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The Vicar of Wakefield (1917) HD online

The Vicar of Wakefield (1917) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Romance / Drama
Original Title: The Vicar of Wakefield
Director: Ernest C. Warde
Writers: Oliver Goldsmith,Emmett Mixx
Released: 1917
Duration: 1h 30min
Video type: Movie
Dr. Primrose, the vicar of Wakefield, enjoys life with his wife and five children. His two daughters, Olivia and Sophia, are courted by two apparent gentlemen, Mr. Burchell and Squire Thornhill, who is Dr. Primrose's landlord. But when Mr. Burchell is supposed to have seduced and abandoned Olivia, the Primrose family finds its fortunes dwindling in every sense. It is learned that Burchell is innocent of the seduction, and the real villain is unmasked, but not before Primrose and his family come very near disaster.
Credited cast:
Frederick Warde Frederick Warde - Vicar of Wakefield
Boyd Marshall Boyd Marshall - George Primrose
Kathryn Adams Kathryn Adams - Olivia Primrose
Gladys Leslie Gladys Leslie - Sophia Primrose
Thomas A. Curran Thomas A. Curran - Knight Geoffrey / Mr.Burchell
Robert Vaughn Robert Vaughn - Squire Thornhill / Squire Wilmot
Carey L. Hastings Carey L. Hastings - Mrs. Primrose
William Parke Jr. William Parke Jr. - Moses Primrose
Tula Belle Tula Belle - Dick Primrose
Barbara Howard Barbara Howard - Bill Primrose
Grace DeCarlton Grace DeCarlton - Arabella Wilmot
Arthur Bauer Arthur Bauer - Mr. Wilmot
Morgan Jones Morgan Jones - Jenkinson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Oscar W. Forster Oscar W. Forster
Joseph Phillips Joseph Phillips - (as Joseph H. Phillips)

One reel of this seven-reel film (reel 5) survives in the Library of Congress.

A complete 16mm Pathe print of this film Survives in the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's Film Library Collection.

Reviews: [2]

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    "The Vicar of Wakefield", based on the once popular novel, is a rather boring melodrama about the misfortunes of the vicar and his family, most of whom, apparently, are saps to any swindler, thief, impostor or scoundrel they happen to meet. The pious family seems incapable of adjusting to, and initially unrecognizing of, the sinners surrounding them. This was the second adaptation of the novel by the Thanhouser Company, who had previously made a one-reel version of it in 1910. Thanhouser seems to have specialized in such classic literary adaptations, which may be viewed thanks to the disproportionately good number of the studio's films available on home video compared to other early producers. This 1917 photoplay includes some rather odd introductory title cards, which appear original, that describe some history of the book and its author.

    Comparing the 1910 and 1917 Thanhouser adaptations illustrates the rapid development in film-making that had taken place within just a few years. Besides the change from the one-reel standard of Nickelodeons to feature-length films, there is also discernible progress in scene dissection and narrative structure. The 1910 short film used the tableau style of title cards describing subsequent action, which was photographed by a stationary camera—one title card and one shot for every scene. By 1917, there's some crosscutting and matching between different perspectives of actions. The 1917 version also features some good historical costumes, settings and overall production values.

    Another interesting comparison is to look at the difference the scene dissection and more intimate photography make for the performance of Frederick Warde. Warde was a Shakespearean actor from the theatre, and he starred in two early filmic Shakespeare adaptations, "Richard III" (1912) and "King Lear" (1916, and also produced by Thanhouser), which are both available on home video. Although there's much bowing and some peculiar gesturing with an upright forearm, Warde, and more so the rest of the production, are afforded to be less theatrical than such primitive photoplays as "Richard III". Warde's performance in a later 1917 Thanhouser production "The Fires of Youth" was even better adapted to the screen.
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    Three myths dominate US cinema historiography 1)that there is a "before" and "after" Griffiths 2) that cross-cutting is always a desirable thing 3) that the "classic" realist style replaces s primitive "tableau" style to become "the" language of cinema. We now know a great deal more about films of the silent era and are in a position to revise and rewrite rewrite the simplistic historiography of the past.

