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The Eternal City (1915)

The Eternal City (1915) Famous Players Film Co. Distributor: Select Film Booking Agency, Inc. Presenter: Daniel Frohman. Director: Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford. Cast: Pauline Frederick, Thomas Holding, Kittens Reichert, Arthur Oppenheim, George Stillwell, Della Bella, Frank Losee, Fuller Mellish, Jiquel Lanoe, George Majeroni, John Clulow, Lottie Alter, Lawrence Grant, Macy Harlan , Walter Craven, F. Gaillard, Mary Lander, Robert Vivian, Herbert Huber, William Lloyd, J. Albert Hall. 8 reels. This film appears to be LOST

This was Pauline Frederick's first film. It was shot on location in England and Italy in 1914. It was reissued in 1918 and remade in 1923 with Lionel Barrymore and Barbara La Marr. This version may survive in fragmentary form.

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

Review from Variety, January 1, 1915


A special invitation exhibition of the Famous Players' "The Eternal City," picturized from Hall Caine's novel, was given at the Lyceum, New York, Sunday evening. The subject is of about the length of a stage performance, and is rich in photographic surprises and dramatic power. It held the audience spellbound for more than two hours, and left them with the conviction that the year has brought forth nothing finer in the camera art than the appealing story of Donna Roma and David Leone. Pauline Frederick, now playing in "Innocent," does extremely well on the screen. She has an uncommonly mobile and expressive face and manages to put a vast amount of emotional power in her pantomime. The other members of the cast are quite equal to the exacting requirements of the play. Many of the views were taken in Rome. St. Peter's cathedral figures at several points in the action, and the camera man has secured many splendid scenes with the huge church as the background. The long perspectives of pillared corridors are especially effective by reason of the skillful management of light and shade. The climax of the story comes during the mass meeting of the political radicals in the Coliseum. Here is disclosed a veritable triumph of stage management. No better handling of a mob scene has been shown on the screen. Hundreds of supers are employed as the mob, not to speak of troupes of soldiery. The action when citizens and soldiers go into conflict is startlingly realistic. The panic of the trapped citizens as they rush about in frenzy between the lines of firing soldiers, and their mad flight from cavalry charges are tremendously impressive. The stage management closely approaches perfection, and takes added strength from the fact that it is backed by a dramatic situation of unusual power. Those portions of the novel which deal with the church and its dignitaries are handled with nicest taste. The whole subject is given an air of dignity and nobility that saves it from any possibility of offense. The religious procession to St. Peter's appears to have been taken during a real church celebration and worked into the story by clever in-setting. All those passages have the stamp of authority, and the "atmosphere" is splendidly secured. The intricate story is well worked out in scenario form although the method of narration is somewhat different from that of the novel. For example, the death of David's mother by suicide, the boy's early hardships and his adoption by the italian political refugee in London, are disclosed in the beginning, instead of during the later chapters as in the book. This lends clearness to the tale as it comes upon the screen. The story is always understandable and the character relations are sharply defined. Indeed, the picture is a notable example of the expert handling of a difficult and complex narrative. The subject has a wealth of scenic beauty. One view--at the departure of David and Bruno from their beloved Rome--an exquisite panorama of the historic city is shown in the middle distance, while the two men stand silhouetted in the foreground beside a fountain in the waters of which is reflected the light of the setting sun. This was but one of the score or more bits of artistic composition which time and again evoked applause. The exhibition was carefully arranged. Special music aided the effects, and at the opening a pretty stage setting showed a colored panorama of Rome, looking toward the Vatican from the river, the lights fading from dusk to deep darkness, while the lighted windows came out one by one. "The Eternal City" is a picture of the highest and best kind and enriches the art with one of its finest efforts.

Reviews from Moving Picture World

January 9, 1915

"The Eternal City"
The Eight-Part Famous Player's Adaptation of Hall Caine's Story is a Great Production`
Reviewed by George Blaisdell.

Donna Roma Pauline Frederick
David Rossi (David Leone) Thomas Holding
Little Roma Kittens Reichert
Little David Arthur Oppenheim
Baron Bonelli Frank Losee
Pope Pius XI Fuller Mellish
Doctor Roselli Ciquel Lanoe
Doctor Roselli George Majeroni
Bruno Rocco John Clulow
Prosecuting Attorney J. Albert Hall

Staged amid the crumbling monuments of ancient Rome and the magnificent piles of the modern capital, The Eternal City," produced in eight parts by the Famous Players, will rank with the world's best kinematographic accomplishments. This adaptation of Hall Caine's famous book is a dramatic and spectacular triumph. Entering into its making is a combination of factors that is rare. In the first place, it is directed by Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford, a union of screen and state authorities. Then there is a story of dramatic power, a human story, a story of the heart. It touches the lives of two children, a boy and a girl, and it follows these two into manhood and womanhood. In its course it comes in contact with the humble and the great, with the working forces of a nation and with the ruling forces; with church dignitaries, surrounded by all the panoply of exalted station and also revealed as men with human and animated by the same impulses as sway other men. Then there are the remarkable backgrounds, the sacred and impressive reminders of the glories of other ages and the architectural wonders erected by church and state of a later day.

