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Whom the Gods Destroy (1916)


Whom the Gods Destroy (1916) Vitagraph Co. of America. a Blue Ribbon Feature. Distributor: Greater Vitagraph (V.L.S.E., Inc) Director: William P.S. Earle. Scenario: Cyrus Townsend Brady and J. Stuart Blackton. Camera: Clark R. Nickerson. Editor, Paul E. Saschke. Cast: Alice Joyce, Harry T. Morey, Marc MacDermott, Logan Paul, Charles Kent, Thomas R. Mills, Mary Maurice, Mr. Siegel. Irish woman is loved by a blinded British officer and his friend, an Irish insurrection leader charged with treason. 5 reels. This film appears to be LOST

This film was Alice Joyce's first for Vitagraph and marked her return to the screen after a nearly two year absence. The film is said to be loosely based on the case of Sir Roger Casement, an Irish patriot, who during the war had urged that Germany intervene in the Irish struggle for independence and hanged as a result by the British. Pro-Irish groups claimed the film was pro-British, and riots broke out at a number of theaters showing the film. Oddly, it was considered pro-Irish by the British authorities, who had it banned. Though critics claimed it was even-handed, producer J. Stuart Blackton, born in England, was given to making pro-British, anti-German propaganda films.


Alice Joyce  and actor having cocktails A Still from the film Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for these stills
Click thumbnail for a larger image.

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


Review from Variety, December 8, 1916

WHOM THE GODS DESTROY
Mary O'Neil Alice Joyce
Leslie St. George Leigh Harry T. Morey
Sir Denis Esmond Marc MacDermott
O'Neil Logan Paul
Father McCarthy Charles Kent
King of England Thomas R. Mills
Lady Esmond Mary Maurice
Carl Mr. Siegel

Cyrus Townsend Brady is the author and William P.S. Earle the director of the Vitagraph (V-L-S-E) Blue Ribbon feature to be released Dec. 15. The plot of the story was undoubtedly inspired by the recent insurrection in Ireland, and the leading role, that of Sir Denis Esmond, was patterned after the unfortunate Sir Roger Casement, who was found guilty of treason to the Crown. It is a fine, clean, red-blooded story of two men, one an Irish patriot, the other an English naval officer, bosom friends, each true to his particular country, both in love with the same girl. The sacrifices they are willing to make for their beloved causes are inspiring and uplifting and the visualization of the fight for the freedom of Ireland, is magnificently photographed with a careful observance to detail that reflects the highest credit upon the producer. There are but two things open to criticism--the make-up of the person depicting King George of England, and the fact that relatives seeking the pardon of a traitor to the Crown could summarily project themselves into the ceremony of His Majesty bestowing Victoria Crosses upon war heroes without interference on the part of the guards. This faux pas and incorrect make-up are so far overshadowed by the many excellences of the production as a whole, as to be scarcely worth calling attention to.

Jolo.



Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, December 16, 1916

"THE WHOM THE GODS DESTROY."

Five-part Drama by J. Stuart Blackton and Cyrus Townsend Brady, Featuring Alice Joyce. Produced by Vitagraph Under the Direction of William P.S. Earle. For Release Dec. 18.

Mary O'Neil Alice Joyce
Leslie St. George Leigh Harry T. Morey
Sir Denis Esmond Marc MacDermott
O'Neil Logan Paul
Father McCarthy Charles Kent
King of England Thomas R. Mills
Lady Esmond Mary Maurice
Carl Mr. Siegel

The authors of "Whom the Gods Destroy" have done a difficult thing exceedingly well in making a touching and realistic picture of the recent Irish rebellion without indulging in the banal absurdities which too often surround stories of this type. There has been no attempt to treat the theme from a political or partisan standpoint, and we are spared the sight of the usual battle scene, now grown so common that its effect is considerably lessened. The story shows the effect of the bitter evil conflict on one Irish home but it is so skilfully developed that we get the effect of the havoc wrought in thousands of such homes and in the country beyond them.

