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The Short Films of Norma Talmadge, 1912: Reviews

Note, this is not necessarily all of the films for this year, just the ones for which I've been able to locate review or have viewing comments. For list of all the films, see the Filmography



Captain Barnacle's Messmate
The First Violin
The Sphinx, or Mrs. Carter's Necklace
(viewing comments)
Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkens (viewing comments and link to online video)
The Fortunes of a Composer (viewing comments and link to online video)
The Extension Table
The Troublesome Step-Daughters (viewing comments and link to online video)
Love Sick Maidens of Cuddletown
The Fortune in a Teacup
The Higher Mercy
Captain Barnacle's Waif
An Official Appointment
(with viewing comments)
Captain Barnacle, Reformer
O'Hara, Squatter and Philosopher
Casey at the Bat



Captain Barnacle's Messmate

Released January 20, 1912. Vitagraph. Cast: John Bunny, Norma Talmadge. 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, February 3, 1912

"CAPTAIN BARNACLE'S MESSMATE" (Vitagraph). January 24-This old favorite has not been seen of late, but once again he appears, this time to help his old friend, Captain Bunce, out of a very tight place. Bunce has met some friends on shore and as a consequence finds himself in a strange town with a very small supply of money. He seeks the lodging house of Mrs. Mulligan and engages a room. She wants payment in advance, but Bunce can't do that. However, the widow is anxious to marry a second time and sees in poor Bunce an easy victim. Once he escapes, but she brings him back and then takes his hat and shoes so he can't go again. He finds means to acquaint his old friend Barnacle with the facts and the latter comes to his rescue. While apparently sympathizing with the widow he is in reality getting means of escape to Bunce. Then ostensibly he locks him in his room and goes down to bring the minister. Instead, he goes into the back yard where Bunce is letting himself down by a rope. They start for Barnacle's boat. The widow gives chance, but they manage to reach the boat and the picture closes, Bunce smoking his pipe in peace at his mess mate's fireside. It might be proper to remark that Barnacle gives Bunce a sound berating for permitting himself to be caught in such a plight. It is a fair picture, well photographed and acceptable.


The First Violin

Released January 27, 1912. Vitagraph. Cast: Van Dyke Brooke, Flora Finch, John Bunny, Helene Costello, Hazel Neason, Maurice Costello, Norma Talmadge. 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, February 17, 1912

"THE FIRST VIOLIN" (Vitagraph). February 2.-A sentimental picture the same in kind as The Music Master. It is well acted and although it makes use of shop-worn expedients get over pretty effectively. The first violin is played by Van Dyke Brooke. Coming from the theater one day he finds a little waif (Helene Costello) whom he takes home and cares for. The little player was never sweeter than she is in this picture. She is shown playing actress and it makes a thoroughly delightful little comedy. The Children's Aid Society won't let the old bachelor keep the child. She is taken to an orphanage and, later, adopted by a lady (Miss Finch). She grows up into an overworked slavey, and from this point Miss Hazel Neason takes the role. She runs away and becomes an actress. The method used to bring her and the old and now poor violinist together was, we are sorry to say, very trite-her automobile runs over him. Once or twice Bunny appears in the picture.


The Sphinx, or Mrs. Carter's Necklace

Released March 2, 1912 1000 ft. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Scenario: George H. Plympton. Cast: Leah Baird, Maurice Costello, James Young, Van Dyke Brooke, Norma Talmadge. A copy of this film is located at the Library of Congress (35 mm.)

Viewing comments

Quite a bit of decomp in this short. Maurice Costello and his wife Leah Baird get a lift from James Young when their car breaks down. Later he needs money and tries to steal her new necklace. Ok short, Norma has a bit as the maid. Van Dyke Brooke plays the red-herring butler, and is so heavily made up as to be unrecognizable.
Print viewed: 35 mm Reel at the Library of Congress.


Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkins

Released March 9, 1912. Vitagraph. Cast: Maurice Costello, Van Dyke Brooke, Harry T. Morey, Norma Talmadge. 1000 ft. A copy of this film is located at the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam with Dutch intertitles and is availalbe online.

Review from Moving Picture World, April 6, 1912

"MRS. 'ENRY 'AWKINS" (Vitagraph), March 13.-A cheery, wholly commendable picture of costermonger life in good comedy spirit which pleased the audience very much. The character portrayals of every one in the cast, there are only four or five who play roles, is excellent; but that of Van Dyke Brooke, the old gouty father, is very fine. We didn't recognize him in this part. Liza, the girl, is played most charmingly by Miss Norma Talmage [sic]. Her two lovers are a costermonger owner of a donkey cart (Mr. Costello) and a pugilist (Mr. Morey). The action is brisk and dramatic. It is well photographed and makes a most entertaining release, a very good feature to brighten up an audience on a rainy day.

