (Helen Foster) but it doesn't take long for them to be separated - he to be held hostage with the old "if you don't cure the village people you will die"!! etc. Grace is imprisoned in a remote shack - "I'll do all I can for you Grace - if you are kind to me!!!"
Smelling a rat the mine president sends his son Art Blake (Wilson) to investigate and now stunts and fancy riding take centre stage to the story. By the end even dim witted Grace realises that Woods is a villain of the worst kind and her father has won the natives over with instantaneous results of his "Castor Oil" serum!!
Helen Foster had her busiest year in 1929 - she was named a Wampas Baby star, was given the lead in the prestigious "Linda" and also had a starring part in "Gold Diggers of Broadway" - unfortunately after that it was all down hill for Helen!!
Captain January (1924)
Simple and Sweet
Based on the 1891 book by Laura E. Richards, this was one of Baby Peggy's Peerless films that caught the eye of Universal. Originally a top star (along with Brownie the Wonder Dog) at Century, a small studio on Sunset Boulevard, Universal signed her but she didn't make that many films for them before she was dropped owing to a pay dispute initiated by her father. It's a pity because she was so cute and this film, in my opinion, is far superior to the 1936 Shirley Temple version. This "Captain January" is more simple and sweet than the singing, dancing, little Miss Fixit one of 1936.
Baby Peggy plays little Capt'n January who tends the lighthouse with her Capt'n Daddy, Jeremiah Judkins (Hobart Bosworth) and her love for the old sea captain is the one thing that sustains him. It is just a darling film about the love these two share, set around a sleepy fishing village. They catch lobsters and sell them and all the pennies they make go in a money box towards Jeremiah's dream of sailing the seven seas with his little Cap.
There are rumblings in the town by the local do-gooders that light house life is not suitable for January but she gets her schooling from the Bible, Shakespeare and the Dictionary. The story she never tires of hearing though is how the old Captain found her in a ship wreck - he even shows her the beautiful locket with her mother's picture.
Jeremiah finds old age is catching up with him and one night he fails to light the lamp - if not for January, instead of just running aground, the cruising yacht could have been dashed to pieces by the unseen rocks. When the couple come to the light house, just to assure the Captain that no harm has been done (it's Irene Rich, who always plays the nicest ladies), the woman is struck by the little girl.....could she possibly be her little niece, who was supposedly drowned five years before....hmmm I wonder??
Baby Peggy always seemed to be surrounded by excellent craftsmen who really helped her appeal and this film is no exception, with Hobart Bosworth pulling out all stops as the crusty Captain and Irene Rich as usual understated and restrained.
The Evidence of the Film (1913)
Fascinating Look at the Editor's Department!!
All early studios had their bevy of child actors and Thanhouser was no exception. Marie Eline was the Thanhouser Kid, as distinct from the Thanhouser Kidlet and even the Thanhouser Twins. I don't know whether the story was particularly "old hat" in 1912 but how they went about catching the crook was novel and Thanhouser, who was always ready to publicize themselves, provided an interesting glimpse into it's editing department. Fascinating to see the cameraman at the beginning - made it a sort of film within a film!!!
Crooked broker (boo, hiss!!) - has two envelopes made up, one is the old "paper folded up in an envelope so it looks like money" trick, the other has $20,000 in it which is given to a little messenger boy (Marie Eline) to deliver to a family who has threatened legal action unless their investment is returned. Eline stops to watch a motion picture being filmed, is jostled and drops the package which is given back to her by a seemingly kindly stranger. When the package is delivered and the fraud is discovered, it seems no one wants to believe the little messenger's tearful claims of innocence!!
Never mind - Florence La Badie is head of the editing department and she makes a startling discovery - as long as she can get to the courthouse in time!! Do you doubt that she will!!
The Woman Between (1931)
Just a Little "I Love You" Will Solve Everything!!
The Lili Damita of the silents was vivacious, lively and high spirited but once sound came along no studio seemed to know what to do with her and she quickly found her niche being cast in French versions of popular movies, a way for studios to capture the European market in those early sound days.