[Omitted, photo of a woman and an older man in a room with chairs.]

To Pauline Frederick has been given the role of Donna Roma. Miss Frederick shows in strong contrast the two personalities--the butterfly, the favorite of the ruling statesman, and the woman who falls under the spell of a man who loves her. If in the beginning she fail to charm, if we see only the heartless woman, the known sinner against the conventions of society publicly uncovered to the sneers of the world and bent on revenge, all the more surely and effectively do we later feel the influence of the real woman when she finds herself. True it is that this is Miss Frederick's first appearance before the camera, but we have no outward indication of the fact. The superb artist stands out, and at no time more strongly than in the scene in her studio where David sits as a model for one of the apostles as he believes, for Judas Iscariot as she has told Bonelli. David is telling of his childhood, and in the story there enters a child, a little girl in whom Roma gradually discovers herself. And this is but one of many.

Thomas Holding is David Rossi. Mr. Holding gives a fine, a finished, performance. His interpretation of the well-born man who devotes his life to the less fortunate is virile. There is in it the tenderness that goes with strength, the capacity for action that lies in the dreamer roused. It may be only a coincidence, but it is a noteworthy fact that the man much resembles the child David, which markedly contributes to the illusion. Frank Losee as Baron Bonelli does work that stands out, as do also Fuller Mellish, George Majeroni, John Clulow and J. Albert Hall. There is an unusually long cast, and it is a most competent one.

In the first part we delve deep into the heart of the story. Little David, the victim of an unspeakable padrone, in a snowstorm falls asleep on the doorstep of Dr. Roselli. Under the tattered coat is the squirrel, the only object of affection possessed by the child. The benevolent doctor takes David into the house and brings back the ebbing life. The squirrel is dead, and David weeps. Little Roma puts her hand on the ragamuffin's head and tries to console him. We have heart interest right here, and in abundance. It holds throughout the entire production.

Wonderfully effective are the scenes showing the Pope's jubilee--the great Plaza, the winding religious processions, the crowd listening to David Rossi, and the premier and his mistress on the balcony looking on. Most remarkable of all, however, are the views of the great public meeting in the Coliseum. One feels impelled to inquire if at any time, anywhere, has a dramatic subject been staged under such unique circumstances. The upper tiers of the immense roofless walls are lined with soldiers; down below, many hundreds and seemingly several thousand men are crowded about David Rossi as he tells what should be done to prevent the increase in taxation. It is all so strange as almost to seem uncanny. The dramatic appearance of Roma, determined to save from official assassination the man she had set out to destroy but instead had learned to love, brings us back to the story.

[Omitted, photo of woman reaching her arm towards a man]

We have not space to enumerate the wealth of incident and action. The production has the merit of rising interest; the last third is the best of all. The scenes laid in the home of the Pope are treated with utmost reverence and with sure touch. The killing of Bonelli is devoid of gruesomeness. One rises at the conclusion of the performance feeling that he has seen a motion picture worth while--that he has looked upon something the memory of which will pleasantly remain with him.

In story "The Eternal City" is big. In production--with its historic backgrounds, its panorama of great monuments, shown to advantage in artistic photographic bits as well as in comprehensive whole; in its visualization of a literary work that seems bound to live; in the dramaturgic and histrionic skill displayed by its makers and actors--"The Eternal City" is great.

January 9, 1914

Notable Showing of "The Eternal City".
First Presentation of Famous Players Film at the Lyceum is Impressively Conducted by S. L. Rothapfel.

The first public showing of the Famous Players eight-part adaptation of Hall Caine's famous story of "The Eternal City" was given at the Lyceum Theatre on the evening of Sunday, December 27. The staging and the special orchestral accompaniment were under the supervision of S.L. Rothapfel of the Strand Theatre. Although Mr. Rothapfel had but a few days in which to prepare for the premier, he succeeded materially in enhancing the pleasure of the performance and in increasing the atmosphere of the big Roman production. Two large stage sets had been prepared, one being shown just before the performance, and the second just following the intermission. The first showed the Tiber, with the light shining across the water from buildings on the shore. The second preceded the showing of the stormy scenes in the Coliseum.

