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The Forbidden Woman (1920)

The Forbidden Woman (1920) Garson Studios, Inc. Distributor: Equity Pictures Corp. Director: Harry Garson. Adaptation: Charles E. Whittaker. Scenario: Lenore J. Coffee. Camera: Arthur Edeson. Technical director, John M.Voshell. Cast: Clara Kimball Young, Conway Tearle, Jiquel Lanoe, Kathryn Adams, Winter Hall, Milla Davenport, Stanton Williams, John MacKinnon. 6 reels. A 35 mm. print is held at the Library Of Congress

This was the first film directed by Harry Garson.

Diane Sorel looks for signs of dissipation Forbidden woman
Forbidden woman lobby card A lobby card courtesy of Dennis Atkinson
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Review from Variety
Review from Moving Picture World
Review from the New York Times
Unidentified Review
Viewing comments

Review from Variety, February 27, 1920

The Forbidden Woman
Diane Sorel Clara Kimball Young
Malcolm Kent Conway Tearle
Andrew De Clermont Jiguel Lance
Madame De Clermont Kathryn Adams
Edward Harding Winter Hall
Luisa Milla Davenport
Jimmy Stanton Williams
The Butler John Mac Kinnon

Clara Kimball Young's latest starring vehicle, shown at the Capitol this week, released by the Equity Pictures Corporation, is entitled "The Forbidden Woman." The title is impressive and should draw business as its suggests any number of things that might be "forbidden" a woman. In this case, however, it happens to be the title of the play in which the heroine of the story appeared. It is a six reeler that holds the interest at all times and from a production standpoint it stands out particularly because of the extraordinary photography and locations.

The story was written by Lenore J. Coffee. It relates of a Parisian actress who was the toast of Paris in her play "The Forbidden Woman." One of her admirers, a married man, commits suicide because she gives him the air. The scandal that follows depresses her so that she decides to leave France and come to America. She decides a period of rest prior to her debut in New York and rents a place in the country. A love affair with her next door neighbor, a writer, follows. Eventually she discovers that he is the brother of the American girl who was married to the man that committed suicide. She then informs him as to her identity and he spurns her, but the arrival of the sister from abroad straightens out the affair.

It is a short cast piece with but five principal characters. Miss Young gives a great performance. She displays a wonderful collection of gowns. In one of the earlier scenes she wears a short string of pearls clasped tightly about her neck. She should pass this up in the future as it makes her neck appear short and draws attention to her chin, which is taking on the aspect of a double.

Conway Tearle, her leading man, is giving one of the best performances of his career in this production. The balance of the cast, particularly Winter Hall, Kathryn Adams, and Milla Davenport, gave clever interpretations. Jiguel Lanoe in the role of the French admirer did not seem to ring true. Overacting was his greatest fault.

Arthur Edeson is given credit for the photography. He deserves a medal for the work. Some of his shots are of such tremendous beauty as to lighting that they call for "ahs" from the audience. The location man should also receive credit for he picked some bits of country that appeared delightful.

Review from Moving Picture World, February 21, 1920

"The Forbidden Woman"
Clara Kimball Young in Elaborate Production Distributed by Equity.
Reviewed by Donald H. Clark.

The Forbidden Woman" is the story of Diane Sorel, leading woman in a play by that name at a Paris theatre. She refuses the attentions of a man about town; he kills himself in her apartment. Living in America under an assumed name, "to forget," she falls in love with an author, the brother of the wife of the Paris admirer. When he finds the truth he doubts her, then forgives.

While there is little new about such a plot, yet the picture is one that seems likely to meet with public favor. There is no question that the role of Diane Sorel offers Clara Kimball Young one of her greatest opportunities she has had on the screen and she makes the most of it. She is suited to the part, and she plays it with a reality that makes it very impressive. Conway Tearle, playing opposite as Malcolm Kent, is excellent.

The story moves swiftly and interest is sustained throughout. There can be slight criticism of the production aside from the weakness of the story itself. Elaborate interiors and well chosen pastoral scenes add much to the beauty of the picture.

"The Forbidden Woman" is sure to please all admirers of Miss Young, for it shows her at her best. It will also please those who enjoy an old plot carefully and elaborately worked out in a new setting.


Diane Sorel Clara Kimball Young
Malcolm Kent Conway Tearle
Andrew De Clermont Jaguel Lance
Mme. De Clermont Kathryn Adams
Edward Harding Urutes [sic] Hall
Maid Milla Davenport
Author, Lenore Coffee
Length, 5,663 feet

Diane Sorel is playing the title role in "The Forbidden Woman" at a Paris theatre. The author and her manager, Edward Harding, watches over her like a father, and she is almost a forbidden woman to the world at large.

