Volume 2: Filmography

 

KING RENÉ'S DAUGHTER

 

 

Working title: IOLANTHE

July 1, 1913 (Tuesday)

Length: 3 reels

Character: Drama

Director: W. Eugene Moore, Jr.

Scenario: From Henrik Heri's Danish poetic drama

Cast: Maude Fealy (Iolanthe, the blind girl), Harry Benham (Tristan, Count de Vaudemont), Mignon Anderson, David H. Thompson (Ebu Jahia, the Moorish physician), William Russell (Pierre, captain of the guards), Leland Benham, Mrs. Lawrence Marston (the nurse), Robert Broderick (King René)

Notes: 1. The working title of the film was Iolanthe, after the main role in the story. Iolanthe was the name of the one-act play from which the film was taken. Early news releases were sent out under this title and were used in various trade articles, examples being notices in The Billboard, June 21, 1913, and Motography, June 14, 1913. 2. The film began with the names of the cast members and the roles played, with a short scene featuring each cast member in street clothes and, simultaneously by double-exposure photography, the same member dressed in his or her role. 3. In nearly all advertising and press notices the king's name appeared as Rene, without the accent. However, on the title frame of the film itself it appears as René. 4. An adaptation of the story, by Bert Brown, set in verse, appeared in the August 1913 issue of The Photoplay Magazine.

 

SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, July 5, 1913:

"To bring to an end the enmity which has persisted between King René, who ruled in Provence in the 15th century, and Count de Vaudemont, the latter gentleman agreed with the former through their mediator, the Duke of Burgundy, to betroth his newborn daughter, Iolanthe, to Tristan, the nine-year-old son of the count. Not long after this agreement was made the palace was partly destroyed by fire, and in being rescued by a soldier the baby girl became blind. The king sent to Cordova for a famous physician named Ebu Jahia, who told the father that his daughter should be kept in ignorance of her affliction until she gained the age of 16, at which time she would regain the use of her eyes. Acting upon this advice the king built in a secluded spot in his dominion a cottage, where the childhood days of Iolanthe were spent in the company of nobody but her nurse, Martha, and the latter's husband, Bertrande, a forester. She was not permitted to receive anybody and even when the king paid her visits he was known as a humble knight named Sir Raymbaut.

"As the years went by King René began to fear that Tristan would not wed a blind girl and that the feud would thereby be rekindled. The count kept his son strictly to the pledge, and when Iolanthe reached her 16th year Tristan was sent to Provence to meet her. He wandered away from his escort, and, with his retainer, Sir Geoffrey of Orange, he accidentally came upon the cottage. Peering in through the half-open door, Tristan saw a beautiful girl sleeping on the couch. Upon lifting the talisman that Ebu Jahia had placed upon her breast to produce sleep, the girl soon awoke. He went into the garden and was soon followed by Iolanthe. When Sir Geoffrey saw the girl he tried to get Tristan away from her, but the young man had fallen in love with her and would not go. During their conversation Tristan learned that Iolanthe was blind and was greatly surprised as she did not know anything about it. He gently broke the news to her and when he left, it was with a promise to call again the next day. All were surprised to learn that a stranger had been there and had revealed the secret to Iolanthe, but it soon developed that it was a fortunate occurrence for the physician declared it necessary. Ebu Jahia then took the blind girl into the cottage and began working over her eyes. While the king waited outside he received a message from Tristan renouncing his daughter because he loved another. But when Tristan arrived he learned the true state of affairs, and the long-buried feud will never be rekindled."

 

REVIEW, The Bioscope, August 28, 1913:

"King René's Daughter, in which so many famous English actors have appeared at one time or another, has always seemed one of the most charming little pieces of the kind one knows of. It has a delicate beauty, whose exact equal it would be difficult to find, and it has usually had the advantage of a very perfect presentation. Whether, since its charm has hitherto arisen largely from the poetry of its dialogue, it is particularly well suited for adaptation by the cinematographer is a matter which one may be inclined to doubt; but it is certain that one cannot approach it in anything but a favourable spirit, so charming are the memories of past performances that one bears with one in one's mind.

"The Thanhouser Company have always striven to do work of a character rather higher than usual, accomplishing it generally with much success, and this, doubtless, is why they selected the present subject for treatment. Let it be said immediately that in King René's Daughter they have produced a play of a novel type, which has much beauty in itself, and which affords opportunity for some exquisite pictures. It is a pity that the costumes were not rather more carefully chosen as regards period, and that the glimpses we have, in one or two instances, of modern slate roofs, bricks and mortar, and 'rustic' chairs were not avoided. With such small exceptions as these, however, the film contains nothing in which one cannot take pleasure.

"In the title role, of which Miss Dorothea Baird used to give so exquisitely lovely an interpretation, appears Miss Maude Fealy, who is the possessor of precisely that 'spirituelle' kind of beauty which the part demands. In consequence, she is always charming to look upon, whilst her acting is notable for its gentle grace. Mr. Robert Broderick gives a robust and dignified performance as the king. The various principal characters are introduced to the audience at the commencement of the film in a manner which, as far as we are aware, is quite unique. By means of double photography, each player is seen in modern dress on one side of the screen, and in costume on the other side. Besides being rather a striking novelty, this system allows one to appreciate to the full the value of 'make up.' Many of the garden scenes introduced are perfectly lovely, and would be worth seeing on their own account. It is a dainty picture, and one which will doubtless meet with popular approval."

