Based on the novel by
George Eliot

Produced and directed by
HENRY KING

An Inspirational Picture, released through
Metro-Goldwyn.

Photographed by
Roy Overbaugh
Adaptation by Will M. Ritchie
Titles by Jules Furthman

 

** THE CAST **

ROMOLA ...... LILLIAN GISH
TESSA ...... DOROTHY GISH
Tito Melema ...... William Powell
Carlo Bucellini ...... Ronald Colman
Baldassarre Calvo ...... Charles Lane
Savonarola ...... Herbert Grimwood
Baron Bardi ...... Bonaventura Ibanez
Alfo Spini ...... Frank Puglia
Brigida ...... Amelia Summerville
Monna Ghita ...... Tina Rinaldi
Nello ...... Eduillo Mucci
Bratti ...... Angelo Scatigna
Piero de Medici ...... Alfredo Bertone
Bishop of Nemours ...... Ugo Uccellini
Tournabouni ...... Alfredo Martinelli
Captain of Barque ...... Gino Borsi
Pirate Captain ...... Pietro Nistri
Galley Master ...... Alfredo Fossi
Tomaso ...... Attilio Diodati
Fra Sylvestro ...... Pietro Betti
Archibishop ...... Fernando Chianese
Fra Beneducci ...... Toto Lo Bue
Bargello ...... Carlo Duse
Executioner ...... Giuseppe Zocchi

 

In view of the extreme length of ROMOLA, it was thought advisable to shelve the three-reel "supporting program" as announced, and substitute a single-reeler. Too, we are running ROMOLA as it was originally road-shown - with a ten minute intermission after the first half. The total running time is 2½ hours.


 

A GIRL AND HER TRUST (Biograph, 1912) Directed by D.W. Griffith, with Dorothy Bernard and Wilfrid Lucas.

To all intents and purposes a remake of The Lonedale Operator, a Griffith film of only a year earlier, A Girl and Her Trust is a strangely neglected Griffith - and easily one of his best. Even the polished cutting and tension-building editing that was so prevalent in The Lonedale Operator seems almost staid in the face of this outstanding little thriller, showing quite clearly what tremendous strides D.W. was making each year. The climactic chase is beautifully photographed, and as thrilling today as it ever was. Incidentally, the episode of the bullet detonated in the keyhole was repeated verbatim in the recent UA release, Run for the Sun -- and since the incident was not present either in the original novel from which that film was taken (The Most Dangerous Game) or the two earlier film versions, one cannot help wondering whether or not it was just stolen bodily from this film, on the theory that movie audiences couldn't possibly recognise a plagiarism from so far back!

 

ROMOLA

On August 25, 1923, Henry King and a large staff set sail on the S.S. Homeric for Italy, and established themselves in Florence where, for a year, they labored on this film. Huge sets were flung up, the Italian government cooperated to the full in providing authentic costumes and other research material, and allowing historic buildings to be used as sets. Italian nobility - Counts, Countesses, Barons, Princes, Princesses - offered their services as extras, and appeared in the big banquet sequences. The budget shows in every frame of film - the production is a lavish, sumptuous one in every sense of the word - and yet despite this, and despite King's experience in Italy previously (he had directed Lillian Gish there earlier, in another Inspiration film, The White Sister), it just didn't emerge as the great film that it should have done. King, a former blackface song and dance man, stock company actor and finally director, had shown his true talent - and his real forte - in essentially simple tales of Americana; films like, of course, Tol'able David - and, in the sound era, Will Rogers' State Fair, and the more recent I'd Climb the Highest Mountain. King just seemed lost in spectacular literary romances.

The pity is that Romola wasn't made by Griffith, as it certainly has all the ingredients so dear to the old showman's heart - two parallel stories that finally weave themselves into one, personal stories told against a factual background of tyranny and political intrigue (in this case in the 15th century); the fake marriage between the trusting girl and the scoundrel - and of course an illegitimate child; the clash between different social classes; and so many other elements. The film is so much like his own Orphans of the Storm in its general construction; so unlike it in the rather slow excitement it generates. While there are certainly moments of exciting, and spectacular, action - the attack of the pirate ship with its Greek Fire, the mob scenes, the execution of Savonarola - these two are so casually handled that they fail to exploit their full potential.

ROMOLA certainly, is a disappointing film, and a ponderous one. But measuring all historical spectacles by the yardstick of Griffith is perhaps unfair anyway, and solely on its own merits, King's production is a continually interesting one. The atmosphere of the period is meticulously reconstructed; the interior sets are quite awesomely beautiful, and the photography is often breath-taking. Lillian Gish is serene and lovely as Romola, but it is hardly one of her best performances; here she retains her Griffith mannerisms without her Griffith fire; and the Gish fire, later to emerge in The Scarlet Letter, was still dormant. But what a pleasure it is to see that lovely, classic face at the peak of its beauty! Dorothy Gish, who appears in scenes with her sister only towards the end of the film, is as always thoroughly delightful, animated, appealing in the tragic scenes, injecting her lively sense of fun into the lighter moments. William Powell is a typical silent villain, all villain, while Colman has surprisingly little to do as the hero. The subtitles are full of rather obviously American expressions, and suggest that Jules Furthman probably merely flipped the pages of Elliot's novel. Too, taking a leaf out of Orphans of the Storm, the film manages to suggest that Europe would be much better off with an American form of government, with, as Colman puts it in one scene, "A government of the people."

ROMOLA created considerable goodwill between Hollywood and Italy, and Italian diplomats and artists were lavish in their praise. Dr. Guido Biagi, director of the Laurentian Library in Florence, remarked: "...it has the authenticity and atmosphere of the golden age of the Renaissance, of which the Florence of the Medici was the center." Outside of Italy, the praise was equally sincere. Santiago Alba, Spain's Minister of Fine Arts, stated: "It is a page of the most delicate art and appeals like few other films."

 


Art work by Dorothy Lovell; program notes & enquiries - W.K. Everson, 2166 Broadway, NYC.

ISSUED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THIS PROGRAM, AS A RESEARCH PROJECT OF THE FILM SOCIETY - AN INDEX TO THE FILMS OF HENRY KING - a 15 page survey of the director's work, with a complete list of films - compiled by Charles Shibuk, assisted by Bill Everson. Copies are available on request and receipt of 10¢ to cover cost of mailing. These will also be available free of charge at the screening of course.


 © William K. Everson Estate