The plot follows the life story of three friends: Leslie Leigh, the British officer; Mary O'Neil, the young Irish gentlewoman, and Sir Denis Esmond, the hot-headed, too zealous son of Ireland, who has been drawn into the rebellion against his better judgment. Both are suitors for Mary's hand but the generosity of Leslie protects his rival, who is sentenced to death, and the details of this act of heroism which ends in the reconciliation of the three friends, make up a drama vibrating with human interest against a background of historical fact. There is an unusual and effective situation in the position of Leslie lying blinded in Mary's home while the spies and rebels of his government are making their plans before his sightless eyes. The tense moments in the story seem to grow naturally out of one of the tensest episodes in Irish history instead of being manufactured by the yard by a mechanical scenario maker.

Alice Joyce gives the character of Mary O'Neil all the wistful charm of an Irish aristocrat, torn by the sufferings of her country, with a world of pathos in her great dark eyes. Harry T. Morey made a powerful figure as a strong and fearless officer who conquers in spite of his blindness, and Mary Maurice added the note of realistic and poignant anxiety which is characteristic of her restrained work as "somebody's mother." The exterior scenes were excellently done, but the interiors suggested the rooms of a New York apartment house rather than those in an Irish castle.

While this version of the rebellion does not express sympathy with the insurgents, the theme is so delicately handled that it could not offend adherents of either party. The issue is still live enough to attract on this score alone, and, since it is forcefully and artistically presented in this production, it is sure to appeal to the higher class of film patrons

A.G.S.





Review from Moving Picture World, December 23, 1916

"WHOM THE GODS DESTROY" (Five Parts--Dec. 18.)--the cast: Mary O'Neil (Alice Joyce); Leslie St. George Leigh (Harry T. Morey); Sir Denis Esmond (Marc MacDermottt); O'Neil (Logan Paul); Father McCarthy (Charles Kent); King of England (Thomas R. Mills); Lady Esmond (Mary Maurice); Carl (Mr. Siegel). Directed by William P.S. Earle.

The ominous call of war gives the Irish rebels and opportunity to prepare to strike for their freedom. One of the most diligent leaders is Sir Denis Esmond, who is prepared to lead the insurgents against England. Leslie St. George Leigh, a close friend of Esmond's and a true patriot of England, loses his eyesight while doing his duty in the North Sea.

Mary O'Neil, a lovable little Irish lass, is loved by both Leigh and Esmond, and not realizing the cost she is heart and soul in the insurgents cause and refuses to give either her answer until Ireland shall be free. Thinking to allay suspicion, she allows Leigh to come to Castle O'Neil while convalescing. When an English officer comes to the castle, Leigh gives his word of honor that Esmond has not been there, for he does not know that he has returned from Germany.

Later the Insurgents come in a body to the Castle for Esmond. Leigh speaks to Esmond until he is made to realize the cost, then addresses the rebels after getting Mary to give him, as she thinks, the English flag, but in reality she gives him the old Irish flag, fearing for his safety. He learns his mistake and signals to an English warship in the harbor for help. One of the insurgents learns of his trick and is about to assault him when Esmond intervenes and orders them to disperse. The soldiers arrive and the mob is dispersed after a struggle in which many are killed. Mary, coming from the Castle, learns the high cost which must be paid for rebellion when she sees the road scattered with wives and mothers crying over their soldier husbands who have fallen in the cause.

Esmond is captured by the soldiers and tried as a traitor. After a time he is sentenced to be hung. Mary clings to his broken-hearted mother through the trouble, and with Leigh's aid they try to obtain a pardon for him. In vain they make their appeals and at last the despairing mother forces her way into the King's presence, Mary following fearfully. Here again her plea is ignored and it is not until General Ramsey, a close friend, intervenes that the pardon is granted and Esmond allowed to go free.

Leigh, realizing that Esmond is now free and that his own affliction would make it impossible for him to ask Mary's hand in marriage, does his utmost to arrange the engagement, but he fails. Later he is given the Victoria Cross for his bravery and dutiful service to his country, but his final reward comes when Mary's love refuses to recognize his blindness and they are pledged to marry. The unselfish friendship of the men and their common love for the sweet Irish girl has made all things possible, and once more they stand together, stronger allied than before.




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Last revised August 27, 2005