Volume 2: Filmography

 

SILAS MARNER

 

March 31, 1911 (Friday)

Length: 1,000 feet

Character: Drama

Scenario: From George Eliot's (nom de plume of Mary Ann Evans) story of the same name.

Cast: Frank H. Crane (Silas Marner), Marie Eline (Effie, the young orphan girl)

Notes: 1. A writer for Motography commented that the presence of the film company's trademark on Silas Marner's cottage wall gave the viewer the impression that Marner had rented his home from Thanhouser! He stated that the practice was outdated and did not have to be applied to modern pictures. It was the practice of certain film companies to insert their trademarks in various scenes, to help prevent unauthorized copying. In another memorable instance of Thanhouser's activities in this regard, the firm's trademark appeared on the tomb of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Numerous other Thanhouser films of the 1910-1911 years displayed the company's emblem as a conspicuous part of the background. 2. On February 19, 1916 Thanhouser released a seven-reel film of the same title. The players were different from those who appeared in the 1911 version.

 

BACKGROUND OF THE SCENARIO: Silas Marner, the tale of the weaver of Raveloe, was one of the best known stories of George Eliot, pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880). Mary Ann was the youngest daughter of Robert Evans, an agent for an English estate. She was strongly influenced by love and duty from religious schooling, and this is evident in her novels. Her first work was a translation of David Strauss' Life of Jesus, published in 1851 by John Chapman, owner of the Westminster Review, a publication to which she later contributed frequently. Her work on this book introduced her to modern biblical scholarship and deprived her of the fundamentalistic religious views she had hitherto held. Thereafter she considered herself a Positivist, though religion continued to be an important theme in her writing.

In 1854 she met G. H. Lewes, a married man, and the two spent the rest of his life as scandalously close friends. Adam Bede, published in 1859, established her as one of the leading novelists of her time. The Mill on the Floss (dramatized for the screen by Thanhouser, and released on December 16, 1915) was her next success, released in 1860. Silas Marner repeated the success in 1861. Queen Victoria and Ivan Tergenev (the first Russian writer to achieve success throughout Europe) recognized her as the greatest living novelist, following the release of Daniel Deronda in installments during the years 1874-1876.

Silas Marner is the tale of a reclusive weaver who works only to add to his cache of gold coins secreted in his rural cottage. His precious gold is stolen, and he has nothing to live for, when a young waif is abandoned near his cottage and enters his life. Caring for her, he raises her to adulthood, only to learn that she is the daughter of an evil neighbor by an old marriage, and the neighbor demands her return. The girl refuses to go, and she and Silas live happily ever after.

 

ADVERTISEMENT, The Moving Picture World, March 25, 1911:

"A reel for which you must say 'Thanhouser' to the exchange man quick. There is no hamlet so small but that the wonderful tale of Silas Marner is read and revered there, and all exhibitors who have shown 'Thanhouser Classics' to big business are taking extra pains to grab this one...."

 

ARTICLE, The Morning Telegraph, March 24, 1911:

"The Thanhouser Company have gone to considerable pains to make their production of Silas Marner, released March 31, a splendid classic. With a subject so broadly known and of each poetic character, one may justly predict success."

 

SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, April 1, 1911:

"Silas Marner is driven from his native village because of a false charge against him. He goes away to England and starts a new life. Being a skillful weaver, he makes money rapidly, and being friendless, by his own choice, naturally becomes a miser. He places his earnings near the fireplace, so that it is always near him. Dunstan, the worthless son of the squire, spies him one night. While Silas is out of the house for a few minutes, Dunstan slips in and takes the gold. Making his escape in the dark, Dunstan slips and tumbles into a nearby stone pit. The loss almost unhinges the reason of Silas. He falls asleep before his fire one night, and dreams that his gold has returned. Opening his eyes, he rushes forward to reclaim it. He is doomed to disappointment. The 'gold' is the hair of a tiny girl. Her starving mother managed to reach the doorstep of Silas, and there fell dead. Her plight touches the heart of the old weaver. In later years he had occasion to bless his choice. For the little girl, she grew to womanhood, became a loving and affectionate daughter.

"In the course of time the old stone pit was drained out, and the workmen solved the mystery of the robbery. Dunstan's skeleton was found with the bags of money nearby. The adopted daughter brings the money to Silas. For a moment he clutches the coins eagerly. Then he casts them aside and turns to the girl. He realizes that he is no longer Silas Marner, the miser, but a man who has reason to be happy and grateful. Once he thought that money meant everything in the world, but now he understands that the shining heap of gold is not worth one strand of his daughter's sunny head. The money is hers, for she is his, and he knows now that love is a treasure no miser can buy."

 

REVIEW, The Billboard, April 1, 1911:

"Silas Marner is an old miser, who in his lifetime has accumulated a large sum of money, which he changes into gold and keeps hidden in a hole in the fireplace. Dunstan, the worthless son of the squire, calls upon him and tries to borrow money from him, but is refused. He decides to have it anyway and spies upon the old man one night and finds out where the money is kept, when Silas is out for a few minutes, slips in and steals the poor old weaver's treasure. But in making his escape in the dark Dunstan slips and tumbles over an embankment into a stone pit, never has a chance to enjoy his ill-gotten gold. When the old man returns he discovers he has been robbed, and sobs himself to sleep at the fireplace. When he wakes he finds a little girl at the hearth warming her hands. Her starving mother manages to reach the doorstep of Silas and there fell dead. Silas finds her too late to aid her, and realizes that the child, like himself, is alone in the world. He decides to care for her, and determines to spend the rest of his life trying to make hers happy. And in later years he had occasion to bless his choice, for the little girl as she grew to womanhood became a loving affectionate daughter. The Thanhouser 'Kid' is seen to great advantage in this picture, and it is always a pleasure to watch this little kid act. The thought and idea in this picture are good and well worked out, and the picture is far above average."

Ed. note: The comment concerning The Thanhouser Kid is the first mention of a specific Thanhouser player to appear in a review in The Billboard.

 

REVIEW, The Morning Telegraph, April 2, 1911:

"What is told of George Eliot's renowned story, Silas Marner, in this photoplay is creditably told, and therefore deserving of the commendation of those fortunate enough to view it. The character of Silas is capably played, the actor showing praiseworthy discernment in the two distinct types of man presented in the one personality. His change from the miser to the kindly, open-hearted guardian was sufficiently marked to be noticeable without overstepping natural bounds. Much attention to detail in stage direction was noted. For instance, when Silas returns home to find the little girl asleep beside the fireplace; as in the original story, it is clearly shown that it is the golden hair of the child which first attracts his attention, his mind constantly remaining upon the one theme. Again, the finding of the skeleton of the Squire's son in the deserted stone pit is an excellent bit of stage realism untold, but the tale is a lengthy one and could not be related with any clarity if given in toto on one reel. The production reflects credit upon the Thanhouser Company."

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, April 15, 1911:

"George Eliot's story is on the screen. The theme is the disillusion of Marner who believes that gold is everything, but comes later through the loss of his hoard and the inner position of love of a girl whom he brings up as his daughter to understand that love and not gold is the principal thing in life. The picture follows the main incidents of the story closely and the characterizations are well performed. It is an acceptable addition to the notable films of this type which this company has released."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, April 5, 1911:

"The novel is somewhat simplified and changed to meet the requirements of the picture, and the result is an exceedingly appealing and worthy interpretation of this character, which is delightfully well played. The young squire who has attempted to borrow money of the old miser sees him hide his gains, and while Silas is off in the woods getting a log for the fire, the youth enters and steals the money. The scene where the gold is discovered to be is especially well done. Years after this, the remains of the squire and the money are found by some workman in digging a drain, but through his love for a little girl that had been left him by a dying beggar woman, his character had been transformed, and he gave the money to her for her dowry. The details are well brought out."

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