Selected Film Criticism – Edited by Anthony Slide
ENOCH ARDEN (Majestic/Mutual, 1915)
–Louis Reeves Harrison in The Moving Picture World
The story of Enoch Arden, as visualized by William Christy Cabanne, is a splendid composite of imagery and illustration, just what the distinguished poet intended it should be. The very simplicity of the story is artfully preserved. That simplicity, however, is not in atmosphere, feeling and humanity. In its avoidance of sensation and false sentiment, it is all the more impressive and more in accord with the author’s own mood when he wrote it. The pictured version, in fact, becomes a formidable rival to the poem, instead of a poor and inadequate reflection, as are most transformations from literature to the screen.
Because of its background it is manifestly impossible to present this story of other days without resort to studio costumes and settings, but these do not jar by their artificiality. They are overlooked because of the evident sincerity of the producer. He has taken infinite pains in the small details of household equipment, and has even attempted, though less successfully, to “plant” a tropical island. Mr. Cabanne has made an effort that deserves high praise because he has absorbed his subject and given to it the soul and feeling of a genuine artist.
A strong factor in the success of Enoch Arden as offered by the Majestic Company is Lillian Gish as Annie Lee. I feared at the outset that she could not respond to the exactions of the role, but she gathers strength as the story goes on, and her slight figure gradually becomes the center of sympathetic attention. She has caught the idea of mental revelation without effort–her face is very expressive–but she still adheres to a painful eccentricity of Griffith’s pupils, that of bent elbows and clutching hands. What is done with hands and arms depends entirely upon the character to be depicted, and to repeat a peculiarity under all circumstances gives a sameness to characterization.
Miss Lillian is admirably supported by Alfred Paget and Wallace Reid. Both men act with convincing sincerity and dignity.
These three fine interpreters complete and round out what I have already designated “a splendid composite of imagery and illustration. ”
–Louis Reeves Harrison in The Moving Picture World, Vol. 24, No. 4 (April 24, 1915), page 568.