17 February 2013

Jazz Age Castaways in a Lost Film

Following Friday's post:

Released under the title Half a BrideWhite Hands was the third of five Arthur Stringer novels to be adapted to the screen. I mean "adapted" in the strictest Hollywood sense. There's a Mr Winslow who lives in certain comfort with a daughter named Patience, but it's there that similarities between book and film end.

The American Film Institute provides this synopsis:
Thrill-seeker Patience Winslow hears a radio program on companionate marriage and enters into a trial marriage. It is never consummated, however, because her father breaks up the ill-advised union by kidnapping her and taking her aboard his private yacht. She escapes from the yacht in a launch, but Edmunds, captain of the yacht, jumps overboard after her. A storm arises and they are cast ashore. During the weeks of privation that precede their rescue, Patience learns to love her fellow castaway. Her previous marriage annulled, she marries, with parental enthusiasm.
Yes, but was it any good?

Hard to say. IMDb records ratings by eleven anonymous people who claim to have seen Half a Bride – four rate it 10 out of 10 – but Silent Era lists it's survival status as "unknown", while film historian Arne Andersen places it on his list of lost films. Who ya gonna believe?

Reviews of the day fairly rave:
"...a sure cure for jaded movie appetites."
– Rochester Evening Journal
"...a clever, entertaining picture."
– Evening Independent
"...a frank and entertaining treatment of the now important marriage problem... gives to the screen one of the greatest epics of all times.
– San Jose News
Montreal's Gazette not only provides the lone dissenting voice but the most detailed description of the film:

The Gazette, 10 September 1928

Whether Half a Bride was ever truly important is a question best left to academics studying trial marriage. I suspect not.

The beautiful Esther Ralston has faded from public memory; the trajectories of her career and fame aren't dissimilar to those of Arthur Stringer. Yet, Half a Bride lives on in print, if not film, due to the casting of rising co-star Gary Cooper as Captain Edmunds.

The movie poster doesn't do Esther Ralston justice, as this promotional photo for the film indicates.

Reviews tell us that the island on which Patience and Edmunds become stranded is located just off our West Coast. So, what's with the palm trees?

I don't suppose we'll ever know.

Related post:


  1. I enjoy seeing the ratings on genuinely lost films at imdb.com. Check out London After Midnight with a rating of 6.9 based on 677 ratings. Quite a crowd with magical powers! I find it hard to believe that even half of that number were alive in 1927 to have seen it during its original run. For every lost film with a rating there are also invariably comments asking how can it be lost if there are votes rating the movie. Chalk it up to another conspiracy created by the Illuminati. Oh, the gullibility of those wonderful people out there in the dark.

    1. Nice to think that London After Dark has survived and continues to be screened, if only to a select few. Oh, for an invitation!

      I note that 103 users have weighed in on The Miracle Man (1919). Aren't they a divided lot! Thirty-five give it a ten out of ten, while forty think it warrants no more than a one. Users under 18 give it full marks.