Volume II: Filmography



(Pathé Exchange)

April 1, 1917 (Sunday)

Length: 5 reels

Character: Drama; Pathé Gold Rooster Play

Director: John B. O'Brien

Scenario: Lloyd F. Lonergan

Cameraman: Harry B. Harris

Cast: Charlotte Walker (Mary Lawson), William Davidson (Dr. Brundage), J.H. Gilmour (Dr. Kirk), N.S. Woods (Joe, the village cobbler), Inda Palmer (Mrs. Lawson, Mary's mother), Robert Vaughn (John Harlow), Gene LaMotte, Eugene Walter (an extra)

Notes: 1. This film featured Charlotte Walker's only screen work with Thanhouser. An article in The Moving Picture World, February 17, 1917, noted: "Charlotte Walker, who has just been announced as the star in a new Broadway play written by her husband, Eugene Walter, is featured in the Thanhouser drama, Mary Lawson's Secret.... It is interesting to know that Mr. Walter was a visitor to the Thanhouser studio when some of the scenes were being taken and volunteered to be an 'extra.'" Walter was also an extra in Divorce and the Daughter, a 1916 Thanhouser release. 2. Earlier, Robert Vaughn had been Charlotte Walker's leading man in A Woman's Way, a stage play of which her husband was the author. 3. When an article on this film appeared in The Moving Picture World, October 28, 1916, it was intended that O.A.C. Lund would direct it. 4. The circumstantial evidence question is treated in the scenario. Years earlier, circa 1910-1912, this theme was featured in several of Lloyd F. Lonergan's scripts.


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, October 21, 1916:

"Charlotte Walker, famous for her successes as a star on the screen as well as on the speaking stage, has joined the Thanhouser Film Corporation and will begin work immediately upon a five-reel feature by Lloyd Lonergan, to be released through the Pathé Exchange. O.A.C. Lund, who has directed such players as Gladys Hulette, Robert Warwick, Lionel Barrymore, and Barbara Tennant, will be Miss Walker's Thanhouser director. It is Edwin Thanhouser's policy to sign for his plays actors particularly suited to the parts and the list of Thanhouser artists now includes Miss Walker, Vincent Serrano, Jeanne Eagels, and Valkyrien added, of course, to Florence LaBadie, Frederick Warde, Gladys Hulette, Doris Grey, and Wayne Arey, who for some time have been firmly established as stars in Thanhouser features. In her first Thanhouser feature Miss Walker will play the part of a girl convicted of murder, who escapes and marries, concealing her secret from her husband. The story is crowded with exciting scenes, including a train wreck in which the heroine, on her way to prison, makes her escape. In the last hundred feet of film comes a denouement, one of those unexpected twists which are so popular with film fans and which straighten everything out after the spectators have begun to fear that the heroin is doomed to despair and death. Before joining Thanhouser her motion picture experience including starring engagements with Lasky and McClure."


ARTICLE, The Exhibitors Trade Review, December 30, 1916:

Excerpt: "For the photographing of a tempest scene in Miss Walker's play, Director O'Brien and his cameraman, H.B. Harris, built a tank, whipped up six-inch waves with an aeroplane propeller and cut tree-like slits in the black backing, with lights behind each one. The effect was remarkably realistic on the film it is said."


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, March 31, 1917:

"Mary Lawson's Secret, the Thanhouser-made Gold Rooster Play which is to be released April 1, signalizes not only the first appearance of the famous Charlotte Walker on the Pathé Program, but also represents the first picture ever put out with the rooster trademark which was directed by John O'Brien. Miss Walker is an artist in the very front rank of her profession. She is now starring in Washington in the new play, The Small Town Girl, which has not yet had its New York premiere. Among the successful plays in which she has recently starred were The Easiest Way and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. She was born in Galveston, Texas and began her theatrical career in Richard Mansfield's company. Later she was James K. Hackett's leading woman for four years.

"Mary Lawson's Secret was written by Lloyd Lonergan and represents that well-known scenario writer at his best. It is strongly dramatic, and has beautifully produced by Director O'Brien. It tells the story of a small town girl who becomes the innocent victim of the intense rivalry existing between two doctors, the one an old practitioner of the town, and the other a young man, a recent arrival. The Pathé Film Committee considered this picture one of the strongest, best acted and best produced offerings of the season. Certainly the fine art of Charlotte Walker, the excellent support given by J.H. Gilmour and Robert Vaughn, and the uniformly intelligent treatment of director O'Brien make it a 'preferred' picture."


