09 May 2016

A Wild Olive of Nitrate

A short follow-up to last week's post on The Wild Olive by Basil King:

Sold at auction four years ago by eMoviePoster.com (note watermark), above is the only poster I've ever seen for The Wild Olive. Should've bought it. The Canadian dollar was trading on par back then, and the winning bid wasn't so much as five Yankee sawbucks.

The Wild Olive was, as the adverts said, adapted from the celebrated novel of Basil King. It was released in 1915, becoming the first Hollywood feature to come from a novel by an Islander. The Inner Shrine (1917) and The Lifted Veil (1917), also adapted from King novels, rank second and third. Then came The Spreading Dawn (1917). It was inspired by a King short story, so doesn't really count. Meanwhile, L.M. Montgomery fans were still waiting to see Anne Shirley on the screen.

The Wild Olive was the sixty-fifth of director Oscar Apfel's 120 films... so, mid-career, right? Myrtle Stedman and Forrest Stanley star as heroine and hero. Myrtle Stedman was a silent film star, but I'm not sure I've ever seen her in anything. Stanley I recognize from a bit part in what is just about the best episode ever of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This would be 1955's "Breakdown", in which he plays an accountant who is fired by Joseph Cotten. Total screen time: 42 seconds. Myrtle Stedman was long dead by then. The Wild Olive was made when both were enjoying career highs.

It also stars Mary Ruby and Edmund Lowe. I know the latter best as the adulterous Dr Wayne Talbot in Dinner at Eight.

Would that I knew Lowe from The Wild Olive, but as with all adaptations of King novels, the film is lost. All I've been able to see of Lowe's performance comes in this still from the July 1915 edition of Motion Picture News:

The most detailed description of what we're missing comes courtesy of T.C. Kennedy in the 3 July 1915 edition of Motography. I present it here in full, recognizing that it will serve as a spoiler anyone who has not read the novel:
The Oliver Morosco Photoplay Company, in association with Bosworth Inc., offers as its latest release on the Paramount program "The Wild Olive," an adaptation of the celebrated novel by Basil King. The choice of story and the co-starring of Myrtle Stedman and Forrest Stanley result in a picture of sterling quality and lasting attraction, and one which deserves to enjoy the popularity of the  book from which it is adapted.
     The plot concerns itself with the romance of a wealthy mountain girl who is willing to sacrifice her own happiness to clear the name of the man she loves. The rugged, imposing country of the Alleghany lumber regions adds a virility which makes for a strong and lasting appeal. The change of background from the rough lumber camps to the gay and cosmopolitan Argentine presents a contrast which is striking. Myrtle Stedman, seen as Miriam Strange, "The Wild Olive," and Forrest Stanley as Norrie Ford, interpret their parts splendidly, and are surrounded by a capable cast, in which are Mary Ruby as Evie Wayne; Charles Marriot as Judge Wayne; and Edmund Lowe as Charles Conquest.
     Norrie Ford, accused of murdering his uncle, is convicted on strong circumstantial evidence. He escapes from the deputies, and is offered a hiding place in the cabin studio of a mountain girl, who believes him innocent. There he hides until morning, and then starts for South America, bearing letters of introduction from the girl, who, in answer to his request for her name, tells him to call her "The Wild Olive."
     In the Argentine, Ford, aided by the letters, secures a position, and through his industry and integrity soon works his way to the top. As his letters to "The Wild Olive" are returned by the postal authorities, he gives up hope of ever seeing the girl to whom he owes his life. He becomes engaged to Evie Wayne, a New York girl, and the niece of the firm's senior partner. Evie returns to New York and her uncle transfers Ford to the managership of the New York office.
     Ford, on his return to New York, finds that Evie Wayne is the girl chum of Miriam Strange, "The Wild Olive." Miriam, who has waited for him, is heartbroken when she learns that he is engaged to Evie. But she remains true to her chum, and consents to marry Charles' Conquest, whom she had previously refused, on condition that he clear the innocent Ford of the murder charge which hangs over him. Evie learns that her fiance is charged with murdering his uncle, and breaks their engagement. Ford's disguise is penetrated and he is arrested, but the death bed confession of the actual murderer leads to his acquittal at his second trial. Conquest, realizing how greatly Miriam loves Ford, releases her from her promise, leaving her free to marry him.
What else is there to say?

Well, for one, The Wild Olive appears to have been quite faithful to the original. There are minor differences: the "lumber regions" of the novel are in Vermont, Miriam offers no letters of introduction, and Ford writes no letters himself. The greatest liberty seems to have been inspired by King's title. In the novel, no one calls our heroine "The Wild Olive" – least of all Miriam herself – rather Ford likens her to a wild olive "grafted into the olive of the orchard". That same issue of Motography features a dramatic still in which we see lumbermen helping Ford escape the law (something only hinted at in the novel).

Variety praised the film's opening scenes "in which there is some good natural scenery." I'll take the magazine at its word, though I gotta say this looks a bit awkward:

The Day (New London, CT), 8 July 1915
Anything else to say about something I've never seen?

I got nothing.


Related Posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment