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The Whispering Chorus (1918)

Not Rated | | Drama | 28 March 1918 (USA)
John Trimble has embezzled and obtains another identity by having a mutilated body buried in his place. He is later arrested for murdering himself. During the trial his mother, before dying... See full summary »

Director:

Cecil B. DeMille
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Raymond Hatton ... John Tremble
Kathlyn Williams ... Jane Tremble
Edythe Chapman ... John Tremble's mother
Elliott Dexter ... George Coggeswell
Noah Beery ... Longshoreman
Guy Oliver ... Chief McFarland
John Burton John Burton ... Charles Barden
Tully Marshall ... F.P. Clumley
William H. Brown William H. Brown ... Stauberry
James Neill ... Channing
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Mocking Face
Walter Lynch Walter Lynch ... Evil Face
Edna Mae Cooper Edna Mae Cooper ... Good Face
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Storyline

John Trimble has embezzled and obtains another identity by having a mutilated body buried in his place. He is later arrested for murdering himself. During the trial his mother, before dying from shock, asks him to keep his identity secret since his wife is now married to the Governor and expecting a child. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 March 1918 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A suttogó kórus See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$72,500 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$242,109
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The wedding sequence in which George Coggeswell (Elliott Dexter) marries Jane Trimble (Kathlyn Williams) was staged at Christ Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. The best man was played by Paramount executive Charles F. Eyton, who was married to Kathlyn Williams in real life. According to Dexter, Eyton had to be persuaded to allow the use of the couple's actual wedding rings for the scene. See more »

Connections

Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"When I pay the price, there will be no miscarriage of justice"
3 September 2008 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

The Whispering Chorus is one of a number of standout films in Cecil B. DeMille's 1910s output, and for some marks the end of an era in his work. It is also perhaps the darkest and most noir-ish story he ever dealt with.

Dark stories call for bleak imagery, and visuals are particularly stark here – plenty of barren sets or large areas of darkness. Furthermore with the psychological conflict going on DeMille makes heavy use of superimpositions. DeMille had always used these a lot to literalise products of his characters' imaginations, but here he goes a bit overboard and occasionally they are unnecessary. The eponymous whispering chorus (which is pretty much superfluous to the story anyway) is shown as a cloud of floating heads – not really necessary when the actors alone competently convey the anguish that their characters feel.

Although he is not really known for it, DeMille was probably the best director of actors during this period (as opposed to his sound films which tend to be wall-to-wall ham). It is not only that he seems to have encouraged a satisfactory blend of realism and dramatism, it was also his use of long, unbroken takes and intelligent framing of actors. In The Whispering Chorus his handling of more emotional scenes is particularly sensitive, cutting to close-ups at key moments to highlight an actor's face. DeMille also tends to keep the sets Spartan and uncluttered for a poignant scene, allowing the audience to concentrate solely on the performers.

Let's take a closer look at the lead actor. The first thing that strikes you about Raymond Hatton is what a thin face he has, and how he seems to have a permanent disappointed expression. But look beyond that, and you can see he is actually a pretty good actor – certainly better than his co-star Kathlyn Williams. Hatton is one of a number of silent stars who drifted out of the spotlight only to turn up absolutely everywhere as a character actor in the sound era – he is quite memorable as the "murderous impulses" barber in Fritz Lang's Fury. He made dozens of appearances for DeMille, but The Whispering Chorus is his greatest moment, both in terms of the demands placed on him as an actor and the performance he turns in.

Some have labelled this as the last film in which DeMille kept his artistic integrity before giving way to commercialism. This is not really true, as pleasing the audience had always been top of his agenda, and his subsequent films do not differ a whole lot in style, although he would use superimpositions a lot less from here on, which is a good thing. It is true however that his next picture, Old Wives for New, marks the beginning of a series of rather lightweight marital comedies, after which his work would be full of the piety and sensationalism with which he is now associated.

Whatever the case, The Whispering Chorus stands as one of DeMille's greatest accomplishments. It does overuse those superimposed images, but this is really the only complaint. Underneath that is a strong and very grim drama. Noir-ish and dark, yes, but it has a poignant, bittersweet edge, hitting a lot of the same notes as George Stevens' A Place in The Sun.


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