In the Vaults #16: The End of the Rainbow (1916)

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The End of the Rainbow (1916)

Status: Both complete and incomplete 35mm prints held by the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art.

Jeanie Macpherson’s reputation has been overshadowed by that of her employer. As Cecil B. DeMill’s go-to brainstormer for story ideas, Macpherson is generally only known as his collaborator and lover.

Well, it’s time we do something about that!

Macpherson in the twenties.
Macpherson in the twenties.

Macpherson was a fascinating artist in her own right, a pioneering writer, actress and director. None of her solo pre-DeMille work has been released to the general public but some of it does survive. The End of the Rainbow was the second and final time that Macpherson would sit in the director’s chair. The film is also significant as one of the surviving star vehicles of Myrtle Gonzalez, one of Hollywood’s very first Latina movie stars and an early action movie heroine.

Myrtle Gonzalez on the job.
Myrtle Gonzalez on the job.

So, pioneers from two fronts? It doesn’t get much better than this.

Review from Moving Picture World:

Story Laid Among the Redwoods of California Features Myrtle Gonzales and Val Paul for Bluebird Program.

The story on which this five-part production is based is of a pleasing and more or less red-blooded type, working up to a fitting climax which possibly loses some of its snap by the prolonging of the tale into the usual reconciliations, explanations, etc. However, there is much to be enjoyed about “The End of the Rainbow.” The title as applied to the story has little significance. The perpetration of a blue and white rainbow on the innocent spectator is made palatable only by the wonderful glimpses of the redwood country, and San Francisco Bay with which it appears.

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Myrtle Gonzalez and Val Paul as the leads of the play are pleasing; and the fighting propensities of the latter as displayed in the last reel are exceedingly admirable. George Hernandez as Elihu Bennett, father of the heroine and viciously opposed to paying the owners of the lumber land a fair price for their property, acquits himself in a natural and delightful manner. A bit of comedy, however far fetched it may be, creeps into the otherwise melodramatic atmosphere of the production, with Sheriff Connelly’s difficulties of transportation.

The plot of the story concerns itself with an effort of the lumber monopoly headed by Elihu Bennett to obtain possession of the stranding timber in the redwood forests of California and the villainy of Bennett’s representative at the lumber land, and his foreman, in trying to make away with the company’s money, and also to under-estimate the offer of Bennett to the owners of the land. Bennett’s daughter impersonating a stenographer who is being sent from San Francisco, goes to the lumber woods and is the means of discovering the plot by which her father is to be robbed.

The story of the production was written and produced by Lynn Reynolds.

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Jeanie Macpherson is not credited for her work as director or writer in this film. This was not unusual in an era when film credits were still being decided on. Most film historians that cover this film agree that Macpherson was co-director. (You can read more details in Early Women Directors by Anthony Slide.)

This was a Bluebird release, which was how Universal marketed its films during the silent era. Red Feather movies were lower budget programmers. Bluebird designated mid-budget general releases. Jewel productions were expensive prestige pictures. The Super Jewel title was reserved for epics like The Phantom of the Opera. On a side note, I think Bluebird releases had the most gorgeous poster and ad art of the ‘teens.

Here is a spoiler-filled plot summary:

end-of-the-rainbow-04The cast: Ruth Bennett (Myrtle Gonzalez); Elihu Bennett (George Hernandez); Jerry Simpson {Val Paul); Thursday Simpson (Jack Curtis); Ferdinand Stocker (Fred Church); Bill Hardy (Joe Ryan); Sheriff Connelly (Jack Connelly). Elihu Bennett represents the lumber monopoly and leads its fight to corral the standing timber in the Redwood forests of California. His daughter, Ruth, has, of her own desire, acquired a business education, including stenography. Her father objects to her working in his office so she devotes her time to charitable purposes.

One day she discovers a young man, who has just separated two street fighters, being taken away, with one of the fighters, by a policeman. She intercedes and secures the young man’s release. The man Ruth befriended is Jerry Simpson, the son of one of the mountaineers who owns large and valuable tracts of timber which her father’s business associates are trying to secure at an unreasonably low figure.

Jerry, who has been studying law, goes to Bennett to make an appeal for justice. Ruth sees Jerry and at her request her father tells her who Jerry is and why he is in San Francisco. Jerry’s mission is fruitless because Bennett decides to abide by the advise of Ferdinand Stocker, who represents the lumber monopoly in the Redwood forests. Ruth, at her father’s office, learns that Stocker needs a stenographer. This so interests Ruth that when a girl has been selected from a number of applicants, Ruth prevails upon her, in return for money which Ruth gives her, to surrender her credentials. Ruth goes to the lumber camp as the stenographer assuming Kitty Mitchell’s name. It develops that Kitty Mitchell has deserted her children and husband, and this fact, being published in the San Francisco papers, comes to the eyes of Stocker. When Stocker makes advances to Ruth and is repulsed, he shows her the newspaper clipping and Ruth is silent. Ruth and Jerry become friends and he is her most enthusiastic assistant in establishing a library for the lumbermen.

Bill Hardy is Stocker’s foreman and Ruth learns that these two men are conspiring to rob her father by making false reports. Stocker determines to cut down “Old Sentinel,” a famous land mark. The fact that the giant Redwood stands on Simpson’s property does not alter Stocker’s determination. Jerry tries to prevent by physical means the felling of the tree, but is unsuccessful. He is terribly beaten. Ruth has learned of the proposed raid upon Simpson’s timber and goes to the aceno in time to find Jerry lying almost insensible upon ground. Sbe revives bim and gives bim a revolver with which Jerry shoots and badly wounds Hardy who is doing the work for Stocker. The next day inhabitants of the camp are mystified as to who shot Hardy. Stocker having witnessed the incident from his hiding place behind a tree knows that Ruth gave Jerry the revolver. He invites her to go with him to a questionable resort at another camp and have dinner, threatening unless she complies to expose her as the person who did the shooting.

Ruth having consented, Stocker goes to his wounded confederate, Hardy, and tells him of his plans for taking Ruth to dinner. When Hardy asks Stocker for his share of the loot that has come from stealing the company’s money. Stocker laughs at him, believing that

Hardy, being wounded and helpless, cannot resent Stocker’s refusal. When Stocker leaves with Ruth. Hardy alarms the lumber men. Jerry and the men quickly pursue Stocker and arrive just in time to save Ruth from Stocker’s second and most vicious assault. Stocker, in escaping, uses a waterchute down which timber is carried to the valley. There is a brake in the chute through which Stocker falls to his destruction. In response to a letter Ruth has written, her father comes to the lumber camp, straightens out the difficulties and consents to Ruth’s marriage to Jerry.

Myrtle Gonzalez is intriguing but, unlike her movies, her story has a tragic ending. She was one of the millions who succumbed to the Spanish Influenza epidemic.

This film is significant on multiple fronts. Its portrayal of women in the workplace, its use of female talent behind the camera and its featuring a Latina in the leading role all make this a very important film. I think it more than deserves a home video release.

Recommended

Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte”

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes that I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.)   This time, we are trying a recipe from a popular screenwriter, Jeanie Macpherson. She is most famous for her work with Cecil B. DeMille but she was also a pioneering director and actress.

Continue reading “Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte””