Volume II: Filmography





(Pathé Exchange)

December 17, 1916 (Sunday)

Length: 5 reels

Character: Drama; Pathé Gold Rooster Play

Director: Ernest Warde

Scenario: Adapted by Philip Lonergan from William Shakespeare's play of the same name

Cameramen: William Zollinger, John M. Bauman

Cast: Frederick Warde (King Lear), Lorraine Huling (Cordelia, King Lear's youngest daughter), Wayne Arey (Duke of Albany, husband of Goneril), J.H. Gilmour (Earl of Kent, the king's most devoted follower), Hector Dion (Edmund), Ernest Warde (the king's fool), Edwin Stanley (Edgar), Boyd Marshall (King of France), Ina Hammer (Goneril, eldest daughter of the king), Edith Diestel (Regan, the king's second daughter), Charles Brooks (Regan's husband, the Duke of Cornwall), Robert Whittier (Oswald), Henry Ardsley (bit part), "and 2000 others"

Notes: 1. King Lear was a familiar play to Frederick Warde, who had appeared in it on the stage as early as 1880, when he was with John McCullough. It is believed that his first stage appearance in the title role did not occur until February 1896, in Salt Lake City. 2. The New Rochelle Pioneer, November 25, 1916, attributed the following players to this film: Florence LaBadie, Charlotte Walker, Gladys Hulette, Vincent Serrano, Valkyrien, Jeanne Eagels, Doris Grey, and Wayne Arey. This listing is obviously a recitation of most of Thanhouser's top players of the era and was apparently intended for some other article or reference, not the cast of King Lear. 3. Films submitted for release through the Pathé Exchange, Inc. were selected by a review committee. At first, Thanhouser's King Lear was rejected, for reasons noted in a paragraph in Variety, September 15, 1916: "KING LEAR REFUSED: The Thanhouser production of King Lear, featuring Frederick Warde, has been refused by the Pathé Exchange because it is a costume play." 4. For biographical information concerning Shakespeare, refer to the Background of the Scenario entry under The Winter's Tale, released May 27, 1910.


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, September 2, 1916:

"Edwin Thanhouser announces the Thanhouser Film Corporation's ambitious Shakespearean production, Frederick Warde in King Lear, soon to be released to the Pathé Exchanges. Mr. Warde is one of the most noted Shakespearean actors of this generation and is famed throughout the United States and Great Britain for his production of notable plays. He considers the Thanhouser version of King Lear to be perfect. Mr. Warde's Silas Marner, produced by Thanhouser, was heralded as a truly superior feature. King Lear, Mr. Warde believes, is better than Silas Marner. The production was directed by Ernest Warde, son of Frederick Warde, who has had long experience as an actor in his father's companies and as stage director for Richard Mansfield. Ernest Warde plays the part of the fool in Thanhouser's King Lear. Others in the supporting cast are: Lorraine Huling, Wayne Arey, J.H. Gilmour, Hector Dion, Edwin Stanley, and Boyd Marshall. More than 2,000 persons were employed in the making of this Shakespearean play, which follows faithfully the original play."


ARTICLE, The New Rochelle Pioneer, December 16, 1916:

"Henry Ardsley, who plays minor roles in Thanhouser photoplays, reported at the studio the other day. He had been away for several months recovering from a broken leg received while he was making battle scenes for King Lear. Mr. Ardsley was standing at the bottom of a cliff over which soldiers were rolling. Two fell upon him at once. They were unhurt, but Mr. Ardsley was taken to the hospital. 'Tough luck, Hank,' said Earnest Warde, the director. 'Tough? I should say it was. When I came off I was within 15 feet of the camera and nobody will see it!'"


REVIEW, Exhibitor's Trade Review, December 16, 1916:

"While the screen version of Shakespeare's celebrated tragedy loses much of its force and appeal as compared to either the book or the stage, still, from an entertaining standpoint, this classic contains enough interest and action to make it a feature of worth. The story itself is tragical. Murder and suicide are plainly in evidence and presented in the regular Shakespearean style. There is no gruesomeness attached to these tragedies, while, as has always marked the writings of this immortal poet, there is a wealth of human interest that cannot fail to sway an audience. The old medieval atmosphere has been carried through with perfectness of detail. The action is not found lacking in any respect. Space limits doing real justice to the cast, but the artists employed do much toward making this picture a success. Frederick Warde, polished actor of legitimate fame, plays the role of King Lear. His characterization is both perfect and forceful. Lorraine Huling, as Cordelia, and Ernest Warde, as the King's Fool, also do splendid work. In fact, a word could be said for everyone in the cast. There is no doubt but that this picture will please and satisfy the followers of Shakespeare. It should provide entertainment in almost any house catering to the select clientele. The name of Frederick Warde will also prove a drawing power for this picture."


