Wid’s Weekly – The Film Authority – Published in Hollywood
Saturday, March 1st 1924
Miss Gish, Big Moments and Atmosphere Put This Over
The White Sister Inspiration-Metro Length 10 Reels
- DIRECTOR. Henry King
- AUTHOR.F. Marion Crawford’s book, adapted by George G. Hobart and Charles Whittaker.
- CAMERAMAN.Roy Overbaugh
- GET ’EM IN. Intelligent advertising will make this a big box office winner, but it needs intelligent advertising.
- PLEASE ’EM. Impressive atmosphere and smooth, quiet development to the big emotional scenes where Miss Gish really hits, make this drama that will impress and cause complimentary comment.
- WHOOZINIT. Lillian Gish, Ronald Colman, Gail Kane, J. Barney Sherry, and very satisfactory supporting cast of Italian players who don’t overrave.
- SPECIAL APPEAL. Concentrate particularly on Miss Gish, the director, Henry King, and the fact that this novel and play have been tremendously successful. Don’t emphasize the spectacle. Concentrate on Miss Gish’s emotional performance.
- STORY VALUES.They have altered the famous book and play and occasionally the story mechanics are bad, but the final result is good.
- TREATMENT.The atmospheric background is not only beautiful but decidedly impressive, and the slow story development helps a lot in making Miss Gish’s work particularly effective. At the end the volcanic, spectacular sequence has a very definite value in carrying the unhappy ending to a climax that keeps this from going blah at the finish.
- CHARACTERIZATIONS. Miss Gish gives a truly great performance, and Ronald Colman does a bit of work that will make producers check up on him. Gail Kane is a splendid menace, and the remainder of the cast is more than satisfactory because the Italian players were not permitted to overact.
- ARTISTIC VALUES.There were many truly delightful bits of composition and the foreign atmosphere was registered without leaving the Burton Holmes travelogue impression that you gathered when seeing “The Eternal City.’’
This is heavy drama, and it lias what you call an unhappy ending, but if you are a showman you can cash in in a big way, clean up some real money, and thoroughly satisfy your cash contributors.
They don’t try to plant comedy relief in this, and they don’t slap you in the face with the fact that all of the scenes were shot in Italy. From start to finish director Henry King sticks to his knitting. He starts to tell a dramatic story that has some good emotional high spots, and he tells it effectively, in front of a beautiful background that is really Italy.
Lillian Gish is your big box office bet with this one.
We in the trade will, of course, give proper credit to Henry King, and you can cash in on Mr. King’s successful work by mentioning other successful productions which he has made, like “Tol’able David,” but your obvious and best box office value is the little lady who does in this her first big outstanding success away from Mr. Griffith.
Don’t go wrong on this through any personal slant. Maybe you’re a hard boiled gink who has a preconceived notion that you don’t want anything on your screen about religion. Maybe you have an idea that you don’t want to play a film made abroad, after having seen some of the other foreign-made offerings. Maybe you think that other folks don’t like straight drama because you prefer comedy. Stop and seriously consider the fact that the women control your box office. The women and their conversation bring most of the men. I think all women everywhere will eat this up. I believe that men will consider it a very good film. Certainly no one can present a legitimate complaint against this as dramatic entertainment because they do give us a number of emotional high spots that really rank with the best.
Technically there are a number of places where this could be fussed with. People who know the play and book may not like the fact that it has been changed. Many may feel a decided weakness in structure where the hero fails to immediately cable to his sweetheart word of his escape. Even the thought that certainly someone would have known of the actual existence of a will may occur to many. The point I want to emphasize is that regardless of any technical controversy concerning this, it is a definite fact that audiences will be impressed because the high spots ring true, the development is pleasing, even though slow, and there is too much real value presented to justify anyone in registering definite dissatisfaction.
I imagine that the story was arranged with the ending as it stands in the thought that such an ending would go better with the Catholic Church. Personally I feel it could have been done either way, with everything depending upon the treatment as to how the religious angle would register with the church. The thing which you need to be most concerned with is the problem as to how this will register with the audience, and I think it will register right, particularly with the women.
Here in Los Angeles this has been presented on a two shows a day basis, with reserved seats, and $1.65 top. I believe that with a production of this sort you will do a better gross business by showing it at advanced prices than if you present it through the regular routine. The very fact that you herald this sort of production as a dramatic offering worthy of special consideration, and consequently an increased admission, gives an added prestige to the offering. This will not only help in attracting business but will add to the probability of your audience being pleased because they will enter the theatre with the proper sense of being about to see something which is above the class of the ordinary movie.