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To the Highest Bidder (1918)

To the Highest Bidder (1918) Vitagraph Co. of America. A Blue Ribbon Feature. Distributor: Greater Vitagraph. Presenter: Albert E. Smith. Director: Tom Terriss. Assistant Director: Carl Le Viness. Scenario: Edward J. Montagne. Camera: Joe Shelderfer. Cast: Alice Joyce, Walter McGrail, Percy Standing, Edna Murphy, Jules Cowles, Mary Carr, Stephen Carr. 5 reels This film appears to be LOST

A lobby card from the film (Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for this scan)

See a Lantern Slide advertising this film from the collection at the Cleveland Public Library

Review from Variety
Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror
Reviews from Moving Picture World

Review from Variety, July 19, 1918


Alice Joyce as a country girl struggling to pay off the mortgage on the old farm in "The Highest Bidder," a Vitagraph feature. A plot old enough, and in the present case often lacking in plausibility, but well acted as it is, and attractively presented, the picture should find a goodly amount of favor.

Barbara and her little brother, Jimmy, are alone in the world. The farm is mortgaged to Stephen Jarvis, the one rich man of the village, who cares only for his money and his interest on his mortgages. The interest is due from Barbara, but as she is unable to pay it the farm is advertised for sale. Jarvis has told her that he would cancel the amount if she would become his housekeeper, and when she resented this, he has offered to make her his wife, but she fears him and refuses. To raise money Barbara offers her domestic services for a period of five years to be bid for at auction. She stands on the block and the sale begins. During the sale Barbara's old sweetheart returns from the West and bids to his last cent, but is beaten by an agent of Jarvis, although this fact is not then made known. But her mysterious master does not come to claim her, although Barbara had paid off the mortgage with the proceeds of the sale.

Then, somewhat illogically, David Whitcomb turns out to be a most unworthy fellow, secretly lavishing attentions on a waitress in the village, and also becoming addicted to drink. At the same time Jarvis experience a complete change of heart, becoming kind and charitable. Whitcomb finally elopes with the waitress and Jarvis pursues his suit to a happy ending.

The picture is not absorbingly interesting, while it is improbable, but much is forgotten in the splendid country scenes, the direction and photography. Alice Joyce is most happily cast as Barbara. She is pretty to look upon and appealing and most natural in her work. Percy Standing's work as Jarvis is polished and refreshingly legitimate. Walter McGrail as the lover has little to do, but that he does well, as do the rest of the cast. The scenario is by Florence Morse Kingsley.

Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, July 27, 1918

"To the Highest Bidder"
(Vitagraph--Alice Joyce)


Box Office Value Good

Exhibitor Comments: "Joyce well liked." "Picture well done."


Entertainment Fair
Story Good
Acting Fair
Photography Good
Technical Handling Good
Settings Fair
Moral Effect Wholesome

Five-Part Drama by Florence Morse Kingsley. Cast includes Walter McGrail, Percy Standing, Jules Cowles, Stephen Carr, Mary Carr and Edna Murphy. Directed by Tom Terriss.

Synopsis of Story:
The story concerns a young girl who spends her entire life in trying to obtain money to pay off the mortgage on her farm. But the day comes when she can no longer meet the claims, and Jarvis, the man who holds the mortgage, gives her the alternative of selling herself to him in return for the land. She spurns his offer, but adopts a plan to sell herself in service for one year to the highest bidder. Her old sweetheart arrives too late to save her and later proves that he was not worthy of her. The year passes without her "master" claiming her. Then the girl learns that Jarvis had bought her services because he had really loved her and she, having learned to care for him, marries him.

Opens with broad, dramatic movement.

Title: Peg Morrison, lighter mood.

T.: Nine-thirty, neutral moderato

When Barbara calls on Jarvis, sinister mysterioso

T.: The stirring in Jarvis, love theme

T. You shall love me, dramatic tension becoming hurry.

T.: To the highest bidder, turbulent agitato.

T.: Just a minute, quieter mood.

T. To pay in full, serious neutral.

T.: As the long days, lighter.

When bartender enters, hurry

T.: Nightfall, the time Jimmy, quiet, graceful mood to end

Reviews from Moving Picture World

August 3, 1918

Greater Vitagraph Presents Alice Joyce in a Blue Ribbon Feature, Telling the Story of a Girl Woo Would Not Sell herself for a Farm.

Barbara Preston Alice Joyce
David Whitcomb Walter McGrail
Stephen Jarvis Percy Standing
Jennie Edna Murphy
Peg Morrison Jules Cowles
Miss Cottle Mary Carr
Jimmy Preston Stephen Carr

Directed by Tom Terriss

The Story: Stephen Jarvis threatens to foreclose the mortgage on Barbara Preston's farm, which she is struggling to save for her little half-brother, Jimmy. Jarvis subsequently approaches Barbara with an offer of marriage, which she spurns. Finding it difficult to raise the money Barbara has her services auctioned off to the highest bidder for a term of five years, the money to be applied on the mortgage. Jarvis, hearing of it, sends an agent to the auction rooms, and Barbara is finally "sold" to the representative of Jarvis, who conceals his identity. Time goes on and Barbara's curiosity as to who her "master" might be is suddenly quieted one day when she receives a letter from David Whitcomb, her old sweetheart, who happened to be at the auction, and who tells her that she was "bought" by Stephen Jarvis through his agent. Jarvis comes and tells her of the trick he played in order that he might get her. Having been informed that Whitcomb has married and realizing that she really loves Jarvis she goes to him.

August 3, 1918

Five-Part Vitagraph Picture Offers Alice Joyce an Appealing Role.
Reviewed by Edward Weitzel.

SIMPLE in theme, but filled with the human touch that lays hold of the heartstrings. "To the Highest Bidder," a five-part Vitagraph release arranged from a story by Florence Morse Kingsley and directed by Tom Terriss, receives much of its appeal from the sincere and attractive figure Alice Joyce makes of the heroine, Barbara Preston.

The story of an orphan girl's brave struggle to save her old home and help a young brother, the situation that gives the picture its title, is quite out of the ordinary. Finding that she cannot keep up the payments on the mortgage and being warned that she must raise the money or Stephen Jarvis, the holder of the mortgage, will foreclose, Barbara conceives the plan of selling her services for five years. She is noted for her skill as a housekeeper and hopes to realize enough to satisfy Jarvis' claims.

At the auction two men bid steadily against each other. One is an old sweetheart, David Whitcomb, who is just returned from the west. The other is a secret agent acting for Jarvis. Whitcomb puts up his last penny, but his rival outbids him. Jarvis has had but one desire in life, the acquiring of money--until he meets Barbara. At the conclusion of the story the heroine learns that Whitcomb is unworthy of her, and that Jarvis is the unknown master who has the right to her services. Matters are adjusted happily and Barbara becomes the mistress of the Jarvis home.

Tom Terriss has directed "To the Highest Bidder" with the thoroughness found in his previous pictures. Walter McCrail [sic] as David Whitcomb, Percy Standing as Stephen Jarvis, Edna Murphy as Jennie, Jules Cowles as Pug Morrison, Mary Carr as Miss Cottle, and Stephen Carr as Jimmy Preston, round out a competent cast.

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Last revised December 24, 2008