THE RULING PASSION – A Review of Mr. A’s 1922 Silent Film Comedy

Typically listed as a “lost” film, Mr. A’s 1922 silent film comedy, THE RULING PASSION, may exist after all. Hope is kindled by news that one or more foreign film archives may own a print. These include the Russian Gosfilmofond, the Cinémathèque Française, and the Belgian CINEMATEK. Also on your blogmeister’s “hopeful list” is the Dutch EYE Film Institute that has led the way by posting so many of its vintage holdings online.

THE RULING PASSION was based on a short story by Earl Derr Biggers, who later became famous as the creator of the “Charlie Chan” novels. Mr. A plays John Alden, an automobile tycoon who is forced into retirement by his doctor’s orders. Bored, he decides to invest in a business deal – a gas station – in partnership with a young man, Bill Merrick. Of course, Alden uses an alias so his young partner doesn’t know his colleague is practically Henry Ford. Alden and Merrick are swindled in the sale by the seller, Peterson, who competes against them with his new gas station.

Complications develop when Alden’s daughter, Angie, drives in and discovers her father pumping gas. She and Merrick meet and romance blossoms. Angie agrees to keep her Dad’s secret life from her mother but Mrs. Alden eventually stops by for a fill-up and discovers the truth. Alden and Merrick plan a successful marketing campaign, taking so much business away from their rival that Peterson offers to buy them out at a huge profit on their original purchase.

Bill asks Angie to marry him and he goes to her home seeking her father’s permission, unaware that his partner is Angie’s father. The ruse is happily revealed and Alden’s doctor has to admit that the adventure was healthful for Alden who can now return to work again.

The film had its New York City premiere on January 22, 1922, and received mostly excellent reviews. Released through United Artists, THE RULING PASSION was independently produced through a company, Distinctive Pictures, that was formed specifically to make George Arliss films. PASSION became the third Arliss film, following THE DEVIL (1920) and DISRAELI (1921). The success of the earlier two led to making the third, which in turn led to three more films being made.

A trade press story of the day:

Another story for the exhibitors:

Box Office tells the tale:

Doris Kenyon plays the role of Mr. A’s daughter, Angie. A popular screen actress she would play Mr. A’s wife nine years later in ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931):

While THE RULING PASSION is still considered among the missing Arliss films, we are fortunate that he decided to remake the story as a talkie in 1931 renamed THE MILLIONAIRE. However, lettering on studio photos indicate that the talkie version’s working title continued to be THE RULING PASSION.

An original color half-sheet (22×28 inches) for THE RULING PASSION:

Happy 151st Birthday, Mr. A!

Last year on April 10 was the 150th anniversary of George Arliss’s Birth. I created a video to mark the occasion so in case you missed it, here it is!

Published in: on April 9, 2019 at 10:31 PM  Comments (2)  

A Costume from THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934)

The Arliss Archives recently acquired a unique item: one of the costumes worn by Mr. A as Nathan Rothschild in his blockbuster, THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934). The ensemble consists of trousers and a vest. Alas, the jacket is missing but the acquisition is exciting nevertheless.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 1_edited-1This is how the costume was displayed by the auction house. Based on the length of the trousers or breeches it confirms that Mr. A seems to have been about 5’8″.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 2The costume company tag in the lining of the trousers.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 3A rear view that moviegoers would have never seen.

Rothschild Costume SetThe Costume arrives at the Arliss Archives

Rothschild pants_edited-1The waistline is enlarged to accommodate the padding that Mr. A wore to suggest the historical Nathan’s corpulence.

Rothschild Vest_edited-1The vest was likewise let out around the waist to suggest Nathan’s girth. The small diamond pattern led me to search our collection of 8×10 ROTHSCHILD photos to match the scene(s) the costume was worn in.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Scene

By enlarging the stills to see the pattern on the vests I became aware of how many costume changes that Mr. A had in the various scenes. I found vests with large diamond patterns but I almost despaired of finding an exact match until I found this photo showing a scene that was cut from the film.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Sc001 vest

This enlargement of the photo above provides an exact match with our vest. This level of detail is impressive considering that none of these design patterns would have been visible to audiences even when watching on the “big screen” in 35mm.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Sc001 ed

A close-up of the ensemble including the now-missing jacket.

Costume from ROTHSCHILD 1

Happily, I found a photo from the climatic scene where Rothschild receives news of the Battle of Waterloo. Our costume is beautifully viewed here.

Costume from ROTHSCHILD CU

Our vest in close-up!

Arliss Star on Walk of Fame LA

Mr. A’s Star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.

 

Get Your 2019 George Arliss Calendar!

As we close out another year it’s time to unveil our new GA calendar to carry us through the New Year. I’m frequently asked, “How can I get one?” That’s easy enough – simply print it out for a nice 8.5 x 11-inch image. If you prefer something larger, just take the file to your nearest copying store and they can handle that. Enjoy and may you have good health and many blessings in 2019!

Published in: on December 31, 2018 at 2:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Arliss Alert! THE KING’S VACATION (1933) on TCM Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 @ 5:15 PM ET

The people of a country rise up to oust their leader and he goes into exile. This may sound a little like today’s news but actually it’s the plot of THE KING’S VACATION, which is being shown by Turner Classic Movies (US) this Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 5:15 PM eastern time.


One of the most charming films that Mr. A ever made, the story has the distinction of being the only one that Warner Bros. specifically commissioned for George Arliss. His nine other Warners films were either based on his stage successes or were remakes of his silent films.

