THE MOVING PICTURE WORLD July 1914
“The Angel of Contention”
Two-Reel Majestic—Written by Will Levington Comfort and Directed by John O’Brien.
Reviewed by Louis Reeves Harrison.
- The Angel ……………………………………………. Lillian Gish
- Her Daddy …………………………….Spottiswoode Aitken
- Sheriff Magoon ………………………….. George Seigman
- Jack Colter …………………………………………………R. Walsh
THE dominant note in “The Angel of Contention” is very clearly – indicated in the title. Lillian Gish is the angel in a rough settlement of cattle men. They are hard drinkers, hard fighters, of lawless tendency, yet possessing enough inborn honesty in their make-up to show deference to the helpless little woman in their midst. The demure little angel is loved by the big and manly sheriff. A sheriff must possess unusual courage to enforce law in a community where men make laws for themselves, more or less according to the demand of conditions under which they live; and the laws in this sheriff’s community are to get the drop on your enemy after giving fair warning, and to string up a man who shoots under other conditions. In one case it is murder; in the other, it is simply shooting quicker or straighter than the other fellow. Such is the simple code in Sheriff Magoon’s small community when he falls in love with “The Angel” and decides to propose. He has the diamond ring all ready and shows it to the boys in the saloon where they meet, drink, gamble and shoot.
The proposal thereupon becomes impersonal—it is an affair of the community. The whole gang goes with him. The big sheriff is not averse. Notwithstanding that the “Angel’s” father has died, and she is wholly unprotected at his cabin, the big sheriff is afraid to go alone. Even as he approaches the cabin, he weakens and tries to escape; but he is encouraged by the others until he reaches the door. His courage vanishes at the crucial moment, and he makes a break for liberty. A few stiff libations at the bar start him over again, and this time he encounters the angel outside her cabin. He induces her to wear the ring, and the community gives three cheers. Now the angel has contracted a habit of her sex, that of helping tlic helpless. She has tied up the wounds of some of the toughest characters; has nursed them through illness; has been what she is named.
The tenderness in her nature which would lead her to care more for a drooping flower than for one carefully nourished is her dominant trait; so, when Jack Colter comes along and is badly wounded by a renegade Indian intent on revenge but a bad shot, as he hit the wrong man, “The Angel” nurses Jack back to life and health and falls in love with him. The Sheriff gives up, like the big-hearted fellow that he is. The Angel marries Jack Colter and bears him a little replica of herself in due time, but the boys never forgive Colter for stealing the Sheriff’s girl. The renegade Indian, still intent on his deferred vengeance, reappears at about the time Colter has a quarrel with the man the Indian intends to kill. The Redskin aims better the second time, kills his man by firing through the window of his cabin. Of course the innocent man is accused and lynched—that is the regulation thing in hundreds of Western photodramas —and the boys will not even believe the Angel when she swears that Colter was at home when the murder was committed. She rides for the Sheriff—also the regulation thing —and they reach the scene of hanging just in time to save Colter. It is the big-hearted Sheriff who shames the gang into recognition of their many obligations to the Angel, and the father of her child is saved.
Miss Gish, in her exquisite characterization and mental revelations, lifts this old melodrama out of its class into a play of deeper human interest, and George Seigman aids materially with his delicious comedy work. To their delicacy of interpretation is due an atmosphere of feminine sweetness and masculine nobility that beautifies and warms the whole play.