Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


From the 1864 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson comes the tale of a shipwrecked sailor (Arden) who returned home ten years after being thought to have been lost at sea, only to find his wife has remarried and lives blissfully with Arden's childhood friend.  Not wanting to disturb the happiness of his wife and children, Arden sneaks away without announcing himself.  He dies a sad, lonely man.

Does anyone else think downer?  Noble, perhaps, but a definite downer.  Sorta like Sydney Carton heading off to the guillotine.

Directed by D. W. Griffith (who also has an uncredited role as Walter Fenn), this version stars Alfred Paget in the title role, Lillian Gish as his wife Annie Lee, and Wallace Reid as Annie's new husband. (An earlier [1911] version of the film was directed by Christy Cabanne and featured D. W. Griffith's wife, Linda Arvidson.)

British-born Paget, whose silent film career lasted the dozen years from 1908 and 1919, was featured in 244 films, mostly in character roles.

Gish, of course, was one of the great legends in cinema.  She began acting on the stage at age 6 and, with her sister Dorothy, has a storied stage career until 1912 when she began making films for D. W. Griffith. She appeared in two of Griffith's most famous films, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance.
  Gish's career concentrated mainly on the stage in the Thirties.  Three years after her return to films in 1943, she received an Acadeny Award nomination for Duel in the Sun.  She continued making films until 1987, including a fantastic performance in 1955's Night of the Hunter.

Handsome Wallace Reid (1891-1923) appeared in 214 films beginning in 1910, as well as directing 70 shorts.  His screen image was that of the ideal American man, masking a tortured private life.  An alcoholic, he became addicted to morphine after being treated with the drug after being injured in a train crash, spending his last years in and out of hospitals and sanitariums.  He died, of influenza, at age 31 in his wife's arms in a santarium.  IMDB notes that Reid was the third major Paramount star to be involved in a scandal in 1922*.

One of the children was played by an uncredited Mildred Harris.  Harris, at on time one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, had a brief but interesting life.  At age seventeen, she became Charlie Chaplin's first wife; their son was born with severe disabilities and died when he was three years old.
In 1922, she and Chaplin divorced and she began an affair with the Prince of Wales.  She had a major impact on history when she introduced the prince to Wallace Simpson.  She married and divorced twice more, dying shortly after the third divorce at age 42.

Hollywood is full of all sorts of stories, happy and sad.

Here's one of the sad ones.

*The other two scandals involved the murder of William Desmond Taylor and the third Fatty Arbuckle trial, for those keeping score.

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