Viewing comments: More character than plot in this story, Talmadge, tightly corseted and wearing an 1890s jacket, plays a girl who chews out her gouty father and goes out to see her boyfriend, who drives a mule. Harry T. Morey plays the father's pugnacious friend who she dislikes, and Maurice Costello is her boyfriend, who has his arm in a sling. Tinted, Dutch intertitles. Print viewed: (online video at Thought Equity)


The Fortunes of a Composer

Released May 18, 1912. Vitagraph. Director: Charles Kent. Cast: Julia Swayne Gordon, Charles Kent, Edith Halleran, Norma Talmadge, Lillian Walker, Harry T. Morey. 1000 ft. A copy of this film is located at the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.

Review from Moving Picture World, June 8, 1912

"THE FORTUNES OF A COMPOSER" (Vitagraph), May 21.-Mr. Charles Kent, by very sincere acting, holds up, in this picture, a situation that otherwise would have failed to convince, would, perhaps have had little effectiveness. As it is, up to the last scene, which is tremendously effective, the interest in the story's outcome, while always awake, is secondary to the picture's lesser qualities, its acting, lighting, scene making and photography, which all are of high order. The story of the old composer's loss of memory and his separation from his friends, and even of the home coming to die in the empty theater where he had just heard his great opera rendered, are not impossible, but they are not made very real. There is plenty in the picture that does ring true and the scene where the composer dies is fine. The acting all through is excellent. Mrs. Julia Swayne Gordon plays the composer's wife; Edith Halleran and Norma Talmadge play his two daughters, and do excellent work.

Viewing comments: A "Pathetic" story centered entirely around Charles Kent, who gives a sympathetic performance. Beautifully shot, with an interesting double exposture at the end. Nice shots of the New York harbor and Ellis Island ferry. Without being able to read the titles, the plot situations are not entirely clear. Talmadge has only a small part as one of the daughters. Tinted, Dutch intertitles Print viewed: (online video at Thought Equity)


The Extension Table

Released June 22, 1912. Vitagraph. Cast: Leo Delaney, Harry T. Morey, Leah Baird, Norma Talmadge. 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, July 6, 1912

"THE EXTENSION TABLE" (Vitagraph), June 24.-Good drama, in which Leo Delaney and Harry Morey figure to good advantage. Leah Baird and Norma Talmadge acceptably fill the opposing roles. There is a touch of pathos at the conclusion of the play, when Herbert, portrayed by Morey, AT THE INVITATION OF Hayward, calls at the home of the latter and is particularly attracted by a six-weeks-old boy. Ass he holds the child in his arms, his wife (Leah Baird) from whom for months he has been estranged, enters and informs him that he is holding his own son. Reconciliation is immediate and tentative divorce papers are destroyed.


The Troublesome Step-Daughters

Released June 29, 1912. Vitagraph. Director: George D. Baker. Scenario: Marguerite Bertsch. Cast: John Bunny, Edith Storey, Clara Kimball Young, Norma Talmadge, Julia Swayne Gordon, Lillian Walker, Dolores Costello?, Helene Costello?, Dorothy Kelly, Edith Halleran. 1,000 ft. A copy of this film is located at the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam (35 mm, Dutch intertitles) and is available online

Viewing comments

John Bunny (with a mustache) is a widower with five young daughters. He is sent overseas for a few years and comes back with a new wife (Julia Swayne Gordon). He's shown her a picture of the girls but forgotten to tell her that it was taken several years before, and when she arrives she finds that the children are nearly grown up and quite unruly. Edith Story, Lillian Walker, Dorothy Kelly, Edith Ealleran, and Norma Talmadge play the girls--Norma being the most raucous. Clara Kimball Young has a bit working at the counter in the toy store. It's a fun little film and is apparently in good condition.Print viewed: (online video at Thought Equity)


Love Sick Maidens of Cuddletown

Released August 17, 1912,. Director: George D. Baker. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Charles Eldridge, Earle Williams, John Bunny, Lillian Walker, Dorothy Kelly, Edith Storey, Edith Halleran. 1000 ft. A copy of this film is available at the National Film and Television Museum in London (35 mm.)

