The Only Woman (1924) Norma Talmadge Productions/First National. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Directed by Sidney Olcott. Story by Gardner Sullivan. Photographed by Tony Gaudio. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Eugene O'Brien, Edward Davis, Winter Hall, Matthew Betz, E. H. Calvert, Stella Di Lanti, Murdock MacQuarrie, Rev. Neal Dodd, Brooks Benedict, Charles O'Malley. 7 reels. A copy of this film is located at the Library of Congress (35 mm., poor image quality)
|An unsourced clipping of Eugene O'Brien with an inset of a scene from the film|
A Norma Talmadge production presented by Joseph M. Schenck. Distributed by First National. Story by C. Gardner Sullivan, directed by Sidney Olcott. Shown at the Capitol, New York, week Nov. 2. Running time, 68 min.
|Helen Brinsley||Norma Talmadge|
|Rex Herrington||Eugene O'Brien|
|"Fighting Jerry" Herrington, Rex's father||Edward Davis|
|William Brinsley||Winter Hall|
|Ole Hanson||Matthew Betz|
|Bingo||Stella di Lanti|
|Yacht Captain||Murdock MacQuarry|
|Minister||Rev. Neal Dodd|
|First Officer||Brooks Benedict|
If it wasn't for Norma Talmadge being the star of this production and if it hadn't been directed by Sidney Olcott, "The Only Woman" would be a typical small timer. The story by C. Gardner Sullivan is one especially written for the screen. It is an old told tale oft told in the movies and minus a single new angle. When it starts one knows immediately the finish. With Norma Talmadge the picture will get some money at the box office, but it is certain that Miss Talmadge can't go along with pictures of this sort and hold her place.
The plot concerns the daughter of a man who has utilized a trust fund for his personal speculations and the son of a wealthy banker who is a stew. The banker is aware of the speculations of the father of the girl and proposes that the daughter marry his son, make a man of him, or he will expose the breach of trust. The girl to save her father, consents to the arrangement, and after a time succeeds in making a man of the boy falling in love with him during the process of his regeneration.
The picture must have cost something fancy to make because of the sea stuff it carries. Olcott has handled his share of the work wonderfully well, carrying the story along in great shape and not permitting it to lag at any stage. He might have done a whole lot worse with the material in hand.
Eugene O'Brien plays the lead opposite the star and does fairly well in the role of the rich man's sodden son. Edward Davis plays the banker and looks the role from the ground up. A heavy bit is contributed by Mathew Betz, who looks good for a No. 2 Wolheim in a second company of "What Price Glory," Betz is there in what he does in this picture. The others of the cast with the exception of Winter Hall, do not matter much. They fill the picture and that lets them out.
A trite story, greatly padded. The usual father tottering on the edge of disgrace forces his dutiful daughter into a mercenary marriage with a young waster. Eventually, in a shipwreck, the scapegrace proves himself and the girl comes to love him. Director Sidney Olcott's handling of the situations is workmanlike. Norma Talmadge's acting is adequate and her gowns are an eyeful.
This film, sandwiched between Talmadge's two great Borzage pictures, seems on paper like rather a come-down. But it is really quite entertaining. The plot hinges on the dubious premise that all a man needs to cure his alcoholism is a good wife. Talmadge plays a more assertive role than usual, standing up to her father in law, taking her husband in hand (binding and gagging him when necessary!) and even accomplishes the are movie feat of konking the villain on the head with a bottle while he fights with the hero--though she doesn't have sense enough to finish the job (that apparently being man's work). Eugene O'Brien does well as the falling-down drunk of a husband in a role with more meat than usual. The shipwreck sequence is very exciting and well staged and production values are overall high.
Print viewed: 35 mm at the Library of Congress. There is some serious nitrate deterioration in the wedding sequence at the end of reel two, but it's not really essential to the plot and could easily be replaced with a bridging title.
Last revised, July 7, 2010