Volume 2: Filmography

 

A MODERN MONTE CRISTO

British release title: EYE FOR AN EYE

Working title: BURIED TREASURE

(Pathé Exchange)

February 4, 1917 (Sunday)

Length: 5 reels

Character: Drama; Pathé Gold Rooster Play

Director: W. Eugene Moore

Scenario: Lloyd F. Lonergan; a modern adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, père

Cameraman: George Webber

Cast: Vincent Serrano (Dr. Emerson), Helen Badgley (Virginia Deane at age 6), Thomas A. Curran (William Deane), Gladys Dore (Virginia Deane at age 18), Boyd Marshall (Tom Pemberton), H.M. Rhinehardt (aviator)

Location: Sea scenes were filmed at Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island

Notes: 1. H.M. Rhinehardt, in his Wright biplane, took Miss Helen Badgley aloft to an altitude of 500 feet, in a 10-minute flight made from the airfield at Mineola, New York, in a scene for the film in which Helen was to be rescued from a desert island by an aviator. 2. A word in the title of this film was often misspelled in publicity as "Christo." 3. The surname Pemberton was also used in another 1917 Thanhouser film, Fires of Youth, which had as its working title Iron-Hearted Pemberton.

 

BACKGROUND OF THE SCENARIO: This Thanhouser film was derived from a famous drama by French author Alexandre Dumas, père (1792-1870). Dumas was well known for his action-filled and colorful historical dramas, including Henry III et sa Cour (1829) and La Tour de Nesel (1832). Perhaps the most famous of his works, from the standpoint of later generations, were The Three Musketeers (1844-1845) and The Count of Monte Cristo written during the same period. Well known in its era was Le Victome de Bragelonne (1848-1850). In addition to his historical novels, Dumas was a prolific writer of children's stories, travel books (of which he produced some 22 volumes) and even a dictionary of cooking. The Count of Monte Cristo is based upon events surrounding the vengeance wrought by Edmond Dantes, who was falsely named as a Bonapartist conspirator in 1815 and imprisoned for same.

 

ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), September 13, 1916:

"On the way home from Block Island on the steamer Shinnecock Monday night Helen Badgley, the Thanhouser Kidlet, gave a little impromptu entertainment for the benefit of The Evening Standard's collection for the Infantile Paralysis Relief Fund and raised $6.56 in a few minutes. The money was turned over to The Evening Standard by Frank Grimmer, director of casting of the Thanhouser studios. Helen had been to Block Island with Eugene Mohr [sic; Moore was intended], Vincent Serrano, the well-known movie star and company making part of a Thanhouser production, A Modern Monte Cristo. They were on their way home Monday night when they met J. C. Scanlon of the Wykagyl Country Club [of New Rochelle]. Mr. Scanlon suggested that Helen dance and sing for the kiddies in the city hospital and Helen clapped her hands and went into it with enthusiasm. She was the pet of the boat."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, October 14, 1916:

"Helen Badgley, Thanhouser child actress, who has been at Block Island, appearing in scenes with Vincent Serrano in A Modern Monte Cristo, is helping to raise money for the infantile paralysis sufferers in New Rochelle. Her latest contribution to the fund is $6.80, which she collected after giving a singing and dancing entertainment all by herself on the boat returning from Block Island."

 

 

ARTICLE, (unattributed clipping in the Robinson Locke Collection), c. December 1916:

"'You won't be able to get 'Vincy' to do any rough stuff,' said Charlotte Walker, Thanhouser star, to Mr. Edwin Thanhouser when some of the many mussy experiences that Vincent Serrano as A Modern Monte Cristo has to undergo were being described to her some time ago. Lloyd Lonergan, responsible for the story, was sure that the dirty work could not be cut out despite all of the 'persnickitiness of all the Broadway stars in Christendom.' That's the way it is with these authors. At any rate, it was with a triumphant flourish that Mr. Thanhouser invited Miss Walker into the projection room of the Thanhouser Film Corporation recently to see parts of A Modern Monte Cristo run off. Miss Walker saw Mr. Serrano dive from a ship in a storm, grovel in a muck of seaweeds for pearl oyster, don the uncouth non-attire of a survivor of a wreck washed up on a beach by friendly waves, live the primitive life of the marooned on a deserted island and finally go down and come up in a diving suit, the most effective sort of costume to discount good looks. 'And this from the prince of Broadway,' ejaculated Miss Walker. 'It is too much. Give me air.'"

