Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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telical

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Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 10:23 pm

This one might be a stumper. Can anyone name some silent films that were made from some classics, hopefully pre-1875, but not by the majors like Shakespeare, Dickens, and so on.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 10:41 pm

Well, what precisely is a classic written by someone who's not major? If you've written a classic... you're major, no?

There are certainly second tier novelists who were nevertheless popular in their day and frequently filmed. A few who come to mind:

Owen Wister, The Virginian
Emerson Hough, The Covered Wagon, North of 36
Rex Beach, The Spoilers, The Goose Woman, A Sainted Devil
Blasco Ibañez, The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, Blood and Sand
Michael Arlen, The Green Hat (filmed as A Woman of Affairs)
Warwick Deeping, Sorrell and Son
Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk
Kate Douglas Wiggin, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Timothy's Quest
Harry Leon Wilson, Ruggles of Red Gap, Merton of the Movies
Elinor Glyn, It

How many of these are read, or even readable, now? (The only one I've read is Sabatini, who comes off like a Wodehouse not trying to be funny, but still delivers thrills con brio.) Yet there's more than a few classics or at least very worthy films there.

I started leafing through my family's old paperback of The Godfather and I would regard Puzo as unreadable now, 45 years later, yet there was plainly a spark in his story that led to two great films which rendered the original novel superfluous and inadequate. Many of these might be like that, no longer of literary value but having put lightning on screen. As Woodrow Wilson said of a movie from a book by one Thomas Dixon.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 11:31 pm

Like Mike, I'm not sure what you mean by "not major," but here goes . . .

First one I thought of was THE CONQUERING POWER (1921) directed by Rex Ingram from a novel by Honore de Balzac, and starring Rudolph Valentino. And, of course, the more obvious BEN HUR (1925), QUO VADIS? (1913 and 1925, I believe), and DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE (several versions up to 1920).
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 4:25 am

The Moonstone has been filmed several times.

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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 8:42 am

I assume your question is not restricted to silent films in the English language?

There is Mauprat (1926) with Luis Buñuel in it, based on the Georges Sand novel (1837).

Also Fanchon, the Cricket (1915) but based on the Sand novel La Petite Fadette (1849)
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 9:41 am

MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH, although it was 1901. Not sure how much of a "classic" the book was though. Seemed to be a favorite down south.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 9:44 am

The problem, as others have noted, is the definition of "classic". When I look at It Came From Hell on Turner Classic Movies, does that make it a classic?

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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 9:53 am

As I'm reading of the Barrymores right now, here are a few of their Silents based on works esteemed then, perhaps more than now:

- THE COPPERHEAD (Augustus Thomas play)
- RAFFLES (E. W. Hornung hit books and play)
- THE BELLS (Henry Irving play; influenced by E.A. Poe's writings)
- BEAU BRUMMEL (Claude Fitch play; earlier literary appearances)
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 9:55 am

I'd say thousands, if not tens of thousands of silent films fall into this category. Just from the movies that Mont Alto has scored I could name Pickford's Amarilly of Clothesline Alley, all three silent Ramonas, Bardelys the Magnificent, The Girl in Tails (Flicka I Frack), The Ghost that Never Returned, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Blood and Sand, Erotikon, Rosita, etc. if you are counting classic but obscure plays as well as novels, we can add a whole bunch more like The Blue Bird, Silence, Leap Year, Quality Street, Paths to Paradise.

Many, if not most of the Scandinavian and Eastern European films shown over the years in San Francisco Silent Film Festival were based on novels. Then there are the dozens of versions of Carmen (most claimed to be based on the obscure novel, not the famous opera, if only for copyright reasons).
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 11:29 am

CoffeeDan wrote:Like Mike, I'm not sure what you mean by "not major," but here goes . . .

First one I thought of was THE CONQUERING POWER (1921) directed by Rex Ingram from a novel by Honore de Balzac, and starring Rudolph Valentino. And, of course, the more obvious BEN HUR (1925), QUO VADIS? (1913 and 1925, I believe), and DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE (several versions up to 1920).


Balzac and Robert Louis Stevenson were hardly "not major" writers. And if you really consider Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to be "obscure", then ... c'mon, now ...

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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 12:36 pm

There were several versions of Maxwell Grey's The Silence of Dean Maitland - an Australian version in 1914, an American version the following year released under the title Sealed Lips. Neither film survives, but the novel is very good, and somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Hardy.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 12:38 pm

What about Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Ford Fauntleroy (1885)? It was made into one of Mary Pickford's best films, and I think the 1922 still trumps the sound remakes with Freddie Bartholomew and Ricky Schroeder. Of course Pickford had appeared in Burnett's A Little Princess five years earlier--
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 12:40 pm

The White Sister (1923) by Francis Marion Crawford
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 12:42 pm

Tol'able David (1921) by Joseph Hergesheimer
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Light-Hearted Novel Made into Zasu Pitts Rom-Com

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 1:16 pm

Image
Last edited by JFK on Sat Jun 17, 2017 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Light-Hearted Novel Made into Zasu Pitts Rom-Com

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 2:02 pm

JFK wrote:Image

Wondered about 'McTeague', but thought, not obscure enough. Norris's 'The Pit' was filmed by Griffith as A CORNER IN WHEAT in 1909.

