Thursday, November 10, 2016

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2014) by Year # 0106 - WISHING RING, THE (Maurice Tourneur, 1914, USA, 54m, BW)


WISHING RING, THE (Maurice Tourneur, 1914, USA, 54m, BW)
The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England


The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England 1914

Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Produced by William A. Brady
Shubert family
Written by Maurice Tourneur (scenario)
Based on     The Wishing Ring
by Owen Davis
Starring Vivian Martin
Cinematography John van den Broek
Distributed by World Film Company
Release dates November 9, 1914
Running time 54 mins.
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles

The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England is a 1914 American silent comedy-drama film directed by Maurice Tourneur and starring Vivian Martin. Based on the 1910 play of the same name by Owen Davis that ran on Broadway starring Marguerite Clark, the film was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey by the World Film Corporation.


    Vivian Martin - Sally, The parson's daughter
    Alec B. Francis - The Earl of Bateson
    Chester Barnett - The Earl's Son Giles
    Gyp Williams - The Orphan
    Simeon Wiltsie - The Parson
    Walter Morton - Mr. Annesley
    Johnny Hines - Jolly Boy (billed John Hines)
    Rose Melville - Sis Hopkins
    Frederick Truesdell
    Holbrook Blinn
    James Young


This charming “idyll of Old England” is the story of a likable but reckless young college student named Giles Bateson. Giles would much rather carouse with his classmates than turn the page of a textbook. He is summarily expelled from school for “gross misconduct” after one particularly boisterous night with his pals. Giles’ father, the Earl of Bateson, is not amused. Father and son become estranged, with the former not wishing to set eyes upon the latter until he earns a half-crown. Squire Annesley, Giles’ godfather, comes to his rescue. He hires the young man to tend his rose garden while he is away on a trip. Enter a sweet young thing named Sally. She is both the daughter of a poor preacher and the “little rose thief” who has been pilfering flowers from the squire’s garden for her father’s church. Giles and Sally meet as he nabs her in the act. Soon he is a young man hopelessly in love. Sally is more than just a maturing influence on Giles. She learns of his severed relationship with his father and becomes determined to mend the rift. The film is directed with a keen eye for atmosphere by the prolific Maurice Tourneur, one of the most talented and respected of all silent-era filmmakers.

Although shot in New Jersey, this early American feature claims to be “an idyll of Old England,” perhaps giving us some insight as to how Americans saw Britain and the British at the time. Unsurprisingly, the story centers on class relations. The story concerns a young upper class ne’er-do-well (Chester Barnett, also in “Trilby” and “Woman”) who get expelled from college and takes on the job of tending a rose garden. He falls in love with the pastor’s daughter (Vivian Martin, later to star in “The Stronger Love” and “His Official Fiancée”) when she tries to steal some roses for the church. Of course, she is unaware that he’s rich, and of course this leads to both comedy and drama. When gypsies give her a “Wishing Ring,” he takes advantage of the situation, buying her fancy gifts after she has wished for them, and leaving notes that they are “from the Wishing Ring.” They drink tea, and dance around a maypole, the professors from the school all go around wearing their gowns, and the servants are more stuck up and rigid than their masters. Interestingly, I spotted a few “backward-facing” intertitles, suggesting that some filmmakers were beginning to experiment with different ways of telling the story than setting it up textually then showing it visually all the time.

What an interesting movie from cinema master Maurice Tourneur, possibly the earliest example of his work that's still available. Tourneur was a guy who basically saw what Griffith was doing and took it to the next level. He knows how to construct a feature film very well -- in this case he eases us into the story with some light humor, then he slowly lays on the melodrama and finally ends it with a heartwarming resolution. Though he doesn't use some of the signature shots that we associate with his style from the later teens like the silhouettes and the triangulation, everything is appropriately lit and there's a strong sense of the way Tourneur showing the image as being appropriate to its place in the story. So why is "The Wishing Ring" a significant film? It shows how evolved the possibilities for film entertainment had already become by 1914. Audiences were willing to accept a mixture of drama and comedy, and Tourneur was more than happy to provide it to them. The complexity of the characters and the story are a precursor to Tourneur's more ambitious later literary adaptations such as "Last of the Mohicans", "Victory", and the now-lost "Treasure Island." It is a film about nostalgia and romance that isn't afraid to wink at the audience, and it doesn't feel even remotely "stagey." Tourneur's actors aren't as uniformly natural as they are in his later films, but I think he was already showing more skill with the actors than Griffith for example had shown in "Judith of Bethulia" the same year.


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