Volume 2: Filmography

 

THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD

  .

 

(Pathé Exchange)

February 25, 1917 (Sunday)

Length: 8 reels (?; see Note 2)

Character: Drama; Pathé Special

Director: Ernest C. Warde

Scenario: Emmett Mixx from Oliver Goldsmith's 1766 novel of the same name

Cameraman: William M. Zollinger

Cast: Frederick Warde (the Vicar of Wakefield), Boyd Marshall (George Primrose), Kathryn Adams (Olivia Primrose), Gladys Leslie (Sophia Primrose, the younger daughter of the Vicar), Thomas A. Curran (Geoffrey, the knight; Mr. Burchell), Robert Vaughn (Squire Thornhill; Squire Wilmot), Carey L. Hastings (Mrs. Primrose, the vicar's wife), William Parke, Jr. (Moses Primrose), Tula Belle (Dick Primrose), Barbara Howard (Bill Primrose), Grace DeCarlton (Arabella Wilmot), Arthur Bauer (Mr. Wilmot), Morgan Jones (Jenkinson), Joseph H. Phillips, Nellie Parker Spaulding, Oscar W. Forster

Location: Some scenes were filmed in Vermont

Notes: 1. This film was originally scheduled for release in December 1916. Later, it was scheduled for March 1917 release, day date unspecified, on the Gold Rooster Plays program. Still later, it was transferred to the Pathé Special Department, also called the Super Feature Department, and was offered separately from the regular program. The initial public showing to a paying audience is believed to have been at S.L. ("Roxy") Rothapfel's Rialto Theatre in New York City, for a week, commencing February 25, 1917 (cf. advertisement in The Moving Picture World, March 3, 1917). This Rialto showing was extensively featured in Thanhouser publicity. Earlier, on February 8, 1917, the film was previewed in New Rochelle to a group of New York clergymen. 2. The number of reels of this picture was stated differently in different notices and advertisements. Originally this film was announced as a Pathé Gold Rooster Play, of five-reel length. Then it was removed from the Gold Rooster Play sequence (c.f., The Moving Picture World, January 27, 1917) and changed to a "Pathé Special" of eight-reel length. A report of The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, featured in an advertisement in The Moving Picture World, March 10, 1917, gave the length as six reels. In an article in the same issue of The Moving Picture World, March 10, 1917, Edwin Thanhouser was quoted as giving the length as eight reels (the most ambitious Thanhouser film to date). In an article in The Moving Picture World, April 7, 1917, Edwin Thanhouser gave the length as seven reels. 3. Another version of The Vicar of Wakefield, a one-reel production, was released by Thanhouser on December 27, 1910.

 

ADVERTISEMENT, The Moving Picture World, April 14, 1917. The advertisement quotes a review in The New York Morning World:

"The leading picture of the week at the Rialto is the screen version of Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, and a very good moving picture it made, too. It is almost as human and delightful on the screen as it is between the covers of the book, and Frederick Warde, who acted as the kindly old Vicar, interpreted the character with as close an approach to perfection as cinema interpretations can hope to achieve."

 

ARTICLE, The New Rochelle Pioneer, September 30, 1916:

"Frederick Warde, the Shakespearean actor, has returned to New Rochelle, and with Mrs. Warde will reside at the Pepperday Inn for the winter. Mr. Warde has recently concluded a long engagement on the Chautauqua circuits, having delivered 72 Shakespeare lectures in 72 towns in as many consecutive days. He will shortly resume the character of Dr. Primrose in the film version of Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, which was interrupted in the early summer by his previously made contracts for the Chautauqua lectures."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, October 28, 1916:

"Frederick Warde, the eminent Thanhouser star, has completed his lecture tour, and has begun playing in The Vicar of Wakefield, a five-reel feature directed by his son, Ernest C. Warde. The Vicar is expected to be as fine a picture as Mr. Warde's King Lear, which will be released through the Pathé Exchanges in December."

 

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

"Mr. Frederick Warde in The Vicar of Wakefield has a lovely vicarage, a $10,000 home specially built by the Thanhouser Film Corporation near a newly developed Long Island village. There was great indignation among the neighbors when the pretty home was burned to the ground, as is required by Goldsmith's famous story. 'We can hardly scrape up enough money to pay our interest and taxes,' said one of the villagers to Ernest Warde, son of the great actor, who directed the production. 'And here you come along and destroy a fine home just for amusement purposes.'"

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, December 9, 1916:

"Frederick Warde is now engaged under the direction of Ernest Warde, his son, in producing a film version of The Vicar of Wakefield, that Mr. Thanhouser promises will outdo in every particular Mr. Warde's extremely successful Silas Marner. Mr. Warde will take many months in the making, and Goldsmith's lively story will be told faithfully in all its humor and in all its sympathy. The incident of the green spectacles, remembered by every reader of The Vicar, as well as the tragedy of the burning of the Vicar's home, will be related in the photoplay."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, December 30, 1916:

"And then comes a classic that is the pride of Mr. Thanhouser's heart, The Vicar of Wakefield, starring Frederick Warde under the direction of his son, Ernest Warde. 'For a story of its kind, I think this picture will thrill America,' asserted Mr. Thanhouser. 'It is a smoothly flowing condensation of Goldsmith's famous story. Nothing better has ever been done with a classic story in this studio, or elsewhere, if I may boast a bit.' One of the most elaborate of many costly features of The Vicar of Wakefield is a prison scene that is quite out of the ordinary. It is the debtors' prison, a great, spacious, rock-walled hall that takes up the entire stage in New Rochelle."

 

ARTICLE, The Morning Telegraph, February 4, 1917:

"There was an unusual occurrence in a motion picture studio recently when Frederick Warde, Thanhouser star, drew up an expression of gratitude to all the men, women and children in the cast of The Vicar of Wakefield, and all associated in the making of the picture, either in the studio or laboratory. His thanks were expressed in a general letter which was posted on the bulletin board at the Thanhouser studios. 'We have just finished several months of painstaking, artistic effort in the making of The Vicar of Wakefield,' reads Mr. Warde's letter, 'and now that I look back over the pleasant but difficult task I am filled with gratitude toward each and every man, woman and child in the Thanhouser studios associated with me in the making of this eight-act adaptation of Goldsmith's famous story. It was delightful to work day after day with scores of capable people, each as devoted as you to the success of the enterprise. Motion pictures are the result of a combination of arts. In The Vicar of Wakefield each representative of each art did his part with careful regard to the whole effect, and the result is a marvelously well-balanced production. Greatest credit should go to Mr. Edwin Thanhouser for his broad vision in seeing the beautiful possibilities in The Vicar of Wakefield, and for his producing enterprise, and to my son, Mr. Ernest Warde, who directed the picture; to Mr. William M. Zollinger, the cameraman, and to Mr. B. D. Carber, stage manager.'"

 

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

"The Photoplay League, recently formed as a national organization for the encouragement of the higher forms of motion picture art, began actively on the evening of February 14 its work of recommending pictures which, in the opinion of the league, should receive the support of its members and the public. The first photoplay which will reach the screen, bearing the hallmark of the league, is The Vicar of Wakefield, produced by Pathé-Thanhouser. Edwin H. Blashfield, the president of the league, announced early on St. Valentine's Day The Vicar of Wakefield recommendation, and in the evening Mrs. Marcus M. Marks, a member of the advisory committee, gave a reception at her home, 94th Street and Fifth Avenue, where the picture was shown.... [Among the invited guests were Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Warde.]

"Frederick Warde, who has a chief part in the picture, told the other guests interesting stories of the 'locations' and other unusual features of the play, which, when it goes forth to the public, will bear the legend: 'This Picture Is Recommended by the Photoplay League'...."

(The League was headed by Edwin H. Blashfield, a well-known artist. The director was Frank Lascelles.) It was stated: "Mr. Blashfield has almost completed a wonderful symbolic drawing for the league to be used in announcing its recommendations for the screen. This will be ready when The Vicar of Wakefield is released. The photoplay is the result of months of artistic effort in the studios of New Rochelle," the article continued, "and is offered as the greatest character study ever presented on the screen. As Goldsmith's story was autobiographical, his action unfolded with unbroken smoothness, and this is capitalized in the picturization. The delegation of the New York clergy of all denominations visited the Thanhouser studios at New Rochelle on February 8, by the special invitation of Edwin Thanhouser, president of the corporation, to view the recently completed picture of The Vicar of Wakefield, featuring Frederick Warde, acting president of The Actors' Church Alliance, as the Vicar.

