November 15 1924 – MOVING PICTURE WORLD
Lillian Gish to Appear for Metro in Specials
LILLIAN, GISH, through her. contract with Charles H. Duell, Jr., becomes an ‘exclusive Metro-Goldwyn star, according to the announcement by Nicholas M. .Schenck, vice-president of Metro-Goldwyn. The deal is one of the most important that has occurred in the film business this year. It not only marks the first independent production of Charles H. Duell, Jr., but it sets at rest endless rumors regarding the future affiliations -of Miss Gish.
As the popular’ star of “The White Sister” and of “Romola,” shortly to be released by Metro-Goldwyn, she has been spoken of for several ‘famous roles, and her services have been sought after by every American company and .several foreign producers. “Romola,” made by Inspiration Pictures, is a Henry King production and was directed by him in Italy.. By the terms of the Duell contract, Miss Gish will appear exclusively in a series of special productions for Metro-Goldwyn, it was stated by Mr. Schenck. Metro-Goldwyn regards the new Lillian Gish series as among the most important it has ever handled. Mr. Schenck stated: “Our arrangement with Charles H. Duell, Jr., for the new series of Lillian Gish specials is particularly gratifying to us, as it will enable us to give exhibitors absolutely one of the most popular box-office stars before the public. Mr. Duell’s name connected with a picture has always been a guarantee of splendid artistic quality as well as assured box-office values. ‘ The White Sister” and “Romola” prove that. We anticipate immense success for Miss Gish’s new series, and are happy to continue our association begun with ‘The White Sister.’”
The new arrangement follows almost directly on the deal closed several weeks ago between Mr. Duell for Inspiration Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn for the distribution of Romola, a Henry King production over a year in the making at Florence, Italy. Dorothy Gish is featured in “Romola” with Lillian, who is starred. This is George Eliot’s famous novel. No announcement has yet been made by Mr. Duell regarding the producing organization that will surround Miss Gish. Several stories are under . consideration for the first picture under the new contract. When this decision is made, preliminary work will be started at once. In all likelihood the first production will be filmed in the East, which has been the headquarters of Mr. Duell’s picture activities.
“Romola” Editing Completed
Gish Girls Picture Hailed One of Greatest Films Ever Produced Lillian Gish, star of Henry King’s “Romola,” and Dorothy Gish, featured player, are ready to be seen by the public in their newest and greatest roles. The editing and titling has been completed and the production was reviewed in its final form by Metro-Goldwyn executives last week. Metro-Goldwyn will distribute the big Inspiration Picture special, which was over a year in production at Florence, Italy. The verdict of those who saw “Romola” as it will be presented to the public is that Henry King’s production is unquestionably one of the greatest screen achievements brought to the films. It is claimed that the spectacular scenes in the film have never been surpassed. The story is of the time ‘of Columbus’s discovery of America and is laid in Florence. Lillian Gish is seen as a Florentine maid and Dorothy Gish as a peasant girl lessa. William Powell and Ronald Colman have important roles.
December 13, 1924 MOVING PICTURE WORLD
Lillian Gish Starred in Pictorially Beautiful Adaptation of George Eliot’s Classic Novel
Reviewed by C. S. Sewell
George Eliot’s classic novel, “Romola,” with its story laid in Florence, Italy, in the fifteenth century, has reached the screen as a Henry King production for Inspiration Pictures, Inc., with Lillian Gish as the star and Dorothy Gish featured, and is being distributed through Metro-Goldwyn. The most striking feature of this production is its magnificence and wonderful pictorial beauty. Filmed on the actual locations called for in the story, so finely has it been handled, with such painstaking attention to accuracy of detail, that it is a vivid presentation of the life of that period, and the spectator is made to feel as if he has been actually transported’ back to Florence in the days of the de Medici. “Romola” is certainly a masterpiece of beauty and splendor, with wonderful shots of the city of Florence, its palaces, streets, market-places and cathedrals, with striking interior scenes, gorgeous costumes and wellhandled mobs. We doubt if there has ever been a picture that can excel it in these respects.
As to the story, while there are scenes that are dramatically and emotionally effective, they occur mostly in the latter part of the picture. Narrative in form, it is lacking in love interest, and concerns mostly the rise to fame of the rascally adventurer, Tito, and his marriage to Romola, who does not love him, while her love for Carlo is only suggested and he is provided with no opportunities of a romantic nature. As presented at the Cohan Theatre in New York, this picture is in thirteen reels, and particularly in the first half there is a noticeable slowness of movement due to the elaborate attention to details and the holding of some of the scenes too long. The tempo quickens in the second half and there is no lack of real action in the climax. These sequences have been effectively handled, and the scene where Savonarola is fastened to a pole and a fire built under him is undeniably impressive, but it is unpleasant and, although rain puts out the fire, he apparently meets death as a martyr, by hanging. The scene where Tito is choked and held under water by the foster-father he has disowned, until he drowns, is decidedly gruesome. The performance of the players is uniformly excellent.
Lillian Gish is not only strikingly beautiful as Romola, with an ideal spiritual type of beauty, but her acting is remarkably effective. Dorothy Gish as the little peasant girl shows to advantage and contributes excellent comedy and human interest touches. W. H. Powell as Tito has the lion’s share of the action and is not only a remarkably good type for the role but makes a distinctly fine impression and gives a wonderful performance. Charles Lane does excellent work as Baldassarro, and Bonaventura Ibanez likewise as the blind father of Romola. The portrayal of Savonarola by Herbert Grimwood is remarkably effective and he bears a marvelous likeness to the pictures of the Florentine ecclesiastic painted by the Italian masters. Personally, while we felt its pictorial charm, the story did not get a strong hold on our emotions and the interest was weakened by the maze of detail and incident, and we doubt whether the magnificence, splendor and beauty of this picture, plus the excellent work of the cast, will outweigh these other considerations in the minds of the average patron. In a word, its box office reaction will rest largely on its pictorial appeal.
