Motion Picture Magazine – April 1923
Are the Movie Folk Morons?
Gladys Hall Considers Several Prominent Players She Has Met
MORONS in the movies? . . . Well, perhaps . … It would be a sweeping” statement were we to say that morons are not in the movies at all, for that is one of the chief characteristics about morons, they are as apt as not to be just anywhere at all. They have no class distinctions. As a rule they don’t even know that they are morons. For all of that, you may be a moron, and I may be a moron. Unless one has passed the thirteen-year-old Simon-Binet mentality test one cannot speak with positiveness. There are all sorts of degrees. There is the low class idjit, and the high class idjit; there is the low class moron and the high class moron. The precise definition and the requisite sub-definitions, have not yet found their doubtless legitimate places in Mr. Funk and Wagnalls.
But we have noted with a certain degree of chagrin that many people seem to consider the movies a colony largely inhabited by morons, high class morons, low class morons, any class morons at all. The ministry, the legal profession, the Government and the Average Writer as well as the movieites are frequently referred to as morons. Speaking of Morons – – There has been much talk regarding morons lately. And because the precise definition of this word is lacking in the dictionary, it is not always simple to appreciate its exact meaning. That it is uncomplimentary is certain. That it describes something like eighty-some-odd per cent of the population of these United States is an often reiterated fact.
You cant tell whether or not you are a moron, unless you take the Simon-Benet mentality test. This remarkable test proves conclusively whether or not your mentality is commensurate with your years. And the movies have been said to average a goodly number of morons—movie morons has become a frequent alliteration. So Gladys Hall has written of several prominent movie folk she has met who would seem to be far removed from the densely popularized moron group. It has been our humble experience to have talked with writers and lawyers, senators and representatives of foreign missions without having found one thinker among them any more profound than we have discovered in such women as Elsie Ferguson, Madame Nazimova, Madame Petrova, Lillian Gish and Carol Dempster, or such men as Mr. Chaplin, Mr. von Stroheim, Mr. Griffith and Mr. Barthelmess.
We would say, without fear or compunction, that each and all of these citations could readily pass the thirteen-year-old test and even make the sixteen-year-old test (which may be had at Columbia College, N. Y. C), with flying colors. We have found each and every one of them rather more than well informed and certainly aware of a world beyond the realm of reels. We will admit that the screen has its June Breezes and its April Showers, its August Anemones and its chorus-men-gone-cinema, but, as Mr. Van Vranken postulated in his recent article anent the passing of pulchritude, the passing of moronism in the movies is also en route. The pretty little ingenues with the ear-protectors of blonde curls, the languid young men with the superiority complex and the powder puff have been and may continue to be, but they will be in the movie-minority. We have learned things from the cinema-rtists. Of course, if we are moron, we would probably learn from June Breezes, but as we haven’t learned anything from her and as we have frequently had to manufacture thoughts for her and for her sisters-in-sweet-simplicity, we dare to believe that, pending a Simon-Binet test, we are NOT moron. But really it isn’t fair. So many of them know so many things and know them well. So many of them study and have studied, think and have thought and have so much substance back of their shadows that is generally discredited and seldom publicized.
Lillian Gish has a gossamer grace, but her mentality is nourished on Tolstoi and the Old Testament. She is a student, a thinker, an analyst. She believes in the Old Orders because she has tested the new and sounded the old. She thinks along self-carved lines and her theories are creative and never rehashed.
Dorothy Gish, sparkling and comedic, is a worshipper of G. B. S. and can deal consummately with the classics. Eric von Stroheim has a virile, restless, rather volcanic, but tremendous mentality. His ego, his capabilities are all a part of an intelligence that far transcends the possible implication of moronism.
Mr. Chaplin wears strange shoes and a moron mustache on the screen, but if one has consulted his pictured face and heard his serious talk, one knows that he worships Minerva and that the motley cloaks a poet and philosopher.
Theda Bara can give you more of the science of perfuming than you could glean from text books. Madame Nazimova is as medically informed as many an M.D.
Carol Dempster quotes Chinese philosophy like a disciple of Confucius.
And to go on further, when we say that we have learned things, that does not always mean that the star in question has given us some particular line of information and knowledge. Quite frequently we have talked to one of the stars and have come away completely unable to report one paragraph that passed between us and yet, somehow, feeling that we have spent a profitable hour. Sometimes the personality is so authentic to justice that it gives you something unnamable, but none the less cautious. A touch of poetry. A faint light. Suggestiveness. Richard Barthelmess comes under that heading.