"At the conclusion of the exhibition, Mr. Thanhouser, Ernest Warde, the director; Mr. Zollinger, the cameraman, and others of the Thanhouser staff were presented to the clergymen, who all expressed their unqualified admiration at the beauty of the film, the splendid photography, and its accurate visual presentation of Goldsmith's famous story. The delegation met subsequently at the Pepperday Inn and formally passed a unanimous resolution expressing their appreciation of witnessing the first presentation of the picture, their hearty endorsement of the work, and their appreciation of its perfection and beauty."

 

REVIEW, The Exhibitors Trade Review, February 24, 1917:

"...The story is that of old England, and from beginning to end the well-defined atmosphere, costumes, and the settings have all been offered with a perfection of detail that causes it to stand out strongly in contrast with other points of the story. The old Vicar, as presented by Frederick Warde, is an old character of medieval days, sadly burdened with trials that seem almost beyond human endurance. In this respect, due to an able characterization, there is a natural tendency to grip the heart strings of the audience from the very beginning. But as these trials advance and hardships occur one after the other, the effect upon the patron is the desire to hurry it through so as to see if the old minister gained a little sunshine before the picture finishes.

"The story lacks quick action, but this does not materially affect the interest. This is ably sustained due to the fact that the villainous deeds are all of a subtle nature, which affects the audience in such a way as to increase the interest and sympathy surrounding the character of the old vicar, thus maintaining the suspense until the very end. The part of Dr. Primrose, portrayed by Frederick Warde, is a characterization which Mr. Warde offers with an ease and grace that adds greatly to the sympathetic nature of the part. And as the entire story revolves upon this character, it means much to the success of the production. It would be a difficult matter to find another who could play the part with as much feeling and true artistic endeavors as Mr. Warde. Boyd Marshall, Thomas Curran, Robert Vaughn, and Gladys Leslie all present their respective parts ably, while a word of praise for Kathryn Adams as the elder of the Primrose children should not be amiss.

"The picture is indeed a worthy production that would be well suited for the family theatres or those who are looking for 'something cleaner and better' in the moving picture art."

 

REVIEW by Frances Agnew, The Morning Telegraph, March 4, 1917:

"In this production of the well known Goldsmith classic the Thanhouser Company has given exhibitors a film which will entertain and to an extent educate by impressing it upon the minds of present day students of the novel and reviving it in the memory of others. Using several of his strongest situations, the adapter has constructed a complete, well connected scenario. It is not a plot which offers a great deal of action, but it has plenty of heart interest to hold it and the unfortunate experiences of the dear, old vicar and his large and interesting family lend themselves to a very attractive film. Unlike the average costume play, this story of the old English clergyman rings true and sincere. Its characters are shown in the quaint attire of that time - the eighteenth century - against picturesque settings of the same period, many of them reproduced from historical paintings.

"Frederick Warde as the vicar gives a character study which could hardly be improved in its sympathetic and effective simplicity, while the members of the supporting cast not only fill the demand for types but at all times act well and work in harmony for the production of good scenes. Kathryn Adams and Gladys Leslie, as the daughters, are pretty enough to justify the attentions showered on them, even though they employ all their coquettish mannerisms to attract. Director Warde, the star's son, should not only receive credit for a production good as to technical details, barring a few unnecessary close-ups which interrupt the action, but also for many deft comedy touches relieving the natural somberness of the play. It is a film which will fit well on the program and not only please regular patrons, but attract many who are not ardent devotees of the picture theatre. This was demonstrated at its showing in the Rialto last week, many spectators showing their unfamiliarity with films and the effects produced by modern photography and up-to-date companies by their extravagant praise of realistic scenes, cleverly produced in this production but far from original to the fans who have seen the same effects in hundreds of previous features. Such comments of new worshippers at the shrine of filmland are genuine recommendations for this feature and its drawing power."