Romola ……………………………. Lillian Gish
Tessa …………………………….. Dorothy Gish
Tito Melena ………….. William H. Powell
Carlo ………………………….. Ronald Colman
Baldassaro …………………….. Charles Lane
Savonarola …………. Herbert Grimwood
llarilo Bardi ………. llonaventura Ibanez
Adolfo Spini …………………… Frank Puglia
Brigida ……………… Amelia Summerville
Nello …………………………….. Fduilio Mucei
Based on novel by George Eliot.
Directed by Henry King.
Length, 12,S>74 feet.
A boat approaching Italy is set upon by pirates and Baldassaro, a noted scholar, gives his adopted son Tito a ring that will be a passport with all men of learning. Tito escapes but Baldassaro is captured. Tito reaches Florence at the time that the people incited by the priest, Savonarola, has risen and cast out their ruler, Piero de Medici. Accidentally he aids Bardi, a blind man and noted scholar and is received with honors, finally winning consent to his marriage to his daughter Romola who loves Carlo, an artist. Through the aid of Spini, an adventurer who has become the real power behind the government, Tito rises to the post of chief magistrate. In the meantime he flirts with Tessa a peasant girl, going through a mock marriage during a carnival, which is very real to Tessa, so he installs her in a house and a child is born to them. Tito shows his real nature when he sells the priceless books of Bardi, and Romola leaves him. He issues a decree that means death to Savonarola but his ambition overleaps itself and he is chased by the mob. Jumping into the river he meets death by drowning at the hands of Baldassaro, whom he has refused to recognize. Romola meets Tessa and befriends her, and finally finds happiness with Carlo who has remained faithful to her.
Europe Praises “Romola”
“Such a work of art merits every success,” was the statement by Georges Clemenceau, former premier of France, after witnessing Lillian Gish in Henry King’s Inspiration production of “Romola,” a Metro-Goldwyn picture, with Dorothy Gish in a featured role. Numerous other European celebrities have expressed their enthusiasm over “Romola,” including Giavonni Poggi, resident director of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, and curator of all the royal galleries of Tuscany; P. Bonnard, one of the greatest living French painters; Leonce Benedite, director of the Luxembourg Museum and the Rodin Museum in Paris; Santiago Alba, former Minister of Fine Arts in Spain; Dr. Guido Biagi; and Firmin Gemier, director of the Odeon National Theatre, Paris.
“Romola’s” Great Beauty Fascinated N. Y. Critics
BEFORE a distinguished audience Lillian Gish’s long-awaited appearance in Henry King’s Inspiration production of “Romola,” with Dorothy Gish, occurred on December 1st at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York. “Romola” is a Metro-Goldwyn picture, based on George Eliot’s greatest novdl, and it was acclaimed by metropolitan critics. There was a large delegation of film stars. Marcus Loew, Adolph Zukor, Joseph M. Schenck, Edward Mi Bowes, William E. Atkinson, Jesse L. Lasky, Harry Rapf, Hiram Abrams, Nicholas M. Schenck, David L. Loew, Leopold Friedman, Charles K. Stern, Arthur M. Loew, David B. Bernstein, J. Robert Rubin, Charles C. Moskowitz and Messmore Kendall were among the prominent executives in the industry who were present. After the opening night it was reported that the remainder of the week was then practically sold out. “Personally, I like ‘Romola’ better than ‘The White Sister,’ ” said Louella Parsons in the New York American the morning after the premiere. As the story was filmed on the actual locale at Florence, Italy, the unrivaled beauty of the settings received marked comment from the press, Miss Parsons said, “The scenery in ‘Romola’ will please the most fastidious and act as a tonic for those who believe films the lowest form of art.” “It seems a perfect product,” was the praise of Harriette Underhill in the New York Herald Tribune, adding that, “it reppresents the art of the cinema in its highest form.” Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times wrote: “This is a film to be remembered, and the gorgeous scenes will never be forgotten.” “To the end the charm of the Gishes hold one,” wrote the reviewer of the New York Morning World, calling it “amazingly wondrous to behold,” adding that “the mob scenes are excellently done,” and stating that “the aesthetic pleasure of admiring the profile of Lillian is almost enough for one picture.” “An ambitious picture,” was Mildred Spain’s endorsement in the New York Daily News, adding that the picture “boasts the rich tale by George Eliot, superb photography, able direction, noteworthy backgrounds.” “Henry King has produced a lovely work of art,” said the New York Evening Post, adding that many shots are “lovelier than words can describe.”
Grauman Books Lillian Gish in “Romola” for Hollywood
ONE week after its world premiere at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York, the Lillian and Dorothy Gish special, “Romola,” will go into Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, for a long run starting December 8.
Sid Grauman plans to give Henry King’s new Inspiration production, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn, the most elaborate prologue he has staged in the Egyptian Theatre. As the Egyptian prologues are famous for their lavish beauty, Mr. Grauman’s intention in regard to “Romola” indicates that the production is expected to achieve a record run there. With “Romola” playing at both ends of the country at the same time, the publicity from these two engagements is expected to “cover” the entire United States territory in which the picture will afterward play. “Romola” has an immense audience waiting for it, as the George Eliot novel on which the picture is based is one of the most famous standard books, and the reunion of Lillian and Dorothy Gish in the picture is counted on to prove a big draw. Dorothy has a featured role in the production in which Lillian is the star.
“Romola” was filmed in Florence, Italy, more than a year being required for the massive production, which abounds in spectacular features.