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, January 27, 1917:

"Vincent Serrano, who will be seen February 4 in the Thanhouser-Pathé Gold Rooster Play, A Modern Monte Cristo, gives to that drama the element of finish shown in his famous characterization of Lieut. Denton in Arizona. Mr. Serrano was accused of the murder done by Tony in Augustus Thomas' great play more than 1,000 times, close to an acting record for appearance in one part. A Modern Monte Cristo was written by Lloyd Lonergan and directed by W. Eugene Moore. Mr. Serrano is supported by Thomas A. Curran, Boyd Marshall, Gladys Dore, and Helen Badgley. The story was filmed at Jacksonville, Florida and Block Island, New York [sic; should be Rhode Island], with some locations near New Rochelle."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, February 3, 1917:

"Thanhouser Film Corporation announces the release of A Modern Monte Cristo, through Pathé Exchanges on February 4. Vincent Serrano is the star. A Modern Monte Cristo is to be a 'best seller' according to the forecast of Edwin Thanhouser. The story was written by Lloyd Lonergan, the direction was by W. Eugene Moore. As a story with rapidly tumbling incidents, A Modern Monte Cristo is a fast-told drama. Lively situations of wide diversity include a shipwreck; the marooning on a island of the man seeking vengeance and the little daughter of his enemy; an aeroplane rescue, and pearl-fishing in diving outfits."

 

SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, February 3, 1917:

"At Doctor Emerson's farewell bachelor dinner, the conversation veered to the struggles in the medical world to achieve success legitimately. 'Tomorrow,' said Emerson, 'I operate on a rich old man; one of his relatives offered me $20,000 if he dies.' After the others had departed, the rejected suitor lingered, and kept Emerson up late, plying him with wine. The next day, he was unfit for the operation, and the patient died. The police arrested Emerson on the evidence contained in an anonymous letter and the statement of the rejected suitor that Emerson had confessed to the crime. On the way to prison Emerson escaped by jumping into the river, and after a futile search was reported as drowned.

"Years passed and the rival, who had married Emerson's former fiancée, became a successful shipowner. On visiting one of his ships his little daughter makes friends with a morose sailor, and a few days later she disappears. After several years an aviator brings the child back to her father, with a note tucked in her dress, 'She has been saved by your bitterest enemy. Beware! Someday he will strike through her.' She tells of the trip on one of his own leaky boats, the wreck, and her rescue by the sailor 'Doctor Man,' and her father realizes with terror who his enemy is. Years of dread follow, and just as the report of the other's death reaches him, his foe appears, immensely wealthy, and wreaks the vengeance in a spectacular manner."

 

REVIEW, The Exhibitor's Trade Review, February 3, 1917:

"A novel beginning, but lacking the suspense to carry the story through to the final reel, are the two most characteristic effects produced by this feature. The outcome of the story is evident after the passing of the first reel. The romantic element has been placed too much in the background, which lessens the appeal of the plot to a vast degree. The photography, scenes and settings are all realistic and exceptionally well staged. The story is advertised as a modernization of the old novel of The Count of Monte Cristo, and in this respect it is evident that the modern day version lacks many of the thrills and suspense found in the picturization of the old novel some years ago. The interest of this modern version is spasmodic. As Doctor Emerson, Vincent Serrano makes the most of his difficult role. Boyd Marshall as Tom Pemberton has little to do, while Gladys Dore proved expressionless. Helen Badgley added quite a little to the cast. The feature avoids entirely any attempt at the sensational, making it a fair attraction for community houses, and, although it cannot be compared to the dramatic adaptation from which it takes its name, still it contains enough entertainment for the average audience."

 

REVIEW by Dickson G. Watts, The Morning Telegraph, January 21, 1917: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.

 

REVIEW by Laurence Reid, Motion Picture Mail, February 3, 1917:

"If The Count of Monte Cristo was adapted to the screen and used in its entirety, no doubt it would exact months in its consummation and somewhat tax the financial resources of the producers. But in their modernization of Dumas's idea, those connected with its production have used just the underlying theme of the novel, namely, revenge, and provided a vivid, colorful tale and one almost as elaborate in presentation as the transference of the original story might be to the screen. It is a moving story and that after all is the final test of any picture. It is all very well to talk about the intellectual and psychological photoplay, but, if it lacks action it is apt to prove boresome. Physical action and plenty of it must be the dominant aim of all film directors, and W. Eugene Moore in A Modern Monte Cristo has utilized this policy most successfully. He has supplied his background with appropriate settings. A fine atmosphere of the sea is conveyed in the utilization of old sailing hulks as the base of his hero's operations. The lighting and photography is praiseworthy, particularly the scenes in which the storms figured.