    Comparing the 1910 and 1917 versions and bearing in mind that the first is a short and fairly evidently destined to be less satisfactory for that reason, it is completely untrue that the earlier film only cross-cuts on intertitles. Like the later film, it sometimes does and it sometimes doesn't. Cross-cutting was already well established as a technique in US films in 1910 and was already arguably being used too much. There is certainly also an overuse of intertitles but this is very largely a function of its length - it is only thirteen minutes long - unavoidable in a short film based on a lengthy novella.

    A dependence on constant cross-cutting deprives the viewer of any autonomy and of a contextual view of the action. It is used much much less in European films not because they are "primitive" but because European cinema, less studio-bound and influenced by "naturalist" principles, was intent on developing a more contextual approach. I use the term "contextual" in preference to the pejorative word "tableau" because it is more accurate. The style in question has nothing to do with "tableaux" in the theatrical sense in the way that they are sometimes used in a distinctly old-fashioned way in films - as in The Birth of a Nation. Their were perfectly good artistic reasons for avoiding an overuse of cross-cutting and close-up which still hold today.

    Given its short length, the 1910 version is not a bad effort and Martin Faust, a stage actor, if not a major one, and an extremely experienced film actor does a pretty good job in the title role. Its most serious weakness lie not in the lack of cross-editing but in the most common of all problems with early US films, poor mise en scène and the lack of much sense of "off-screen" so that, typically, the studio-set is just a "dead" backdrop to the action and the cast are frequently bunched up together inside the confines of the screen-space. In the emerging European films of the "contextual" tradition (the films of Bauer, Pastrone, Dreyer, Stiller, Sjöström), these things are handled much better. In practice it is the "realist" style that resembles the old-fashioned stage "tableau" rather than the "contextual" one.

    When we come to 1917, one notable change is anything but cinematic - the increased emphasis on the literary. The film features a major stage star, British-born Frederick Warde, announces that it has been "staged" by Ernest Warde (the son) and begins with a a critical and biographical notice concerning Goldsmith. The main cinematic change is the overuse of close-up, an irritating fashion prevalent in the US at this time and a revival of the vaudeville concept of the "facial". Cross-cuts are in fact still frequently made on intertitles or (more annoyingly) on dissolves despite the greater length of the film. There are still far too many intertitles.

    In scenes where the camera is allowed some play, the mise en scène is immeasurably improved; the characters appear to be genuinely living in a space rather than just performing in front of a backdrop. Characters also move between screen and off-screen with natural ease. The filming is no longer studio-bound with much shot on location. These enormously important changes, going far beyond questions of "editing", have little to do with Griffith but reflect the work of many directors, at itagraph, at Edison, at Fine Arts and most of all the influence of producer/directors Thomas Ince and Cecil B DeMille.

    The acting of Warde is not an improvement. As with the other Thanhouser films in which he appears, he tends to play to the gallery as though on stage and the "facial" aspect of the continual close-ups encourages the tendency.

    There are no simple critical formulae that can delineate the development of cinema at this or any other period. There is no straight line of development towards some fictive (and undesirable) goal of one single cinematic language. We also needs to rid ourselves of the absurd formalist notion that "editing" represents some sort of good in itself. It doesn't. It is only as good as the purpose to which it is put.

    That the 1917 film is greatly superior is not in doubt but this is very largely because it is a much longer film on which much greater resources have been lavished. We have the whole novel, not merely one single strand and the camera has escaped from the studio. The mise en scène is hugely improved. On the other hand there are some regressive tendencies typical of the period - exaggerated importance given to the literary and the theatrical and the continual use of "facial" close-up. Common to both films is the overuse of intertitles.

    The new faults were just a fashion and would pass while the gains were more durable, even if US films continued to remain rather studio-bound and often continued to evade the issue of mise en scène by relying on cross-cutting and, later, in back-lighting. As for the overuse of intertitles this would continue to plague US films throughout the silent period. A major film like Tourneur's Victory, another very literary production that appeared this same year is absurdly talkative (virtually every word of dialogue appears on the screen); the general tendency in European film was the reverse, towards fewer and fewer intertitles, allowing the visuals to tell the story.

    There was a British film version that appeared in 1916 and I shall continue the discussion in a separate review of that film.