1 March 2005 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Turn to the exit.
I saw part of the Eastman House print of this film, and I'm sorry I bothered. I have a *huge* admiration for silent-film director Rex Ingram -- I once went to considerable trouble to interview Alice Terry, his widow and frequent muse -- but 'Turn to the Right' has forced me to reappraise Ingram's abilities.
This film is a compendium of all those 'next week East Lynne' melodramas about the poor old widder woman who can't pay the rent to the villainous squire. Annoyingly, there are some comedic touches in 'Turn to the Right' which seem to hint that Ingram might be guying his own material, in an intentional parody ... but the comedy touches are half-hearted, and the bathetic elements (with their long coincidences) seem to outweigh the comedy. Ingram's films were not noted for their comedy elements. I suspect that he began this movie as a straightforward drama, then added some self-parody when he realised in mid-production that the pathos was turning into bathos.
Actress Lydia Knott ought to be renamed Granny Knott in her portrayal of poor ole Widder Bascom, who will lose her farm to Deacon Tillinger if she can't scrape up the mortgage moolah. If only her long-lost son Joe, who vanished mysteriously years ago, were here to help her. Suddenly there's a knock at the door. Guess who.
The best performances here are by Harry Myers and George Cooper as a couple of deese-dem-doze crooks: yes, the dialogue in their silent-film intertitles is written in dialect. I'm most familiar with Billy Bletcher for his work as a voice-artist in cartoons for Disney and Warner Brothers, so it's a pleasure to see him on screen here ... but he has little to do.
Ingram usually brought out the best in his wife Alice Terry's performances, but here -- as Elsie Tillinger, the virginal and virtuous daughter of the greedy deacon -- she's rather dull, and frankly not virginal enough. It's no surprise that handsome Joe Bascom (Jack Mulhall) and the fair Elsie eventually fall for each other, but Mulhall and Terry quite fail to generate any chemistry in their scenes together ... at least, the ones I saw.
I shan't rate this film, because I only saw a portion of it ... but I saw enough to kill my curiosity about seeing any more of it. Rex Ingram and Herbert Brenon are the two most blatant examples of movie directors who had brilliant careers in silent films yet who weren't able to continue their success into the talkies era. Is it coincidence that both of these men were Irish?