Russia has rumblings in the interior and it’s not because of that questionable lunch. Director John Collins and leading lady Viola Dana create a revolutionary bit of entertainment torn from the headlines.
A well-constructed melodrama made during the craze for “social” pictures in the 1910s, Children of Eve has visual flair to spare and a powerful performance from star Viola Dana.
They raided her home, killed her family, stole her horse and now they’re gonna pay! Viola Dana stars as a Russian peasant who sets out to avenge her murdered family. It’s a stylish drama of vengeance and ballet in the waning days of Imperial Russia.
An intelligent and well-crafted melodrama that contrasts the slums of the poor with the mansions of the wealthy and shows what happens when the two worlds collide. Part morality tale, part expose of child labor practices, this is a tear-jerker supreme. Have a box of tissues handy as you will need them.
Status: Missing and presumed lost
Harry Leon Wilson is not well-remembered today but he was a popular writer in the early 20th century. He wrote zany, breezy comedic novels that often involved a cripplingly eccentric hero who must be rescued by a sensible and maternal young lady. Wilson’s novels are goofy and cute and they make great reading.
The 1919 novel Merton of the Movies is probably Wilson’s best remembered story. It tells the tale of Merton Gill, a movie struck lad who arrives in California determined to be a great actor. With the help of a spunky young comedienne named Flips, he breaks into pictures. What he doesn’t know is that his acting is terrible. So bad, in fact, that he is unwittingly creating comedy gold.
In 1924, Paramount adapted the novel into a film starring stage actor Glenn Hunter as Merton and Hollywood veteran Viola Dana as Flips.
Here is what Photoplay had to say:
HARRY LEON WILSON’S superb satire of movieland has reached the screen minus a considerable measure of its tang. James Cruze’s version avoids the biting satire and centers upon the pathos of the dreaming small-town boy who wanted to do better and bigger things on the screen. The adaptation follows Merton Gill from Illinois to Hollywood, traces his tragic collision with the world of celluloid make-believe, and reveals his ultimate success — as a burlesque comic foil for a cross-eyed comedian. In this the screen “Merton of the Movies” is pretty satisfying. But you will miss the pointed satire of filmdom. You will resent, too, the making of Flips Monlague into a soubrette, although Viola Dana has a good moment or two. We would rather have had Charlie Ray as Merton than Glenn Hunter.
The New York Times was considerably more enthusiastic, naming Merton as one of the top ten films of 1924, along with such titles as The Sea Hawk, The Thief of Bagdad, He Who Gets Slapped and Beau Brummel.
The book was adapted as a pre-Code comedy in 1932 and again in 1947 as a Red Skelton picture. The Marion Davis vehicle Show People also owes a lot to Merton, albeit with reversed genders.
Now seems to be the time to ask everyone for the requisite attic checking. This film looks like a ton of fun.
A variation on the popular twenties gold-digger theme in the key of Capra. The delightful Viola Dana dreams of landing a rich husband. Ralph Graves seems to be the man of her dreams but when he is disinherited, it is Viola’s entrepreneurial spirit that saves the day.
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