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The Blue Bird (1918)

Not Rated | | Family, Fantasy | 31 March 1918 (USA)
Two peasant children, Mytyl and Tyltyl, are led by Berylune, a fairy, to search for the Blue Bird of Happiness. Berylune gives Tyltyl a cap with a diamond setting, and when Tyltyl turns the... See full summary »

Director:

Maurice Tourneur

Writers:

Maurice Maeterlinck (play), Charles Maigne (adapted for the screen by)
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tula Belle Tula Belle ... Mytyl
Robin Macdougall Robin Macdougall ... Tyltyl
Edwin E. Reed Edwin E. Reed ... Daddy Tyl
Emma Lowry Emma Lowry ... Mummy Tyl
William J. Gross ... Grandpa Gaffer Tyl
Florence Anderson Florence Anderson ... Granny Tyl
Edward Elkas ... Widow Berlingot
Katherine Bianchi Katherine Bianchi ... Widow Berlingot's Daughter
Lillian Cook ... Fairy Berylune
Gertrude McCoy ... Light
Lyn Donelson Lyn Donelson ... Night
Charles Ascot Charles Ascot ... Dog
Tom Corless Tom Corless ... Cat
Mary Kennedy Mary Kennedy ... Water
Eleanor Masters Eleanor Masters ... Milk
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Storyline

Two peasant children, Mytyl and Tyltyl, are led by Berylune, a fairy, to search for the Blue Bird of Happiness. Berylune gives Tyltyl a cap with a diamond setting, and when Tyltyl turns the diamond, the children become aware of and conversant with the souls of a Dog and Cat, as well as of Fire, Water, Bread, Light, and other presumably inanimate things. The troupe thus sets off to find the elusive Blue Bird of Happiness. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Family | Fantasy

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This heavily stylized film features many unusual sets and costumes and was a precursor of the expressionist German cinema, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Before becoming a filmmaker, director Maurice Tourneur studied as an illustrator and, for a time, was an assistant to the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. Tourneur used set design and lighting effects to give this film an expressionistic look. See more »

Quotes

Mytyl: I want to say here in Heaven with you...
Maternal Love: Heaven is where you and I kiss each other...
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Connections

Featured in To the Moon (2020) See more »

User Reviews

 
Elaborate fantasy holds up after nearly a century
6 September 2015 | by markwood272See all my reviews

I found this 1918 version of "The Blue Bird" by accident. The film was based on the show by Maurice Maeterlinck, originally titled "L'Oiseau Bleu", and apparently had success on Broadway.

This silent movie was directed by Maurice Tourneur. The story springboards in the manner of Bunyan's pilgrim's progress as the "similitude of a dream." The shots, employing the rigid camera technique of the day, resemble illustrations in children's books from the era and remain quite beautiful over the course of various monochrome tintings.

So far so good, because this is a ...strange, strange story. The premise for the children's dream is that with help from the Blue Bird of Happiness we can see beyond the apparent nature of the perceived world of material objects and somehow grasp the spiritual essence of the merest of mere things. We will then stop coveting wealth, fame, and power, and discover contentment with the joys of (our existing) home and hearth.

Confined to a verbal description the premise seems more than a little banal, yet on film the concept allows Tourner-Maeterlinck to birth some of the oddest roles in movie history: e.g., check out Charles Craig as Sugar (yes, the real thing) and Sammy Blum as Bread (ditto). I don't know how "method" acting figures in all of this, but the result seems to be an attempted demonstration of Spinoza's view that apparently inert matter is somehow ensouled. Then again, encountering Bread and Sugar as just guys is less surprising after years watching all the animation of the inanimate in television commercials. For good measure the children's dream grants the household pets human speech and personality, revealing the pets' canine and feline characters as noble and sinister, respectively. That for me was about the only unoriginal thing in this one-of-a-kind viewing experience.

If only Maeterlinck could have tried out his idea in the Sixties, maybe with Timothy Leary as technical adviser... But I digress.

The two child leads, the characters named Mytyl and Tyltyl (easy to type on the script?), are effectively, if naively, portrayed. I also remember enjoying the choreographed sequence introducing the "fire" character. And the artistically accomplished use of silhouettes in place of live actors to present a party sequence deepens the credibility of a filmed dream.

The music-only soundtrack on the version I saw was marred by a flutter so bad I simply turned off the sound and missed nothing. Aside from a few brief rough patches in the images the print I saw was gorgeous. Based on the frequent use of tinting to signal mood changes I would even call this black and white movie colorful.

Theatrical adaptations of Baum's "Oz" books were running at about this time (a young Ray Bolger saw one, forming a resolution achieved years later as an adult), along with Barrie's "Peter Pan". In spite of its age you can see ingredients that would later appear in the 1939 production of "The Wizard of Oz". The Blue Bird tale was remade in the sound era in 1940 starring Shirley Temple. Intended to rival MGM's "Oz", it flopped. Another try occurred in 1976 as a U.S. - U.S.S.R. exercise in détente. Maybe Soviet censors saw the lively menagerie of physical things noted above as a creative application of the Marxian principle of "materialism".


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

None | English

Release Date:

31 March 1918 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El pájaro azul See more »

Filming Locations:

Fort Lee, New Jersey, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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