 

REVIEW by Rev. W.H. Jackson, The Moving Picture World, March 24, 1917:

"This beautiful picture, for such it must be called, serves to fittingly emphasize the noble work of Oliver Goldsmith, whose classic novel is the story which has now enriched the screen. One of the most worthy writers, Goldsmith, could never have dreamed that whatever ambitions he may have had for his book, for which he received sixty dollars to keep him out of the debtors' prison, that a most valuable picture scenario would after 150 years give to the world one of the most charmingly entertaining and instructive pictures yet placed upon the living screen. Truly, such men as Goldsmith, even with the scantest opportunities of those days, have given us words and works which today cannot be surpassed. Doubtless the deliberate method of living and working gave time for more thoroughness of detail with a deeper insight into the human nature of the times. There is a joy in studying the calm manner of living in the days of a century and a half ago, without the rush and speed of this fast and mechanical age. The pastoral and subdued manner of life, with surroundings serene and restful, the very poetry of life is seen in such charming naturalness that one almost wishes that, for a vacation at least, he might be amid such quaint customs. Surely the appeal in a picture is one of its first successes, and, without doubt, in The Vicar of Wakefield the appeal is very strong - indeed, strong enough to draw a most responsive yearning. Such, indeed, is the quality of the book and the picture.

"That this picture is such a success is, of course, largely due to the splendid portrayal of the characters. As the Vicar of Wakefield, Frederick Warde is perfection itself. Nowhere did it seem possible to imagine any change or improvement. The vicissitudes of life through which the Vicar's family have to pass are borne with characteristic fortitude, in which each member of the cast bears an equal part of both the responsibility and praise. Both knight and squire, as played by Thomas A. Curran and Robert Vaughn, respectively, are worthily portrayed, even as if 'to the manor born,' for as lords of the manor they fully convey the English characteristics required of them. The entire English surroundings are wonderfully appropriate. We are not made acquainted with the locality in which the pictures were taken, but wherever it may have been the results are most satisfactory. Some of the scenes, true to their requirements, were very beautiful, while always very pleasing.

"The photography of this picture is another of its strong features. For uniformity of good work, it is an example of the best kind, and greatly adds to an already attractive subject. Mention also must be made of the 'close up' pictures, of which there are quite a number, as if both actor and photographer were conscious that they were working on a superior subject, with a measure of success. In the schools all students of English ought to see this picture in conjunction with the reading of the book. Goldsmith is known as one of the choicest of English authors; his works are classics, and after 150 years they increase in value. This picture is going to influence, educationally, everyone who sees it. The story cannot be given in a review, the richness of its life portrayals cannot be properly described, it must be seen to be appreciated, and we have no doubt but that the appreciation will be thorough and full."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 10, 1917:

"This screen version of The Vicar of Wakefield has brought to life the quaint old characters which have been for many of us only dim figures in our memory. These characters have endeared themselves to all who love the simple and kindly old classics, and the producers of this photoplay deserve great credit for reproducing them with sympathy and fidelity to text. Its reception on the merits of a photoplay alone will be determined by the type of audience that reviews it. You cannot make a sensational melodrama out of a Goldsmith novel any more logically than you can turn a minuet into a tango, and this stately old tale was never written for the seeker of modern thrills. It gives however, a faithful picture of domestic life in a most picturesque period whose stilted manners and morals have been sympathetically and artistically staged.

"The familiar story deals with the triumphs and disasters of the Vicar, his wife and seven children with the balance on the side of disaster for one woe doth tread upon another's heels until the entire family is restored to deserved bliss by a happy ending. Like Job, the God-fearing Vicar is visited by all manner of affliction, his fortune lost, his friends forsake him, his daughter is betrayed, his humble cottage is burned to the ground and, as a crowning indignity, he is cast into prison for debt, but through it all he never loses his simple optimism and faith in humanity. This role is delightfully done by Frederick Warde, and the remaining characters are excellently given by a well-balanced cast. The piece is sure to have a sympathetic reception from all who have enjoyed Goldsmith's famous old masterpiece. It was the feature at the Rialto Theater, New York, last week. - A.G.S."

 

REVIEW, Variety, March 2, 1917: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.

 

REVIEW, Wid's Film and Film Folk, March 8, 1917: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.

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