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The Rise of Susan (1915)

The Rise of Susan (1916) World Film Corp.; Peerless. Distributor: World Film Corporation. Director: S.E.V. Taylor. Scenario: Frances Marion. Camera: Hal Young. Gowns: Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon). Cast: Clara Kimball Young, Jenny Dickerson, Warner Oland, Marguerite Skirwin, Eugene O'Brien, Edward M. Kimball (unbilled). 5 reels. 35 and 16 mm. prints of reels 4 and 5 of this film is held by the Library of Congress.

This was Clara Kimball Young's last feature to be released by World. According to Kevin Brownlow in Behind the Mask of Innocence, release had been delayed for a year, so it may not have been the last she made there.


A Lucile gown worn in the picture, which appeared in the Sunday North American, January 28, 1917. Described as: Ivory chiffon and lace evening gown over foundation of flesh pink silk and trimmed with pink and blue rosettes. Lucile Gown 1

A second Lucile gown from the same issue. Described as: Rose and silver afternoon gown , black net hat with pink ribbons. Lucile gown 2
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Review from Variety
Reviews from Moving Picture World
Viewing comments

Review from Variety, December 14, 1916

"The Rise of Susan"
Susan Clara Kimball Young
Mrs. Joseph Luckett Jenny Dickerson
Sinclair La Salle Warner Oland
Ninon Marguerite Skirwin
Clavering Gordon Eugene O'Brien

This Peerless (World) five-reeler probably dates back a year, when Clara Kimball Young was with the World Film under Lewis J. Selznick, and is now released with new titles, its name apparently being taken from that of a serial story featured by Hearst's magazine entitled "Susan Lennox, Her Rise and Fall," although the stories are entirely dissimilar. Susan's father dabbles in the arts and by her work in a fashionable shop their home is maintained. One day she is late and is discharged, but as the model is suddenly called away, Susan is re-engaged to fill that position. When Mrs. Luckett (Jenny Dickerson) calls to see some gowns for her daughter, she is much struck by the new model's carriage and when the countess who was to be guest of honor at Mrs. Luckett's reception that night sends a note of apology saying it will be impossible for her to appear, Susan is prevailed upon to appear at the affair and impersonate the titled guest. There she meets Clavering Gordon (Eugene O'Brien) and the two fall in love, much to Mrs. Luckett's dislike, since her daughter Ninon (Marguerite Skirwin) has set her heart upon having Gordon. On the wedding day Susan exposes the sham of her title and swoons, being taken secretly to a hospital. Her father having been killed by an explosion of some chemicals, Susan takes up nursing. Ninon and Gordon are married and six years pass. One day Ninon, becoming deranged through drugs, is brought to the hospital and Susan is assigned to nurse her. In a fit of insanity Ninon attacks Susan with a pair of scissors and flings herself out the window. Gordon appears after the occurrence, and his delayed marriage with Susan follows, though she has been blinded. The story isn't brilliant, but Miss Young does her usually good and likeable work. The direction, by S.E.V. Taylor, is fair, although the staircase at the Luckett home is too much in evidence. The photography for the most part is very good.



Reviews from Moving Picture World

December 23, 1916

"The Rise of Susan"
Clara Kimball Young in a Five-Reel Peerless Photoplay with a Strong Melodramatic Finish--Released by the World Film Corporation
Reviewed by Edward Weitzel

The Rise of Susan," the five-reel Peerless photoplay starring Clara Kimball Young, is compounded of several grades of material. In following the career of a beautiful young working girl who is persuaded to pass herself off as a countess, the picture reveals phases of the social world that are amusing, takes and unexpected plunge into the realms of melodrama, and embraces a series of incidents that demand strenuous acting on the part of the star and several members of the cast.

The meteoric flight of the shopgirl is occasioned by the failure of a real countess to appear at a reception given by a social climber. The hostess, a woman of resources, gets Susan to assume the titled lady's name. The inevitable follows. A wealthy young chap falls in love with the pseudo countess and the ensuing complications involve a dramatic scene at the altar, an attempt at murder, and the suicide of the woman who stands between Susan and the hero of the story.

Several of the situations will not square with a high idea of personal conduct on the part of the hero and the heroine. Susan's act in allowing young Gordon to court her under the delusion that he is to marry a lady of noble birth, and Gordon's calm acceptance of Mrs. Luckett's advice not to see Susan and demand an explanation when she deserts him just as the wedding ceremony is about to begin, lower the tone of the drama, but have decided effect in giving it varied action and theatric vigor.

