EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|COWARD, THE (director: Thomas Ince/Reginald Barker; screenwriter: from the story by Thomas Ince/Thomas Ince; cinematographers: Joseph H. August/Robert S. Newhard; cast: Charles Ray (Frank Winslow), Gertrude Claire (Betty Winslow), Frank Keenan (Colonel Jefferson Winslow), Margaret Gibson (Amy), Charles K. French (French commander), Nick Cogley (Negro house servant); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Thomas Ince; TCM; 1915-silent)|
|"Interesting only as an historical
film from a different era."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A Civil War silent melodrama
a benevolent-paternalist view of master-slave relations and glories in
war as a bond that makes father's closer with their sons. It came out the same year as
Griffith's epic Birth of a Nation and had some success, but just not as
great acclaim or box office as that influential classic. Producer,
writer and co-director Thomas Ince discovered the 24-year-old Charles Ray and
groomed him over the years to play The Coward. This film made him a
star. In later years Ray bankrolled a film that bombed and lost all his
money. He never recovered and became a forgotten actor, who in later
years was reduced to taking bit parts.
In 1861, the Civil War
starts. Virginia plantation owner Colonel
Jefferson Winslow (Frank Keenan, grandfather of Keenan Wynn) fought
in the Mexican War and would like to volunteer for this war but is
rejected because of his age. His son Frank (Charles Ray) is forced to enlist
by dad and after he runs away is again forced to enlist. His nurturing
mom (Gertrude Claire) coddles him.
While camped nearby, Frank deserts while on guard duty and
hides out in the family mansion. Dad is so ashamed, that he volunteers
to take his son's place as a private and thereby not tarnish the family
name. One day a Union patrol confiscates the Winslow mansion and while
Frank hides in the attic, he eavesdrops on the officers sitting at the
kitchen table and announcing battle plans for the next day (Buster
Keaton borrowed freely from this scene in his 1927 The General). The
lad is tinged with patriotism and steals the plans, suddenly finding
his courage. While wearing a Union uniform Frank's chased over
Confederate lines and winged by his father, on guard duty. But Frank's
strong enough to get to the Reb commander and give him the plans. It
results in a Reb victory during battle, and father and son reuniting.
Didn't think much of its pro war sentiments, and its
exaggerated dramatics and stagebound execution leaves it outdated.
Interesting only as an historical film from a different era.
REVIEWED ON 5/3/2011 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