One of Diane's most ardent admirers is Andre de Clermont, an impecunious nobleman, who has married a rich American girl for her money. Fearing the affair will go to far, Harding has Diane send a note to Clermont, telling him that such constant attentions from a married man are not flattering, and that he could never see her again. De Clermont comes to Diane's rooms, demands that the privilege of at least seeing her often and, when refused, shoots himself. The affair, of course, gains great notoriety, and Diane flees to America to escape it all, accompanied by her maid, and Harding as protector.

In a beautiful country home in America, living under the name of Diane Durand, she rapidly regains her old spirit, and studies a new play with Harding.

She meets Malcolm Kent in the pasture near her home by accident. He is an author, living on the adjoining estate. The attraction is mutual and they are together constantly. Diane tries to tell him something of her past experiences, but he will not listen. They are engaged before Diane learns from a picture on Malcolm's table that it was his sister what was the widow of Andre de Clermont.

Diane rushes to her home almost killed with grief. Malcolm goes over to tell her that his sister will arrive the next day from Paris. Diane tells him that she is really Diane Sorel. Malcolm is horrified and will not believe her protests of innocence and even accuses Harding of being her lover. He leaves, but returns a few minutes to seize her in his arms and kisses her passionately.

Program and Advertising Phrases: The Newest Clara Kimball Young Feature Employs Her Greatest Talents.
Gripping Drama of English Society Life Shows Miss Young at her Best.
Famous English Novel, "The Love Quest," Translated Into Gripping Photodrama.
Clara Kimball Young Has Strong Role in Pulsing Drama of Society.

The sister arrives, tells Malcolm that she had found the letter Diane sent to Andre, and that it was because of her refusal to be more than an acquaintance that Andre had shot himself. His belief in Diane restored, he rushes to her. Diane forgives him and promises to be his wife.

Program and Exploitation Catchlines: Clara Kimball Young in a Role Gives Her Opportunity to Display Her Charms.
Story of An Actress Who Wins the Love of Brother-in-Law of Man Whose Love She Spurned.
Swiftly Moving Story of the Loves on An Actress Told in An Elaborate Production

Exploitation Angles: Center interest upon Miss Young and the character she portrays, but seek to sell the character rather than the story. To emphasize the title put bars across all portrait posters or festoon padlocked chains across their fronts.

Review from the New York Times, February 23, 1920

"The Forbidden Woman," with Clara Kimball Young, is at the Capitol this week. It is an elaborately staged photoplay marked by excellent photography, good direction and competent acting. Supporting Miss Young in the cast are Conway Tearle, Jiguel Lanoe, Kathryn Adams, Winter Hall, Milla Davenport and several others, all of whom make their characters as intelligible and consistent as a purely artificial plot will permit. The story is about a French actress who is the innocent cause of an admirer's suicide which gives her a "past" that threatens for a time to make a mess of her future, but, of course, does not. Miss Young carries off many gay and frivolous scenes well, and is equal to her more heavy ones, but she and all the others, aided by everything the camera, nature, scenery and lights, cannot make "The Forbidden Woman" any more than a piece of stock fiction, which will not bother those who like such.

Unidentified review

The only fault with The Forbidden Woman is its rather slow movement. Otherwise it is very fine, and in it Clara Kimball Young looks her usual beautiful and magnificent self. The gowns she wears are gorgeous, and feminine picturegoers in particular will revel in the creations he displays. Conway Tearle, now starring in Selznick features, is her leading man.

Viewing comments

"The Forbidden Woman" is an entertaining film; while it has its flaws it holds the interest. Clara Kimball Young seems a bit mature to be behaving in such a kittenish fashion, and probably makes the character seem more foolish than intended, but it is her heedlessness which lands her in bad company. In any case, though, she looks like she's having a grand time indulging her natural playfulness, and the character is oddly endearing. The dour Conway Tearle is appropriately cast a rather stodgy American who objects to "modern" women but doesn't seem to object to silly ones, and he's blessed with a particularly handsome Afghan dog who steals all of his scenes. An annoyance in the film is the useless belaboring of the supposed significance of the title--a play in which the character stars and another character has written. This is a minor quibble, though. The film is a veritable fashion show for Young, wearing numerous gorgeous gowns. The photography is excellent and the country settings have a genuine charm and beauty which, along with the fashions and the picturesque dog, make the film a real visual pleasure. Print viewed: 35mm at the Library of Congress

Note that this also played at the 2010 Cinesation: read Mike Gebert's review here (scroll down the page to the message entitled "pt. 2".

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Last revised October 1, 2010