Eden Phillpotts's WIDDICOMBE FAIR was filmed in 1928.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 2:06 pm

Rodney wrote:I'd say thousands, if not tens of thousands of silent films fall into this category. Just from the movies that Mont Alto has scored I could name Pickford's Amarilly of Clothesline Alley, all three silent Ramonas, Bardelys the Magnificent, The Girl in Tails (Flicka I Frack), The Ghost that Never Returned, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Blood and Sand, Erotikon, Rosita, etc. if you are counting classic but obscure plays as well as novels, we can add a whole bunch more like The Blue Bird, Silence, Leap Year, Quality Street, Paths to Paradise.

Many, if not most of the Scandinavian and Eastern European films shown over the years in San Francisco Silent Film Festival were based on novels. Then there are the dozens of versions of Carmen (most claimed to be based on the obscure novel, not the famous opera, if only for copyright reasons).


Describing ALL QUIET as obscure???
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 2:08 pm

Several of Arnold Bennett's books were filmed as silents...

And are we including poetry, as have ENOCH ARDEN to start with, and perhaps ANNABEL LEE...
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 2:44 pm

Last days of Pompei - once a classic, now obscure (from the creator of the opening "it was a dark and stormy night").

Then there are the Frenchies: Works by Hugo and Dumas. Classics, but with the birth defect of not being English, so they might somehow meet the definition. And maybe some Russians too, for the same reason?
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 3:56 pm

What I was really looking for was pre-1850 classics.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 4:33 pm

telical wrote:What I was really looking for was pre-1850 classics.
Most of what I suggested above still qualifies. (Not Les Mis though, because that was one of Hugo's later works.)
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 4:37 pm

A BLIND BARGAIN (1922) - based on Barry Pain's obscure 1897 novel, and never filmed again. 'Possibly' the only filming of a Barry Pain story.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 7:13 pm

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927) based on the 1851 (first edition) classic by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 8:11 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:Last days of Pompei - once a classic, now obscure (from the creator of the opening "it was a dark and stormy night").

Then there are the Frenchies: Works by Hugo and Dumas. Classics, but with the birth defect of not being English, so they might somehow meet the definition. And maybe some Russians too, for the same reason?


Yes, I had forgotten Hugo, I think Balzac probably had some works done. It's interesting how tastes change and am looking for some old classics that may have been known enough for the silent era but perhaps not today, so we don't recognize what they are.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSat Jun 17, 2017 9:13 pm

Well, jeez, there aren't that many novels before 1850 that anyone remembers. So you want something that's before Dickens and Dumas, but was still famous enough 100 years later that it could be filmed, but not that famous 75 years after that so we don't think the author was famous... is there a movie of Humphry Clinker or Lettres d'un peruvienne?

Actually, I have the perfect answer right here. Ivanhoe, 1913, with King Baggot. A novel everyone thought then would last forever, by an author no one reads now. I don't think you can get much closer than that.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 3:42 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Actually, I have the perfect answer right here. Ivanhoe, 1913, with King Baggot. A novel everyone thought then would last forever, by an author no one reads now. I don't think you can get much closer than that.
It's not a competition but I think Last days of Pompei is even more faded (perhaps because it's not all that good). Walter Scott is still sort of known, but Bulwer-Lytton? I knew of Scottt long before I ever heard of him. Yet Last days of Pompei must have been popular, they made several silent versions, in 1913 they even had two competing adaptations, a third one was planned but cancelled.
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 7:50 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:Actually, I have the perfect answer right here. Ivanhoe, 1913, with King Baggot. A novel everyone thought then would last forever, by an author no one reads now. I don't think you can get much closer than that.
It's not a competition but I think Last days of Pompei is even more faded (perhaps because it's not all that good). Walter Scott is still sort of known, but Bulwer-Lytton? I knew of Scottt long before I ever heard of him. Yet Last days of Pompei must have been popular, they made several silent versions, in 1913 they even had two competing adaptations, a third one was planned but cancelled.


Fascinatingly, Bulwer-Lytton is now better-known as a statesman than a novelist. I recall from my political science MA days that there was a notable effort to examine his political activities and to pretend he was a major player in that realm.

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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 7:54 am

Mitch Farish wrote:Tol'able David (1921) by Joseph Hergesheimer


Hergesheimer is an interesting case. He was immensely popular and well-regarded in his time, and his novels were perfectly designed for immediate filmization. More like E.L. Doctorow than Robert Ludlum, but with Doctorow's high reputation and Ludlum's popular appeal. Everything he wrote was snapped up for the movies.

So I'm not sure he qualifies as a writer of "obscure classics", because he certainly wasn't obscure in his time, and his novels haven't come to be regarded as any kind of classics for the ages.

Jim
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 10:39 am

There's also "Tom Jones" (1917, UK) based on Henry Fielding's novel (1749) of the same name.

"Robinson Crusoe" (1927, UK) based on Defoe's 1719 novel.

"Die Intrigen der Madame de la Pommeraye" (Madame de La Pommeraye's Intrigues) (1922, Germany) based on Diderot's story.

All are 18th century written stories/novels.

I'm sure there are many more out there...
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Re: Silent Films that were made from obscure classics

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 2:47 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Fascinatingly, Bulwer-Lytton is now better-known as a statesman than a novelist. I recall from my political science MA days that there was a notable effort to examine his political activities and to pretend he was a major player in that realm.

Jim
Fascinating indeed! Bulwer-Lytton was a statesman?
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