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The Whip (1917)

The story of the training of a racehorse, the Whip, of the amnesiac nobleman who loves the horse, and of the villains who attempt to keep it from racing.

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Cast

Cast overview:
Alma Hanlon ... Diana Beverley
... Mrs. D'Aquilia
... Herbert Brancaster
Warren Cook ... Judge Beverley
Paul McAllister ... Baron Sartoris
Alfred Hemming ... Joe Kelly
Dion Titheradge ... Harry Anson
Jean Dumas ... Myrtle Anson
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Storyline

The story of the training of a racehorse, the Whip, of the amnesiac nobleman who loves the horse, and of the villains who attempt to keep it from racing. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

25 March 1917 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La casaque verte  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The January 5, 1917 issue of Variety on page 23 describes that Paragon staged a train wreck at Greenwood, Delaware at a cost of $20,000. William A. Brady & Maurice Tourneur took part. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Pimple's The Whip (1917) See more »

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User Reviews

art and melodrama and silent film
16 November 2017 | by See all my reviews

I recently watched the Russian/Ukrainian cult-comedy Chasing Two Hares (1961), a very enjoyable film about a playboy barber trying to juggle two love affairs. A costume drama set in the early twentieth century, it includes a scene in the cinema - a typical mock-up of "silent cinema" - a newsreel followed by an utterly ridiculous melodrama. This was the standard image silent film not so long ago - perhaps still is for some - everything shown at the wrong speed to the accompaniment of a honky-tonk piano. Audiences who were prepared to watch any old rubbish and would be enthralled - we see a woman's naive reaction - by the most palpable rubbish.

This notion was further encouraged the crass theory of "the cinema of attractions" that posited (on the basis of completely false argumentation) a totally different attitude towards film on the part of early film-makers and the early audience. The more we know about silent film at all periods, the less this theory holds water and few open-minded critics would now accept the idea that film-makers at any time were solely concerned with presenting "attractions" any more than their modern counterparts or that the audiences were necessarily any more naive and uncritical than ourselves.

After the Russian comedy, I turned to this silent film - which is not a very good one. Tourneur, regarded rather vaguely as an "art" film maker, is often rather over-rated.

The notion of the "art" film never really developed in the aggressively commercial US cinema world and, from the very earliest days, rhymed there with European film. The films of the Lumières were billed there as early as 1896 as more "artistic" simply in the sense that they were more skilfully photographed than home-gown counterparts.

By 1906 the notion of the "art film" had changed and the "art film" movement which developed in Europe at this time was effectively a self-interested "lobby" of writers eager to promote the "literary" aspects of films, reflecting a traditional quarrel over the nature of theatre (classic v vaudeville) which had spilled over into the debate about film.

This was the notion of the "art film" that Tourneur had imbibed and it is the line that he pursued doggedly throughout his US career. The notion of "literary" was not necessarily spelt with a capital "l". If one looks at films promoted by the "art film" lobby, they often included melodrama and light comedy. All that really mattered was that they should be "written".

This is precisely reflected in Tourneur's films. On the one hand there were popular literary classics, The Blue Bird, The Last of the Mohicans, Lorna Doone, Victory; on the other, notable theatre "hits", Trilby, Aias Jimmy Valentine, The Whip or The County Fair. They were not necessarily picked for their literary value. Alias Jimmy Valentine had topical relevance while The Whip and The County Fair both owed their stage-success to the use of special effects in reproducing horse races (in both) and a spectacular train-crash (in The Whip).

Meanwhile the idea of "art film" had changed considerably in Europe under the influence of the naturalist movement, on the one hand, and of the various non-realistic modes associated with surrealism, expressionism, etc on the other. Although both drew on literary sources (the novels of Zola, for instance. and the fantastique writings of the late romantics), the European "art film" movement of the teens and twenties moved rapidly away from the idea of "literary" models towards a much more specifically "cinematic" concept of film.

In the US all of this rather passed Tourneur by. The film Victory (an adaptation of a Conrad novella), made the same year as The Whip, is effectively a silent talkie. Virtually every single word of dialogue is reproduced on the screen - which makes for a rather dull film (redeemed in the second half by some elements of fantasy and the bravura acting of Beery and Chaney). This was the converse of the tendency in European "art film" which was towards fewer intertitles and a greater concentration on purely visual story-telling. Tourneur's notions of "the art film" were already out of date and had simply become integrated into the safe "realistic" model of US film.

We have the testimony of a "naive" young woman concerning a stage production of The Whip. Tallula Bankhead remembered it as 'a blood-and-thunder melodrama which...boiled with villainy and violence..a tremendous emotional dose for anyone as stage-struck and impressionable as our heroine". It is rather the same picture that we have in the 1961 Russian film.

Except that it does not relate to cinema and is not a very accurate description of Tourneur's film. It remains certainly a melodrama (it states as much on its frontiscard) but the effect of the change of medium greatly mitigates the excess. Evidently horse-races and train-crashed could be represented with much more effective realism on the screen but screen realism also tones down the elements of melodrama. Cinema was coming to see that it was in this respect superior to the theatre and that the sort of laughable stuff that still held the stage (see Edison's 1909 parody of Why Girls Leave Home or the 1917 British parody of this play, Pimple's The Whip) was precisely what cinema was now eager NOT to reproduce. So even a poor film of this sort gives the lie to the caricature of silent film that people so readily accepted in the 1960s.

As for Tourneur's US films, he is at his best when he gives free rein to his sense of fantasy - in The Blue Bird, The Wishing Ring or parts of The Poor Little Rich Girl. Alias Jimmy Valentine, the only one of the three silent versions of this popular play to survive is also an under-rated film.


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