[Photo omitted: Young in a frilly dress facing Ms. Dickerson.

Those who relish a middle grade screenplay of fair quality will find "The Rise of Susan" to their taste. It has been lavishly and artistically produced under the direction of S.E.V. Taylor, and the acting by Clara Kimball Young, Jenny Dickerson, Warner Oland, Marguerite Skirwin and Eugene O'Brien brings out all the dramatic possibilities of the story.



December 23, 1916

"The Rise of Susan"
(Peerless--Five-Parts--Dec. 18). The cast: Susan (Clara Kimball Young); Mrs. Joseph Luckett (Jenny Dickerson); Sinclair La Salle (Warner Oland); Ninon (Marguerite Skirwin); Clavering Gordon (Eugene O'Brien). Directed by S.E.V. Taylor.

Susan, a young girl, the support of her old uncle, earns her living in Madame Millet's fashionable shop. She almost loses her position through her rebuff of the advances of Madame's son, but the arrival of a rich customer renders he services as model necessary. The customer, Mrs. Luckett, a parvenu, struggling desperately to get into society, is struck by Susan's beauty and ladylike bearing, and when a Countess, whom she intended to use as an entering wedge into society, fails to appear, she prevails upon Susan to assume the role of Countess for a night.

Susan is a great success and society goes mad over the titled lady. Mrs. Luckett is delighted and insists that Susan continue to play the role. At first Susan refuses, but Mrs. Luckett's pleas and the sudden death of her uncle cause her to change her mind, and she decided to go through with the part. As the Countess, Susan wins the heart of Clavering Gordon, a wealthy and attractive young bachelor. Mrs. Luckett had hoped to "land" Gordon as husband for her daughter, Ninon, and she resents Susan's rivalry.

She tells Susan that the disappointment of losing Gordon is killing Ninon, and urges her to go away. Though now deeply in love with Gordon, Susan decides to sacrifice her own feelings to save Ninon. She is about to leave when La Salle, Mrs. Luckett's scheming social secretary, tells her that Ninon is a confirmed drug fiend, and would only ruin Gordon's life. He persuades Susan that she owes it to Gordon to marry him, and save him from Ninon and at last Susan is won over by his arguments.

Just before the marriage ceremony, the scheming secretary reveals his true motives. He demands a large sum of money from Susan on penalty that, if she refuses, he will reveal to the assembled wedding guests that she is not a Countess, but a poor working girl and an imposter. Susan is dismayed. Determining that she will go no further with the deception, and scorning the secretary, she rushes into the midst of the wedding party and confesses all. Before the astonished Gordon or any of the other guests can stop her, she disappears.

Seeking to forget he sorrow and unhappiness, Susan becomes a nurse and by her sweet unselfishness, wins the love of all whom she meets. After Susan disappeared, Gordon searched in vain, and finally despairing over the results and giving up all hopes of ever finding her, her marries Ninon, in the hope of reforming her. His hopes are vain, for with the years Ninon has grown continually worse, until she has become a shattered wreck. Susan is called upon to nurse her, and though town with conflicting emotions, when she learns that Ninon is the wife of Gordon, the man she loves, Susan tries desperately to save the drug-crazed woman.

After a fierce struggle, the maddened Ninon succeeds in blinding Susan with a pair of scissors and then flings herself from the window to her death in the court below. Gordon meets the blinded Susan, and after a brief courtship, the two are married. In their great love they are rendered doubly happy by indications that Susan's sight is about to be restored.



Viewing comments

Only the last two reels of the film survive; the story picks up where Susan is getting cold feet about marrying a man who thinks she is a countess. The drug subplot is interesting. Judging from the available fragment, Young is good in the parts not requiring extreme emotion, but at the emotional high points she overacts, and once she is blinded she becomes the wide-eyed automaton she was as the hypnotized Trilby. Young's father Edward M. Kimball makes an unbilled appearance as the doctor who tells her her sight may return. Eugene O'Brien, playing the man she's afraid to marry, seems understandably confused by the proceedings. His character shows stunning indifference to his young daughter who has just witnessed her mother blind someone and jump out of a window! Warner Oland is an appropriately slimy villain.
Print viewed: 35mm reels 4 and 5 at the Library of Congress.


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Last revised October 13, 2005