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, July 12, 1913:

"A three-reel number, introducing Maude Fealy to the moving picture audiences of the country. She won an international beauty contest a number of years ago, and her grace and girlish beauty, reinforced by years of training on the legitimate stage, make her strong appeal in the films. The entire Thanhouser company enter into the spirit of this story of the beautiful blind princess, who must not be informed of her blindness until she is 16. Then the count discovers her and breaks the spell and she recovers her sight. A whimsical story, full of beauty and charm. The close could have been handled with more strength, but it is a very good production as it stands."

 

REVIEW by Louis Reeves Harrison, The Moving Picture World, July 12, 1913:

"One of the most beautiful photodramas ever exhibited on the screen, one of the kind to bring millions into the little theatres who do not attend them now because of a surfeit of weak sensationalism for unripe minds, yet the Thanhouser release will turn no one away. It provides an interesting story admirably told by capable actors that will hold any audience, however badly mixed. Even the small boys who applaud anything presenting fringed trousers and deadly combat with feathered war bonnets will sit up and take notice, and the quiet ones, those whose solid patronage keep the entire machinery of moving pictures going, will be induced to come again for some other such visual delight.

"Most remarkable are the fascinating and impressive scenic effects, notably the exquisitely-chosen exteriors. That feature alone, providing us as it does a series of lovely pictures that hold attention, is enough to give the production a high rank, but it is so well balanced in other respects that its almost bewildering beauty is not intrusive. Little or nothing mars the illusion that we are watching human nature and human action in an atmosphere of romance, where sentiments and adventures are unfolded to our vision on enchanted ground. Spectators who are mentally more than seven, who are daily and nightly jarred by characterization that is feeble and backgrounds unsuitable if they are not ghastly, will experience the sense of pleasure at watching a performance so artistically complete.

"So composite, however, is any form of drama, so dependent upon many and diverse elements of success, that this one might not have attained more than respectable mediocrity without a winning central figure. It is a story of a princess betrothed when a babe for political reasons and made totally blind by a fire which immediately followed the betrothal ceremonies. Recovery of her sight depends upon her complete isolation, where she will be unaware of her affliction and of the fact that she is the king's daughter. Her environment furnishes some of the most delightful of exterior settings, but she herself is in keeping with them.

"The lead was assigned to a Miss Fealy, a newcomer in pictorial drama, of charming personality, rare intelligence and keen appreciation of what is required of her in the part she plays. She is a perpetual delight to the eyes, moves with grace, and she seems imbued with the sweetness and purity of her role, one of the most fascinating characterizations I have seen in a long time. The prince to whom she is engaged comes upon her unawares by force of circumstances, and the scenes of their first meeting are the most beautiful in the entire production. They are works of art. The romance of these two young people, who are unaware of each other's identity, moves rapidly to a happy denouement by means of external forces with enough tension aroused by prospective changes in the relative positions in the dramatis personae to hold interest right up to the conclusion, although the latter is half-foreseen. Miss Fealy's fine analysis of the innocent character of the girl furnishes an intellectual delight for those who enjoy the more delicate phases of acting. She has flashed out like a star of the first magnitude, and it is to be hoped that she is a fixed one. All the other roles are admirably performed, and the director deserves high commendation for his unqualified success."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, July 9, 1913:

"Certainly there is much to be proud of in the production of this three-reel poetic photodrama from the Danish work of Henrik Heri. For beautiful backgrounds, exquisite costumes, and for general picturesqueness, this film almost surpasses anything previously done by the Thanhouser Company, and in that it introduces Maude Fealy to the picture public it is additionally important. Miss Fealy, we know, is excellent in just such a role as she has here, an ingenue who must appear sweetly delicate and demure, but as she is capable of a role calling for more depth of expression, we look with expectancy to seeing her in something more substantial where she is required to do some real acting. But this vehicle serves its purpose with the respect to the actress, and it does have a quiet charm that is irresistible. Those supporting her are Harry Benham, Mignon Anderson, David Thompson, William Russell, Leland Benham, and Mrs. Lawrence Marston.

"For state reasons, King René betroths his infant daughter to the infant son of another royal family. Shortly after a fire, which occurs in the palace of the king, destroys the sight of the daughter. The court soothsayer, being consulted, declares that the child will be blind until her 16th birthday, after which, if she has never been told that she is blind, she will regain her sight. Following the instructions, the king sends his daughter to grow up in retirement with nature, and her old nurse is the only companion. Her fiancé grows to manhood, and with the knowledge of the girl's blindness grows to hate her name. But the day comes, on the 16th birthday, when the young people meet, unaware of each other's identity, and the poetic romance is carried to a happy finish."

# # #

 

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