Review from Moving Picture World, August 31, 1912

"LOVE SICK MAIDENS OF CUDDLETOWN" (Vitagraph), August 20.-The very last scene in this picture has a new twist. The idea, which in the way it is usually shown, is hardly what one could call substantial, has been used more than once by both Licensed and Independent makers and lacks freshness. It is a farce and shows the weakness of the love sick maidens of Cuddletown, who fall in love with the handsome young doctor and pretend to be sick. The Vitagraph people act it pretty well, as well as was possible.


The Fortune in a Teacup

Released September 7, 1912 Vitagraph. Director: Albert W. Hale. Author: G.B. Winstate. Cast: Rosemary Theby, Norma Talmadge, Earle Williams. 400 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, September 28, 1912

"THE FORTUNE IN A TEACUP" (Vitagraph), Sept. 14.-On the same reel [as Popular Betty] is this whimsical love story in which Miss Rosemary Theby plays the lead. Miss Norma Talmadge plays her friend who reads her fortune by the leaves in a cup of tea. Earle Williams plays the lover and the interpreter of the "fortune." It is easy enough to be "far from home" and "across water," if there is a handy brook and one wants to take a long walk. Miss G. B. Winsat wrote the little comedy. Albert W. Hale produced it. The two make a good offering.


The Higher Mercy

Released September 7, 1912. Vitagraph. Director: W.V. Ranous. Author: Charles L. Gaskill. Cast: James Morrison, Julia Swayne Gordon, Rose Tapley, Norma Talmadge, Kenneth Casey, Hal Wilson, Florence Ashbrook. 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, September 21, 1912

"THE HIGHER MERCY" (Vitagraph), Sept. 10.-A war-time picture which gives us a very engaging glimpse of Abraham Lincoln's home life and his fatherly affection for Tod, his little son. Mr. Ince's Lincoln has, in some of its scenes, the same accent on the great President's heavy mindedness which, as shown, we feel to be a mistake, but in these lighter scenes he has probably struck the right note. It is very fine and human. The hero of the picture is Mr. Morrison, and is just the same figure that we had in "The Seventh Son."

Cowardice, even when it is explained away, so far as the spirit is concerned, by being shown as an incurable physical defect, which the coward is burdened with an which he can't help, is not and never can be so effective a theme for art as courage, even if it is due to physical perfection. The half-light of science is deadly to art. The soul knows instinctively the sources of its life and its power. Scientific truth will never compel the soul to love anyone because of degrading imperfections; too many men have overcome in spite of weakness. In this case, the aim is not love, but pity; it is not a very high aim.

In the cast we find Julia Swayne Gordon, as the soldier's mother, Rose Tapley as Mrs. Lincoln; Norma Talmage [sic] as the soldier's sister, Kenneth Casey, as Tod; Hal Wilson as a colored servant and Florence Ashbrook, as Tod's colored nurse. The picture was written by Charles L. Gaskill and produced by W.V. Ranous.


Captain Barnacle's Waif

Released September 14, 1912. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author: W.A. Tremayne. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Paul Kelly. 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, October 5, 1912

"CAPTAIN BARNACLE'S WAIF" (Vitagraph), Sept. 10.-A touching little heart story. As a well-made pump will always work under the right conditions, so it seems, the old, old formula for producing pathos will, when skillfully put together, be effective, time and again. There is nothing new in this picture and t is plainly put together in a mechanical way; but it is a good offering, it has the elements of the kind of popularity that pays both maker and exhibitor and will be liked and liked very much. It is a story of an uninstructed waif (Paul Kelly) who was kindly treated by Capt. Barnacle (Van D. Brooke) and who is later caught stealing. The captain had ordered him out of the house; but the little daughter (Norma Talmadge) pleads for him and he is given another chance. He makes good and becomes a hero. It was skillfully put together by W. A. Tremayne and produced by Van Dyke Brooke, who has made a good commercial offering of it.


An Official Appointment

Released November 2, 1912 (Also known as His Official Appointment) Director: Charles Kent. Author: Catherine Carr. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Charles Kent, Hal Wilson, Edith Clinton, Tefft Johnson. 1000 ft. Copies of this film are located at the Library of Congress (35 mm.) and Cinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio De Janeiro (16 mm.). This film is available on video

Review from Moving Picture World, November 16, 1912

"AN OFFICIAL APPOINTMENT" (Vitagraph) Nov. 4.-Miss Catherine Carr has given us a decidedly worth while picture in this story, taken from the fringes of official life in Washington, D.C. Mr. Charles Kent produced it and plays the leading role, a Kentucky colonel, not unlike the famous "Colonel Carter," who, with his old darkie servant (Harold Wilson), has waited long and vainly for an appointment. A fake appointment is sent to him by some flippant clerks and the mortification is a cruel blow. The official appointment is soon brought by the secretary's daughter; but he sits dead in his arm chair. Surely here is a popular picture, one whose success is assured. It is a desirable offering. Mr. Tefft Johnson plays the secretary; Mrs. B.F. Clinton, a house keeper, and Miss Norma Talmadge the secretary's daughter.