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, April 14, 1917:

"On April 1 will be released Mary Lawson's Secret, produced by Thanhouser from a decidedly original story by Lloyd Lonergan, and with the famous Charlotte Walker as the star. John O'Brien, a former director of Mary Pickford, directed the picture, which shows the ablest workmanship throughout. A splendid mystery idea has been logically carried through to the conclusion, furnishing a climax which will be in complete surprise to most persons and which is most dramatic."

Note: The preceding article was printed many days after the film was released.


SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, April 7, 1917:

"Mary Lawson was on trial for the killing of Dr. Brundage. He had come to the little village and with his up-to-date-methods had made great inroads into the practice of Dr. Kirk. Mary's mother, confirmed invalid, was one of those who had turned to the new doctor. Mary in repulsing the advances of Dr. Brundage, had said, 'You have destroyed my faith in mankind - I feel as though I could kill you.' Mary's mother took a turn for the worse, so she went to summon Dr. Brundage, but on arrival at the office found him dead in the chair. Other arrivals found Mary alone with a knife in her hand, and this, coupled with her previous statement, which had been overheard, was the means of her conviction. Through the help of a cripple she managed to escape. Securing work in a far away city she soon became the wife of a fellow workman, John Harlow, who turned out to be a wealthy clubman, working only on a wager. Her happiness was complete until the day when she ran across Dr. Kirk, now penniless and ragged. He forced her to take him in as her 'uncle.' One day, led to the vicinity by her picture, detectives came to the house. Mary, on seeing them, told her whole story to her husband. He, instead of turning her over, assisted her to escape in a sailboat [sic; subsequent reviews say motorboat]. A storm arose and the boat was driven on the rocks. In the morning Mary came to, to find herself on the rocks but her husband was nowhere in sight. Overhearing voices speak of the other body, she made her way to the house for one last look at her husband. While there the detective approached only to tell her of the confession of Dr. Kirk."


REVIEW, Exhibitors Herald, April 14, 1917:

"As a whole: fair; story: containing mystery; star: Charlotte Walker; support: ample; settings: faithful; photography: clear.

"Mystery has been injected into this picture in such a manner as to produce suspense, and while one seems entirely certain of the outcome, yet the dramatic turns are so entirely different from one's expectations that they baffle, and the result is highly gratifying. Charlotte Walker is cast in the sympathetic role of a young girl sentenced for a murder of which she is innocent. Robert Vaughn is the hero who marries her and her secret. William Davidson is cast as Dr. Brundage, and J.H. Gilmour as Dr. Kirk.

"The story: Mary Lawson is convicted of the murder of Dr. Brundage, and on the way to prison bandits employed by a cripple, whom she had befriended, kidnap her and help her to escape. She goes to a distant state and gets work in a factory, where she meets John Harlow. They fall in love and marry. It develops that John is a wealthy clubman who had taken the factory position on a wager. Mary is happy with John. One day she meets Dr. Kirk, dirty and ragged, and he forces her to take him into her home as her uncle, and because of her secret Mary consents. Through her maid Mary learns that detectives are in the town looking for the murderer of Dr. Brundage. She confesses all to her husband and they escape in a motorboat. A storm rises and the boat is dashed upon the rocks, and when Mary awakens she hears voices which lead her to believe that her husband is dead. Going to the house for one more look, she finds not her husband but Dr. Kirk. She also learns that he confessed to the murder. John and Mary are seen in a pleasant ending."