REVIEW by Dickson G. Watts, The Morning Telegraph, December 10, 1916:

"Let him who says Shakespeare is unsuited to motion pictures see King Lear. Battles between armed hosts, murder, intrigue, sudden death are all to be found. It is true that the costumes and manners would not shine in a modern drawing room picture, but these lend an added picturesqueness to the film. In one thing alone the screen production is lacking and that is in some of the subtler shadings of Shakespeare's work. However, this is in a measure introduced through the liberal, but not too frequent, use of the text in subtitles and in the mouths of the characters. Above all the acting of Frederick Warde stands out as dominating the entire picture. His work is sure, deft and impressive. Other excellent portrayals are presented by Ernest Warde as the Fool, J.H. Gilmour as Kent, Lorraine Huling as Cordelia, and Hector Dion as Edmund.

"In the matter of settings, there is no adverse criticism to be made, rather the opposite. Interiors of great size and apparent solidity have been furnished and in every case the appointments are artistically and historically correct. The exteriors have been carefully chosen, a difficult matter when the task is to represent the thirteenth century in the twentieth, but at no point does anything bordering upon an anachronism appear. The direction has been handled skillfully. The threads of the plot, of Edmund's ambition, the King's plight and final madness, the defeat of the French host, have been told with good continuity and with no lagging in the interest. The large cast seems to have been well drilled."


REVIEW by Laurence M. Reid, Motion Picture Mail, December 23, 1916:

"Another of Shakespeare's tragedies has reached the screen! And while, like the others, it lamentably fails to reproduce the subtle touches - dramatic and imaginative - of the great poet, it nevertheless brings out admiringly the bold and vivid strokes of the author. What we lose in poetry, to which the stage gives a hearing, is more than made up by the graphic suggestion of the silent visualization. Particularly is this true in the scenes in which the ambitious and ungrateful daughters of Lear are shown plotting for their father's worldly possessions, and in those moments when the old king, heartbroken and forlorn, realizes 'that a thankless child is sharper than a serpent's tooth.'

"Pictorially it is equal to the other dramas of Shakespeare which have been filmed. There is the picturesque pomp and ceremony of the court. There are battle scenes galore in all their medieval laboriousness and barbarity. There is truthfulness of detail and a respect for the traditions of Shakespeare. This story of children's ungratefulness to their parents is too well known to bear lengthy repetition here. Memorable parts of the dialogue have been incorporated into the subtitles to splendid effect, and worthy direction has been made in the matter of settings. Huge and apparently solid interiors have been supplied, and in every case the details are historically and artistically correct. The picture has its moments of tedium, like all great classical works that have been screened, mainly in the scenes leading up to the king's realization of his daughter's ingratitude. Frederick Warde gave a masterly representation of Lear. His force, his subdued emotion and, finally, his senile decay, were graphically depicted. Ernest Warde gave an excellent portrayal of the faithful Fool. Capable performances were given by Ina Hammer, Edith Diestel and Lorraine Huling as the daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. The remainder of the cast gave admirable support."


REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, December 23, 1916:

"A well executed five-reel screen version of Shakespeare's tragedy. With Frederick Warde in the title role, this picture gives the story of the play in a clear and concise form. The acting is maintained at a gratifying level of excellence in the mountings are adequate."


REVIEW by Edward Weitzel, The Moving Picture World, December 23, 1916:

"The latest Shakespearean drama prepared for screen exhibition is a five-reel version of King Lear, made by the Thanhouser Company, with Frederick Warde as the ruler of ancient Britain. While it is unquestioned that the Bard of Avon was a much greater poet than dramatist, it is also obvious that, in reviewing a screen version of one of his works, the writer must confine his criticism almost exclusively to the achievement of Shakespeare the playwright, since the actors on the screen are forced to limit themselves to 'dumb show' and may not give utterance to his wonderful lines. The brief quotations that serve as subtitles to the different scenes, while necessary to an understanding of the play, give but slight indication of the beauty, strength and profound philosophy of the poet's lines in their entirety. The plot of King Lear, when stripped of its wealth of marvelous verse, is a sordid story in which evil passion in many different forms is contrasted with the affection of the old King for his daughter, Cordelia, and her love for him. It is also worthy of note that, practically, the only physically revolting scene in all Shakespeare's found in this play - the scene where Gloster's eyes are torn out - a scene, by the way, that is handled with becoming restraint in the version under discussion.