"The story concerns the life of Dr. Emerson, who was transformed from a man of kindly virtue into a revengeful character by the treachery of his supposed friend, Deane. His business ruined, his love stolen and a fugitive from justice on a false murder charge, he indeed presents a tragic figure. However, the opportunity to strike the instrument of his misfortunes doesn't occur until Deane's little girl chances to board the ship on which he is a sailor. Ultimately they reach a desert island, when the vessel founders in a storm, and there it is that an aeroplane discovers them. Emerson sends the little girl back in the machine with the dreaded warning of revenge pinned upon her. He will strike through the child at the proper time. After ten years, the doctor-sailor thinks the moment ripe to gain his 'eye for an eye.' Being immensely rich, he enters the arena disguised as a prosperous South American. It is needless to state that he executed his belated punishment and forfeited his own life, but happily spared the girl, who had unconsciously brought out his better nature in a trying moment. The dramatic opportunities were fully grasped by the players, of whom Vincent Serrano was the most conspicuous in the role of Emerson. He displayed an athletic firmness hitherto unrevealed in former pictures. He successfully overcame every obstacle."

 

REVIEW by Edward Weitzel, The Moving Picture World, February 3, 1917:

"In selecting a plot of Dumas' to modernize, Lloyd Lonergan, the author of A Modern Monte Cristo, made sure that the model was of the best. The five-reel Thanhouser-Pathé Gold Rooster Play in which Vincent Serrano is the central figure is by no means the peer of its celebrated prototype; but, nevertheless, it has distinct merits of its own. The spirit of revenge which animates the actions of Edmund Dantes is also the cause of this later day Monte Cristo during the progress of the Lonergan play. Made an outcast and deprived of the woman he loves by his rival, a young doctor of exceptional promise devotes his life to squaring accounts with the man who worked his downfall. Chance plays the young daughter of his rival into Doctor Emerson's hands after she has been injured, and he saves her life. When the child reaches womanhood, Emerson, now a man of great wealth, is bent upon causing her father's financial ruin and taking a terrible revenge upon the girl. Her trust in him defeats his purpose and brings his better nature to the fore. The variety of incidents and scenes that is such a potent factor in the scenes of the French romance is utilized in A Modern Monte Cristo. The ship used in the picture is not very impressive, but the struggle in the water of Emerson and the child after the shipwreck contains a real thrill. Vincent Serrano gives a good account of himself in the character of Doctor Emerson and plays with the requisite melodramatic touch. Helen Badgley is a courageous youngster and exhibits an uncommon spirit of daring; she is also a clever little actress. Thomas Curran, Gladys Dore, and Boyd Marshall help to sustain the picture at an excellent acting level. W. Eugene Moore directed the production."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, January 27, 1917:

"As the title suggests, the producers of this picture have reached into Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo for the basis of the plot, but only the basis. A Modern Monte Cristo tells of a man, living in the present day, who returns incognito and wealthy, having been a sailor for years, living on a desert island surrounded by water filled with pearl-oysters. He revenges himself on his enemy, who had unjustly accused him of a crime he did not commit. The story is interesting; suspense and thrills are plentiful. Vincent Serrano dominates the picture in the role of Dr. Emerson. For the most part he ably portrays the character, but at times he is too theatrical. Tiny Helen Badgley, as Virginia Deane at the age of six, does some excellent work. The rest of the cast, which includes Thomas Curran, Gladys Dore and Boyd Marshall, play their parts adequately. The manner in which each individual scene is staged is pleasing, but they are not put together with just the right amount of care. At times there is an impression of something having been left out. The photography is good and the interior settings and exterior scenes will do. The incident of the rescue of the little girl by the men in an aeroplane is very well done and interesting. This picture will suit the patrons of a theatre catering to average patronage. Vincent Serrano's name on the billing will undoubtedly prove effective. - F.T."

 

REVIEW, Variety, January 19, 1917:

"The title tells the story of this Pathé Gold Rooster in five reels, directed by Eugene Moore. Vincent Serrano makes a first rate principal, making his points without grimace or strut, while the story is a melodrama packed with action. Indeed there are moments when the action is strained for effect, as though the Pathé contributors had gotten into the habit of rough-shod play carpentering by reason of staging blood and thunder serials. However, the feature will hold thrills for the less discriminating fans, for it surely puts over a smashing finale. ´

"The plot: Dr. Emerson is ruined by a friend, William Deane, who is his rival for the love of a maid. Emerson disappears for years, a la Monte Cristo, and returns fabulously rich, intent on revenge. He gets Deane aboard one of his own ships (Deane is an unscrupulous ship-owner), which is expected to sink, and holds him in a cabin while the hulk gradually settles into the water. The film leaves the fate of the two men to the imagination of the audience. The film has some pretty photography and the direction and staging is excellent."

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