REVIEW, Exhibitor's Trade Review, March 24, 1917:

"This very entertaining and absorbing photoplay is Mary Lawson's Secret. Its interest lies in the well maintained suspense and pathos. The opening of the story showing the advent of the new doctor into the town, and the gradual monopoly of the old practitioner's patients affords a certain amount of human interest and at the same time provides the foundation for the motive of the crime. The interest lies not in the mystery surrounding the guilty one, because the audience has every chance of becoming cognizant of that from the very beginning, but instead lies in the solution and the unraveling of the complicated situations. We are led to believe that the old doctor will confess to the crimes sooner or later, but instead of having gasped out the confession upon the deathbed or the guilty one harassed unto desperation by his conscience, there has been offered a slight touch of originality in having Mary discover the doctor in the coffin, thinking all along that it contained her husband. This naturally lends a particular charm and surprise to the ending. A smooth running plot and an even continuity speaks well of the direction. The atmosphere has been well maintained and the photography the very best. Charlotte Walker has been supplied with a vehicle that affords her ample opportunity for strong dramatic situations, which she handles in a way that is very praiseworthy. J.H. Gilmour, who portrays the character of old Dr. Kirk, presents a pleasing bit of character acting. In fact the entire cast deserves mention. Mary Lawson's Secret is a play well adapted for community theatres and those houses looking for wholesome entertainment. It is quite up to the high-water mark of Thanhouser productions."


REVIEW by Dickson G. Watts, The Morning Telegraph, March 18, 1917:

"The sustained interest of this production lies not in any new theme but in a succession of surprising twists to the action. In this department Lloyd Lonergan has fairly outdone himself. For each reel there is a new development that will keep audiences guessing, and in this way exceptionally good entertainment is assured. Exhibitors will also have the name of Charlotte Walker as a drawing card. The action of the picture is swiftly moving, and despite one or two weak spots, consistently portrayed, with fine continuity as an added asset.

"Mary Lawson is insulted by the new doctor of the town where she lives and, in the hearing of the nurse, quarrels with him. On the same evening she is sent by her mother to summon him hurriedly, finding him dead with a knife beside him. She is discovered by passers-by beside the body with the knife in her hand. On this circumstantial evidence and the testimony of the nurse she is convicted of murder in the second degree, despite the efforts of Dr. Kirk, the old family physician, to save her. This is one of the weak spots of the drama. The audience is led to suspect the nurse, whose relations with the dead man are exposed in the first reel. Escaping from her guards through the aid of a friend, Mary goes west, where she finds employment in a factory. Later she marries a fellow workman, John Harlow. The husband takes her east, under the pretext of finding a better position, and then surprises Mary and the audience by disclosing himself as a young millionaire who, on a bet, has been posing as a laborer. Shortly after the honeymoon Mary meets Dr. Kirk, now a wastrel. The man explains that he had been driven from his practice by his townspeople because of his activities in Mary's behalf. He demands that he be introduced into Harlow's home as Mary's uncle, threatening to betray her secret should she refuse.

"Sometime later, through the gossip of her servants, Mary learns that the police are coming to arrest her. She confesses to Harlow, escaping with him in a motor boat which is wrecked in a storm. Reviving on the rocks in the early morning, the girl overhears the conversation of some searchers and is led to believe, together with the audience, that Harlow's body has been recovered. Wishing to see him once more, Mary risks returning to her home. In the coffin she finds Kirk, and then learns from the police that the doctor is the real murderer. The cast employed in this production is in every way capable, as is the direction. The settings and photography will be found good."


REVIEW by Edward Weitzel, The Moving Picture World, March 31, 1917:

"A mystery story in which the secret is kept until the end may be said to fulfill its mission. Such a story is to be found in Mary Lawson's Secret, a five-reel photoplay produced by Thanhouser and featuring Charlotte Walker. An unexplained murder in the early part of the drama sustains the interest and, as in all crime stories, it is just as well not to scan too closely the use of coincidence made by the author. Lloyd Lonergan, who wrote the scenario for Mary Lawson's Secret, has used the expedient freely and constructed a photoplay that catches the attention quickly and holds it firmly until the end of the picture.

"A young girl living in a small place is convicted of murdering a young doctor, who lured her into his office and insulted her. This doctor had a rival in town, an elderly man who had practiced there for many years. While on her way to serve a life sentence, Mary Lawson escapes and, eventually, becomes the wife of a wealthy man. She does not tell her husband her secret until the officers of the law get on her track. Just as they are about to arrest her again, the real murderer confesses. The variety of incidents and the expert handling they receive, give the drama its chief claims to consideration. On the production side, skillful use of his material by director John B. O'Brien and excellent playing by the cast insure a favorable impression for the drama. Charlotte Walker, although somewhat mature for the part, plays Mary Lawson with earnestness and wins sympathy for her at each stage of the plot. J.H. Gilmour, William Davidson, N.S. Woods, Inda Palmer, and Robert Vaughn are the members of the supporting cast. Several waterscapes showing an approaching storm are worthy of note."


REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 24, 1917:

"Mary Lawson's Secret is correctly constructed drama, well directed and finely acted and is by far the best picture that the Thanhouser studios have turned out for some time. In watching the first two reels one may become annoyed by the fear that Mary Lawson's Secret will be just another of these films which are built around the familiar plot of a wrong accusation on circumstantial evidence, but it veers off on a new tack and the small amount of material that could be considered old is treated in such a way that it has the appearance of freshness. Mary Lawson has been accused of a murder that she did not commit. She escapes from prison and some time after marries a millionaire. The happiness of her marriage is about to be destroyed by the uncovering of her past reputation, however innocent, when the whole matter clears up in a rational way. Charlotte Walker in the role of Mary Lawson, plays with suitable restraint. She registers the necessary emotions and exhibits a screen presence that is highly pleasing."


REVIEW, Variety, March 16, 1917: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.


REVIEW, Wid's Film and Film Folk, March 22, 1917:

"This is one of those surface 'mellers' that swings along without ever registering in a convincing manner, and about every so often they had a convenient twist that truly made you groan internally. I believe that it's time to give proper burial to the situation of finding the innocent heroine standing over the dead man with a weapon, which shall be followed by the trial scene showing the judge and jury for many close-ups. In this, they cut to the judge, who was giving a correct imitation of a wooden Indian, at least 10 times. They then pulled an escape while the convicted innocent was being taken to prison, but they didn't show the actual scene where she was rescued from her guards - probably because they thought the censors might cut it out, anyway.

"Then came the wager made by the millionaire hero that he could go to a strange town with only a dollar in his pocket, get a job and hold it for a month. Some guy was supposed to bet him $10,000 that he couldn't. I'd like to find a few of those ginks willing to bet on such a proposition. This same thought was pulled in a Metro comedy this week. Truly, 'great(?) minds do run in the same channel.' Of course, the hero met the escaped innocent, and they were married and happy until our expected friend, the blackmailer, showed up. He was taken care of, however, and then they pulled a bird!

"Two guys who were said to be 'newspapermen' nonchalantly walked into the millionaire's private grounds and stood 10 feet away with a camera, tripod, etc., snapping a picture of the millionaire and his wife without the couple ever noticing that they were there. To begin with, newspapermen don't work like that, a tripod isn't necessary, and believe me - they couldn't get a picture under such circumstances without being seen. Anyone will know that, but the photograph was needed so that it could be printed in the papers and bring the officers of the law to arrest the escaped innocent convict, millionaire's bride.

"Well, when the officers came, the millionaire and his bride did a getaway across a lake in a motorboat, encountering a storm. They were wrecked, and each thought the other dead, with a number of scenes centered around a coffin (which most members of an audience will not care for) only to find out at the end that the blackmailer was in the coffin, and not either wife or husband - and the obliging blackmailer had confessed that he, and not the wife, was guilty of the murder.

"It's easy to see that this is not what would be called a convincing plot, and certainly it was done with entirely too much stress on the surface melodrama to make it register. The entire cast were so conscious of the camera that the scenes never really impress. Charlotte Walker seemed unable to get away from the fact that she was acting, and, to my mind, she is far from being a girlish ingenue type, so it can't be said that she helped the offering by her presence. Others in the cast were N.S. Woods, Inda Palmer, and Robert Vaughn.

"The Box Office Angle: It would seem to me that you should be able to find something which should register better than this. Miss Walker's work on the screen to date has not been sufficiently satisfactory to make her a real box office value, and the convenience of the story and the fact that it is purely surface melo puts this in the class of films to be accepted if necessary but dodged if possible. Certainly I would not show it more than one night, and I wouldn't show it at all if a more human offering can be secured. I can't see any advertising angle that would make it possible for you to honestly boost this. The story would sound pitifully pre-historic if you told them the plot."

# # #


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