There was even a French version of "The Woman Between" but unfortunately Lili wasn't in it - it was someone called Jeanne Helbling. Don't really agree with the other reviewer about this being a top film, I haven't seen Lili Damita in many movies but there was no hint of a sparkling personality here. Even though a smart businesswoman, her Julie seemed to be down and defeated before the movie starts. She has just returned from a cruise and has been swept off her feet by Paul (Lester Vail, who made even fewer films than his look alike Paul Page) in a ship board romance. She returns to hostile opposition from Doris (Miriam Seegar) her stepdaughter, and eagerness from John, her much older husband (O. P. Heggie doesn't cut a particularly dashing figure and looks like he would be just as happy with a cardigan and slippers)!!! She just wants a whispered "I love you" but John can't believe his luck at capturing such a young bride and leaves Julie feeling unsatisfied with her lot.
The whole family is keenly awaiting the return of long lost son Victor who had gone off in a huff after learning his father was to marry a younger woman. Doris has already lined up ethereally pretty but vacuous Helen (Anita Louise) as her future sister-in -law. But Victor turns out to be Paul - and the romance continues hot and heavy until even daffy Helen realises she is not in the picture!!
All through the film Julie has a wet blanket personality - even the song she is given "Close to Me"(written by the film's director Victor Scheztinger, who also wrote popular songs) sounds like a dirge - which makes the ending so strange!! It seems just a little "I love you" plus her own little villa on the Riviera will solve everything and obliterate Paul from her memory - or will it??
Anita Louise was so "other worldly" beautiful and she seemed to grow up so fast. In "Millie" she played Helen Twelvetree's innocent daughter, next movie she played empty headed socialite eager to wed in "The Woman Between".
Cross Streets (1934)
Surgeon on the Skids!!
I think the thing that really elevates this movie is the make up and even though he is not mentioned here, down the bottom of the credits as the movie begins is "Make-Up Artist - Jack Pierce. Initially the story is set on the eve of graduation from Clifton Medical College and in true Hollywood tradition, the campus is peopled with actors who look as though they could be the fathers of college graduates - not graduates themselves!! John Mack Brown plays Adam Blythe, newly graduated doctor but looking at years of internship. That doesn't suit his fiancée Ann (Claire Windsor found herself suddenly back in demand after a "heart balm" case made it's way into the head lines) - she wants glory and good times now, so is persuaded to ditch Adam and marry established doctor Jerry who really loves her. Adam graduated but now becomes a alcoholic and after an operation goes horribly wrong he goes into hiding, still drinking.....
1933 finds him a hobo but he is also found by his old pal Mort (Kenneth Thomson) - he never graduated but he is now a self made millionaire and he rages at the hypocrisy of the college who shunned him when he was down and out but now are always pestering him for donations. He takes Adam with him to the college reunion, painting him as a renowned surgeon and the college board lap it up. Mort also indicates he will only donate money if Adam is retained as chief surgeon.
Again the make up saves the day - all the cast look older but realistically, not hideously. Adam meets pretty Clara (Anita Louise) who reminds him of Ann and of course it proves to be Ann's daughter but it is a case of like mother, like daughter!! Clara is loved by Ken Barclay (Matty Kemp) but Ken, like Adam was, is just starting out and Clara doesn't want to wait. After the wrap Mort gives Adam, she becomes starry eyed, seeing herself as the wife of a person of renown. Enter the real villain - Ann who has not been kind to her ever loving husband. She thinks she can take off where she left off but when Adam rejects her, she threatens to expose him as well as threaten to tell her daughter that Adam is her real father - of course he's not but Ann is low enough to sink to any level!!
I agree the ending is a surprise but the film ties up all loose ends with polish - a top professional cast was always a big plus in poverty rowers.
The Girl and Her Trust (1912)
Dorothy Bernard - Mystery Woman!!
The more Biographs I see, the more I wonder what ever happened to Dorothy Bernard. Whenever a part called for heavy dramatics, Dorothy was always given that role (as opposed to Blanche Sweet whose blonde beauty meant she always had the "lady" part). Quite interesting that this film is almost a scene by scene remake of "The Lonedale Operator" - but not quite. This movie has been opened out considerably.
Dorothy Bernard plays flirtatious Grace, quite happy to share a soda with a lovestruck beau but quick to give him a slap when she feels liberties have been taken. Left alone she is at the mercy of two tramps who have their eyes on the strong box and while she is able to send a telegram, plus inventively knock bullets through the keyhole to frighten the villains, she is no match for their strength. They get the strongbox onto a railway pulley but Grace refuses to leave her trust and it is only with the intervention of a thrilling train chase that everything is tidied up. Grace receiving a cute kiss while sharing her sweetheart's lunch at the fade out.
I found this a more mature film than "The Londale Operator" and Dorothy Bernard made Grace a girl of flesh and blood.