Viewing comments

An impoverished Southern gentleman (and his loyal servant in blackface) wait in vain for some sort of government appointment. He stops Norma's runaway carriage amid some interesting location shots of Washington D.C. Charles Kent is tedious as the old southerner, while Norma's performance has a bit of a continuity problem-she is perfectly calm when rescued, but later runs frantically into her father's office to mime the whole terrible story. Perhaps she wanted to give Daddy a good scare.

Print viewed: Videotape: The Films of Norma Talmadge (1911-1916). B & W. The tape runs approximately two hours and has an appropriate musical score. The Films of Norma Talmadge is now available on DVD from Grapevine Video, though the films are the same analog transfers as were on the videotape, which Jack Hardy notes on his site.


Captain Barnacle, Reformer

Released November 9, 1912. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author: W.A. Tremayne. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Hughie Mach, Courteney Foote, Robert McWade, Mrs. Maurice . 1000 ft.

Review from Moving Picture World, November 23, 1912

"CAPTAIN BARNACLE, REFORMER" (Vitagraph), Nov. 11.-The Captain Barnacle stories have all been very popular, and while this is not so good as the best, it is better than the average. We miss Bunny's Cap'n Bunce; but though the player who takes the role is not our most amusing friend, he does very well. Cap'n Barnacle is still played by Van Dyke Brooke, who, as of old, also produces the picture. The scenario is by W. L. Tremayne and the story is at least in outline, no new; yet it has newly conceived characters and much freshness. One of its scenes is a thunder storm in which the lightning flashes around the captain's little cabin in a very effective way. A ship has come ashore on the beach and this gives Cap'n Barnacle's protégé, the young man whom he has reformed, a chance to prove himself a hero. Afterward Barnacle manages a reconciliation between this lad and his crusty old father who had disowned him for drunkenness. In the cast, Hughie Mack plays Cap. Bunce; Norma Talmadge, Cap. Barnacle's daughter; Courtney Foots [sic], the lad; Robert McWade, the miserly father, and Mrs. Maurice, the mother.


O'Hara, Squatter and Philosopher

Released November 23, 1912. Cast: Van Dyke Brooke, William Shea, Robart Gaillord, Kate Price, Mrs. Mary Maurice, Dorothy Kelly, Hughie Mack, Richard Rosson, Norma Talmadge. 1000 ft.


Review from Moving Picture World, December 14, 1912

"O'HARA, SQUATTER AND PHILOSOPHER" (Vitagraph), Nov. 30.--The author of this picture of life in the shanty borders of Brooklyn deserves credit for a fresh and human glimpse of a few good Irish characters; two of 'em are real fightin' Irishmen, and O'Hara is a peacemaker. Underneath the neighborhood scrap, caused by O'Grady's goat, who gets some of Sullivan's cherished flowers, is a love story. Sullivan's daughter and Grady's son are sweethearts, and it is chiefly to help these two that O'Hara is moved to act. The picture was ably produced by Van Dyke Brooke, who plays O'Hara. Perhaps the best thing in it is William Shea's Tim Sullivan in a a fighting mood. He is so mad he breaks his own dudheen, and his hands and feet seem to "smell battle from far." Robert Gaillord is also good. These three men, with Kate Price as Mrs. Sullivan, really make the picture. Also in the cast are Mrs. Maurice, Dorothy Kelly, Hughie Mack, Richard Rosson and Norma Talmadge. It is a very enjoyable offering.

Casey at the Bat

Released December 28, 1912. Vitagraph. Director and Scenario: James Young. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Harry T. Morey, Harry Northrup, Kate Price.

Review from Moving Picture World, January 18, 1913

"CASEY AT THE BAT" (Vitagraph), Jan. 1. James Young has written and produced a farce about the well-known Casey who was counted a wonderful batsman, but who strikes out and loses the game. Harry T. Morey plays this over-confident Casey and wins many a laugh by his facial expression both before and after his downfall. Norma Talmage [sic] takes the part of the girl who loves him, but turns from him in his misfortune to the policeman played by Harry Northrup. Kate Price is the girl's mother. A very fair offering that will lighten the program and amuse.




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Last revised, November 2, 2011

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