"In view of the conditions imposed upon the producer and his associates, it is only just to them to regard their efforts in but one light, to what degree they have succeeded in taking the bare plot of King Lear and clothing it with some of the poetry of thought and feeling that was given it by its creator. All of the outward accessories required by the undertaking have been provided. Correct costuming, impressive settings, and adequate casts are principals, well trained supernumeraries and a thorough knowledge of the traditional 'business' of the scenes are all in evidence. It remains for the art of the actor - the technique of the silent drama - to make the poetry of the place speak to the heart of the spectator. This it does, to a praiseworthy degree. Aided by a clear and concise scenario, Mr. Warde and his fellow players throw many pictures upon the screen by which the soul of the tragedy, as well as its physical action, finds expression. In this day and age when utility is the watchword and sudden riches the goal of man, and Shakespeare's seldom read and less seldom acted, the Thanhouser version is an achievement to be thankful for; it may serve as a lamp to many who would otherwise never have their paths cheered and made radiant by the genius of the Great Elizabethan. If such an experience leads them to a study of the poet's works, the picture will have vindicated its creation, upon this ground alone. To the student of Shakespeare and those familiar with Lear and the spoken stage, the screen version offers a novel and interesting means of visualizing the poignant scenes of the greatest of human tragedies.

"Frederick Warde is not new to the character of Lear. He has often played it on the stage, and is fitted by temperament and training for its impersonation. He has the grand manner necessary to the aged monarch, and indicates to the life 'the choleric old king, jealous of his dignity, brooking no insult, rash and impetuous, blind to everything but momentary feeling, and heedless of all results until,' as Schlagel observes, 'all that remains to him is the capability of loving and suffering beyond measure.' Ernest Warde, who directed the play, is excellent as the fool, and the other principals of this goodly company are J.H. Gilmour, Hector Dion, Edwin Stanley, Wayne Arey, Charles Brooks, Boyd Marshall, Robert Whittier, Lorraine Huling, Ina Hammer, and Edith Diestel. The picture is released on the Pathé program."


REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, December 16, 1916:

"It is one virtue of the screen that it can take a master work of the Bard of Avon and delight the eyes and minds of millions, where but a scanty hundred thousand or two can see it on the stage with an adequate cast and stage setting. King Lear is one of the succession of Shakespearean productions that is offered to the intelligent public of America and eventually to the world. While not lacking in realism, this production gives the play a semblance of fairyland, so picturesque are the members of the cast and so gracefully is the action carried along. Many great minds have delved into the secret of the play, Goethe and Coleridge in particular, and the consensus of opinion is that it was founded upon an old folklore tale. Be that as it may, Shakespeare made the piece typical of the England of the days of chivalry. As most school children know, it is a tale of ingratitudes.

"Praise must be accorded the director, Ernest Warde, brother [sic] of the star, for incorporating so much of the drama as he has done in this screen version. In the main lines it gives an account of the old king, Lear, who wearies of his cares of office. He is misled by the fulsome avowals of affection of his two elder daughters and the truthful but not over-warm expression of his youngest daughter. As a result he turns the kingdom over to the two and disowns the other. The youngest, however, is gladly taken as wife by the King of France. Then Lear is turned out of doors by his ungrateful daughters. He goes mad and wanders through a storm accompanied by his court jester and another faithful servant. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, comes to the rescue of the old king. Her army is defeated and she is captured. She is executed by order of her natural sisters before a reprieve can come from one of the husbands. King Lear dies of grief. Frederick Warde has the stellar role of King Lear. In his makeup, he looks quite patriarchal as well as kingly and his misfortunes in contrast with his blustering assertion make an interesting if pathetic study. Ina Hammer, Edith Diestel and Lorraine Huling capably delineate the three daughters. Each one stands out distinctly from the other. Hector Dion and Edwin Stanley are cast respectively as Edwin and Edgar, who figure in the sham duel that is quite well done. Robert Whittier has the mobile features and the quaint tricks of expression that fit him to present well the sympathetic character of the jester. The piece is superbly costumed and the settings are substantial and in keeping with the age represented. It is hard to pick out any particular scenes to mention, because they are all so uniformly good. From the spectacular side, the big battle scene stands out as a notable example of skillful direction of a mob. The photography is very successful, especially in the big storm scene. - C.M."


REVIEW, Wid's Film and Film Folk, December 14, 1916: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.


MODERN REVIEW-COMMENTARY by Robert Hamilton Ball, Shakespeare on Silent Film, 1968. A lengthy modern review, based upon a surviving print, is given on pp. 242-244. In brief:

"The film tells far too much of the complex story in detail, and the plot is hard to follow.... Close-ups bring out character traits in physiognomies, and the make-up is impressive. Some of the tragic quality comes through in the performances of Ernest Warde, Gilmour as Kent, and the wicked sisters of Ina Hammer and Edith Diestel. Unfortunately, Cordelia is rather dreadful.... Frederick Warde himself is surprisingly good.... He had learned something acting before the camera and does not especially smack of the stage. If the film as a whole bears marks of the primitive, it is not dull or ridiculous. It does not rank with Forbes-Robertson's Hamlet, because Warde was not as great an actor as Forbes-Robertson, but it is unquestionably the best silent version made of King Lear...."

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.