GA with Dudley Digges, who was once Mr. A’s stage manager:

Ernest Pascal provided the story and spent time with Mr. A at St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover working on it. Later, Mr. A wrote that he was happy to find that much of the charm of St. Margaret’s was reflected in the film. A humorous and poignant story, Mr. A plays a reluctant king who years earlier was forced into a marriage of state and whose marriage at the time was annulled.

GA with O.P. Heggie. Notice the microphone above Mr. A’s head:
The jacket today:

Abdicating in the face of revolution, the king tries to pick up where he left off 20 years earlier with his former wife and his now-grown daughter. An adult story in the true sense of the term, THE KING’S VACATION deserves to be much better known so please grab this opportunity to see it or record it. You won’t be disappointed!

Published in: on December 2, 2018 at 2:39 PM  Comments (2)  

ARLISS Alert! THE MILLIONAIRE (1931) on TCM Monday, October 15, 2018 at 6:30 PM ET

ARLISS Alert! TCM is showing THE MILLIONAIRE (1931) on Monday, October 15 at 6:30 PM ET. This comedy stars George and Florence Arliss, Ivan Simpson, Evalyn Knapp, and a very young James Cagney in a scene-stealing appearance!

Published in: on October 12, 2018 at 11:40 AM  Comments (2)  

A New Graphic Novel: GEORGE ARLISS IN DISRAELI

Our first graphic novel is now available from Amazon!
GEORGE ARLISS IN DISRAELI is basically a comic book based on the lost 1921 silent film. The story shows that Russian meddling in the affairs of western governments is nothing new. British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli seeks to purchase the Suez Canal but Russia sends spies to England to stop it.

Click on this link for a preview: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0359067433/

1921 Disraeli LC 3ab Final_edited-5

1921 Disraeli LC 2_Comic 1zz

Dis 1921008_Final Comic 12abc

1921 Disraeli LC 4z (2)_edited-2

Get your copy today!

 

Published in: on October 4, 2018 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

Arliss Alert! VOLTAIRE (1933) to air on TCM (US) on July 12 at 4:45 PM EDT


For US viewers, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air Mr. A’s hit biopic VOLTAIRE on Thursday, July 12, as part of the channel’s celebration leading up to Bastille Day on the 14th. This terrific film will be shown at 4:45 PM eastern daylight time. VOLTAIRE had been a story that Mr. A had wanted to play since 1919 but was never able to find sufficient financial support for it. Perhaps producers feared that the subject was too “high brow” for movie-goers. But to Warner Bros.’s credit, the studio decided to move forward with project. They need not have worried – Mr. A turned in a canny and hilarious performance as the French philosopher and wit – proving again the historical biographies could be very humorous and very profitable, at least in Mr. A’s hands.

VOLTAIRE provided Mr. A with his most unique character unlike his other historical roles where he plays great gentlemen. His Voltaire is a scamp who gets himself in trouble with the king and faces imprisonment. Mr. A is supported by a great cast including Doris Kenyon, Alan Mowbray, Reginald Owen, and the members of the “Arliss stock company,” Ivan Simpson, Doris Lloyd, Murray Kinnell, among other familiar faces.

Don’t miss it!

Now on DVD! George Arliss in ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931)

Perhaps inspired by the mammoth hit musical HAMILTON, Warner Archive recently announced the DVD release of Mr. A’s stage and screen success, ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931). It is interesting to note that the hip-hop musical used the same plot as the Arliss historical drama. Co-written by Mr. A and Mary Hamlin, a then-amateur playwright – they would both claim that the other did most of the writing – the play debuted in 1917 during the time of America’s entry into World War I. Later in 1931, Warner Bros. decided to film it although Mr. A said that he did not push the idea because it was too self-serving. In any event today, Independence Day aka the 4th of July in the states, seems to be the perfect time to announce this news:

This is also a good opportunity to post some original color lobby cards from the film:

Doris Kenyon played Hamilton’s wife, Betsy. She had retired following the sudden death of her husband, actor Milton Sills, in September 1930. But Mr. A encouraged her to return to work and offered her the role. They had appeared together in silent films a decade earlier:

Dudlely Digges had been Mr. A’s stage manager for many years before becoming an actor. Mr. A invited him to repeat his stage role as the villain:

Sweet June Collyer stepped out of her familiar screen persona to play the seductive Mrs. Reynolds who lures Hamilton into a trap that threatens to ruin his reputation and his career:

Lionel Belmore plays Hamilton’s father-in-law, General Schuyler. Hard to believe but Mr. A is only a year younger than Mr. Belmore!

When it was learned that this unknown actor’s wife lay dying in a local hospital, he was allowed to leave the studio. But he refused saying that he needed the money. After filming this scene, a studio car drove him directly to the hospital:

Alan Mowbray played George Washington but was almost unrecognizable under the makeup. However, his distinctive voice made him easily recognized:

Finally, your blogmeister can’t resist the temptation to post this Photoshopped picture of himself shaking hands with the great Mr. A:

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:54 PM  Comments (6)  

The King’s Speech: An Immediate Look at the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935

With all the attention given to the Royal Wedding just a couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a 78 rpm record (12-inch) of King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebration on May 6, 1935 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. HRM was being celebrated for his 25 years as the British monarch and I like to think that George Arliss was present somewhere in the cathedral. We know that Mr. A was present at the coronation of George VI in 1937.

His majesty’s wife was Queen Mary and they were the grandparents of the current Queen Elizabeth II. Alas, George V died the following January 1936 at the age of 70. The record is in mint condition and the label states that the proceeds from its sale go to charity. The King makes a speech on side B of the record and seems to hint at the coming second world war, which was only four years away.

 

Published in: on June 5, 2018 at 9:40 PM  Leave a Comment  
%d bloggers like this: