A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909) A Silent Film Review

The oft-filmed tale of Athens, drug-toting fairies, forbidden love and dudes with donkey heads. The rub? This was made in 1909, when short films ruled the market. The entire production is ten minutes long. That’s right. Ten. Well, you can’t accuse it of being long-winded. Plus, there are some future stars in the cast.

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Lost Film Files #20: Prudence, the Pirate (1916)

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Prudence, the Pirate (1916)

Status: Unknown

Gladys Hulette gets another adorable vehicle in the form of Prudence, the Pirate. The plot involves a pirate-obsessed young lady who gets out of an arranged marriage by hiring a ship (complete with crew) and proclaiming herself a pirate captain. She then kidnaps her  would-be suitor and forces him to swab the deck! The young man finally proves himself when a fire breaks out on the ship and he saves Prudence, thus proving his worth.

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Moving Picture World thought the film was good entertainment:

In “Prudence, the Pirate” Gladys Hulette has a youthful role finely fitted to her tender years— surely as Prudence she looks not more than sixteen, and it is a more or less commonly accepted fiction that a female is only as old as she looks The story is by Agnes Johnson. It is a craftsmanlike piece of work, especially that part of It which is devoted to the draughting of the leaders. These have more than a distinct comedy flavor; there is always present the literary touch Miss Hulette is supported among others by Flora Pinch and Riley Chamberlin. These two unusually clever character actors prove to be Just the team that one knowing their individual capacity for mirthmaking would be led to expect. The general result Is worthwhile. “Prudence the Pirate” will make good entertainment.

Miss Hulette as Prudence shows marked skill in comedy interpretation. She has the pep and abandon of young girlhood Prudence Is romantic, with a leaning to the piratical. She imposes her pranks on relatives and servants alike. Her mis- adventures have the natural effect of indefinitely postponing her formal debut In society even while her feminine ways are hastening the ensnaring of the smitten Astorbilt.

Miss Finch is seen as the prim aunt who unsuccessfully tries to keep her niece within the bounds of conventionality; but who likewise finds her matchmaking ambitions gratified when Prudence in her own way secures the hand-picked prize Mr Chamberlin Is Meeks, the family butler. Meeks loses his standing as a temperance advocate when on the Invitation of Prudence he looks on the punch when it is red; his position is placed in still greater jeopardy when the hastily gathered pirate crew of the Bucket of Blood kidnaps him and carries him away to don a pirate’s garb. Barnett Parker is Astorbilt; he does a good bit of character drawing of the wealthy young man none too strong in his masculinity. Yet he does not overdo the part. The remainder of the cast gives satisfactory support.

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Wid’s Film and Film Folk was quite enthusiastic:

I believe that you can feel pretty safe in booking this because it is different. It is just a light comedy with a ‘melo’ climax, but the idea is different and I would say that any average audience would enjoy it. As to box-office value, there is a question as to whether or not Miss Hulette’s name will pull, since she is rather a newcomer to the ranks of stardom. I would depend almost entirely upon playing up the unusual situation of a society debutante, who, in seeking an adventure, chartered a schooner and set out as a sure-enough pirate craft. That sounds very interesting, and on that alone you should be able to pull considerable business. Use Miss Hulette’s picture generally, and ask the question: ‘Can you imagine this young lady commanding an honest-to-goodness pirate crew? She did it! That was her idea of a good time.

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The Morning Telegraph liked the film but found the scenario to be cliche-ridden:

Agnes C. Johnston has set about writing her story as though she had never seen a moving picture in her life and didn’t know that by every screen convention the millionaire should have been the villain and Prue’s young admirer, the hero. As it is, there is not a commonplace character or a hackneyed situation in the whole picture; the people are all human beings and the comedy is lively, good humored and original. As for the subtitles, many of them are good laughs in themselves. 

Unfortunately, no word exists on whether this film is still with us. Too bad, it looks like a blast!

(photo source: silentfilmstillarchive.com)

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Lost Film Files #19: The Shine Girl (1916)

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The Shine Girl (1916)

Status: Missing and presumed lost

This is a Pollyanna-esque tale of a little shoeshine girl who brightens the lives of all she meets. For the record, Mary Pickford and I feel exactly the same way about Pollyanna (she annoys us) but I rather like Gladys Hulette, who plays the title character in The Shine Girl. (Get it? Get it? Cuz she shines shoes and brightens lives? Get it? Get it?)

The story is about a shoeshine girl who wins the love of a Children’s Court judge.

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Moving Picture World praised the picture but mentioned a few rough spots:

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One of the interesting points about this production from the Thanhouser studios is that its scenario was written by Agnes C. Johnson, who is not only one of the youngest, but one of the few scenario writers exhibiting the spark of genius. Miss Johnson is but eighteen years old, and first attracted the notice of the writer through an artistic three-reel production entitled “The Window of Dreams.” While “The Shine Girl” could not be termed a powerful play, it represents an idea of great beauty. The character of the “shine” girl is of the positive, individual sort that is sometimes met with in the most unexpected places. Although this little girl’s vocation was that of a bootblack, she was not content with the mere shining of shoes. She was of a philosophic turn of mind, and believed among other things that sorrow had the same effect on people that show blacking had on shoes, it made them dark at first, but they polished up brighter after if had been rubbed on. She was also the very embodiment of the spirit of love as learned by her only pal Sally; and Sally, by the way, was a poor, sickly geranium, who consented to live only because the little “shine” girl carried her out of her dark corner into the sunshine whenever she ventured forth herself and considered it a privilege to clamber up fire escapes that Sally might drink in larger droughts of the life-giving elements.

This is an index to the nature of the “shine” girl, and early in life she found opportunities to shine human hearts as well as shoes. She also found her way, along with Sally, into the country where she believed the sun always shone through the kind heart of the Judge of the Children’s Court, whom she afterward rescues from committing a folly, and later marries.

Gladys Hulette has given a beautiful portrayal of the character of the “shine” girl , with A. Wayne playing opposite her as the judge. There are a few points at which the picture might be brushed into more professional shape, but here is no denying that the central idea has been clearly defined. Some off-shoots of the theme might have been strengthened in detail, and there may be a felling that the character of the Judge was not a well-balanced one and has been somewhat victimized in bringing about a dramatic climax. Nevertheless the production is distinctly human, clean and beautiful.

Agnes Christine Johnston was all of 20 when she wrote The Shine Girl. As predicted in the review, she did go on to great things. She wrote scenarios for beloved silent classics like Daddy Long Legs and Show People and enjoyed success in the talkies writing screenplays for the Andy Hardy series.

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Gladys Hulette charmed the audiences of the ‘teens.
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Wid’s Film and Film Folk also praised the concept but considered the film uneven:

Taken as a whole, I would say that this is a production which will be decidedly satisfying with any audience, highbrow or lowbrow. It is sufficiently artistic to please the discriminating, and surely it has a good audience appeal because of the central thought. This is not a wonderful production technically, because of a few little things which hold it down in the ‘good’ class instead of allowing it to soar to great height, but it surely is a splendid audience film. When it comes to box-office appeal, I doubt whether Miss Hulette can pull you much business, unless you go out and aggressively boost this as an artistic, human presentation of a truly big idea. You can possibly arouse a lot of interest in this by announcing that it deals with the juvenile court problem, for this is a question of general interest. If you wanted to start a discussion, you might say in your ads, ‘Is it any worse to steal a man’s wife than it is to steal a loaf of bread?

I am curious to see this “clean and human” film. I certainly would like to see Gladys Hulette in an early role.

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