Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Motion picture pioneer D. W. Griffith made an astonishing 108 short films during 1909 -- a rate of a little more than two a week!  Edgar Allan Poe, released on February 8 of that year, is a seven-minute movie loosely based on Poe's "The Raven" and on Poe's own life.  The title cards for this short have gone missing, so the viewer must rely only one the acting itself.

We open in a poor garret with Poe's sick wife Virginia (Linda Arvidson, Griffith's real life wife) who is barely able to hold it together either physically or mentally.  Upon a shelf is a bust of Pallas.  Enter Poe (Barry O'Moore, acting under his birth name, Herbert Voss)  in despair.  He covers his wife with his coat to give her some warmth.  (Voss, a stage actor, was embarrassed by the work he had to do on film so for many of his more than 100 movies he used the rather phony-sounding "Barry O'Moore" moniker.  Among his repeat roles were those of Henry Craig in seven or eight films, Nelson Wales in eleven films, and Frederick Arnold Kummer's Octavius the Amateur Detective in twelve films.)  Suddenly there appears a (obviously stuffed) raven on the bust of Pallas.  With a burst of inspiration, Poe begins to write.  (By write, I mean quickly drawing his quill across the page rapidly several times.  I mean, really?)  He does this, stopping to show his ill wife each stanza as it is written.  Then off he goes, coatless, to try to sell his poem, meeting with rejection at the first publisher's office.  The second publisher's wife also scorns the poem and reads part of it mockingly to her husband.  As Poe turns to leave, the second publisher calls to the disheartened poet.  He recognizes something in the poems cadence that appeals to him.  He buys the poem, giving Poe some money.  (One source says that it is ten dollars, but the amount is not clear from this print.)  Poe returns home, joyous, carrying food and a blanket to keep Virginia warm.  Alas, she is dead.

Yes, I know I've given away all the plot to this very brief film, but it's worth a look anyway.


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