Cheering men massed behind the curtain lent verisimilitude to the views of the throngs applauding David Rossi in the jubilee procession and later in the Coliseum. A bell tolled at the indicated times added to the effectiveness. The music, given by a concealed orchestra, was well chosen.

The presentation was attended by many men and women prominent in the film and stage world. Pauline Frederick, who is featured in "The Eternal City," held an impromptu reception in the lobby following the exhibition.

The souvenir program was a feature in itself. It consisted of twenty pages, decorated, and printed in sepia. The size was 12 by 9 inches. On the outside of the front cover was a picture of the Coliseum, with St. Peter's in the background. On the inside was a photograph of Hall Caine. Then, on succeeding pages, were a full-length portrait of Pauline Frederick, thumbnail pictures of the principals in the play and the cast of characters, the story of how the Famous Players came to film the subject, a synopsis of the story, and many reproductions of important scenes.

December 21, 1918

Adolph Zukor Presents Pauline Frederick in a Reissued Version of Hall Caine's Powerfully Dramatic Story.


Donna Roma Pauline Frederick
David Rossa (David Leone) Thomas Holding
Little Roma Kittens Reickert
Little David Arthur Oppenheim
Leone, a Papal Guardsman George Stillwell
His Wife Della Bella
Baron Bonelli Frank Losee
Pope Pius XI Fuller Mellish
Charles Minghelli Ciquel Lanoe
Doctor Roselli George Majeroni
Bruno Rocco John Clulow

The Story: The wife of Leone, a member of the Papal Guard, believing herself to have been deserted, abandons their infant son to the mercies of the Sisters of Charity and destroys herself. Little David is brought up by the sisters, and turned over to a Padrone, who takes him to London and mistreats him. David is befriended by Dr. Roselli, a political exile, and becomes the playmate of Roma, the doctor's daughter. He assumes the name of Rossa. With the passing of years, Roma becomes the ward of Baron Bonelli, and is supposed to have become his mistress. David is a socialist agitator, and is particularly fervent in his denunciation of the baron, who is Prime Minister of Italy. The baron arranges to have David killed, but Roma saves him. Later she is induced to betray him through lying promises of clemency for her husband. David thinks her betrayal intentional. He kills the baron, and Roma assumes the blame for the crime. David, befriended by the Pope, finds the Pontiff his father, and through the latter's influence Roma is freed and reunited to her husband.

Feature: Pauline Frederick as Donna Roma and Thomas Holding as David Rossa.

Program and Advertising Phrases: Famous Stage Success Lives Again in Brilliant Photoplay Presentation.
Hall Caine's Famous Novel and State Success Returns to Screen.
Famous Photoplay, Novel and State Drama Filled with Action.
Pauline Frederick Brilliant Star of Famous Novel-Based Photodrama.
Hall Caine's Greatest Novel, Stage Success and Screen Revival.

Advertising Angles: Be frank in telling your patrons that this story is one reissued because of its original success. Recall the success Miss Fredericks originally won in this role. Your bookseller should be willing to make a display of the novel if he still has any in stock, and you can use stills for a window display in connection therewith. A lobby display in the papal colors (white and gold) might help, especially in Catholic neighborhoods.

Advertising Aids: Two each one, three and six sheets. One 24-sheet. Lobby displays, 8x10, 11x14 and 22/28. Cuts from one to three columns on star and production. Advertising lay-out mats. Slides, Press book.

Released December 15.

Five-Part release Reissue of the Hall Caine Story Featuring Pauline Frederick on Paramount Program.
Reviewed by Edward Weitzel.

The latest reissue on the Paramount Success Series is a five-part version of the Hall Caine story of Rome and London. "The Eternal City," featuring Pauline Frederick. In several ways this picture of three years ago stands revival with considerable credit to itself. First of all is the fact that the outdoor scenes in Rome and London were taken in these famous cities themselves. In Rome, the views of the outside of the Vatican and of St. Peter's and the scenes at the Coliseum should give the picture unique interest. It is also thoroughly well acted by the star and supporting cast whose leading members consist of Thomas Holding, Frank Losee, Fuller Melish, George Majeroni, Lottie Alter and George Stillwell.

The story is one of those high pressure romances that Hall Caine delights in writing. The plot is complicated, but it has been condensed into five parts without losing the thread of events. A fictitious pope is one of the characters. The love story concerns David Rossa and Donna Roma, one an abandoned infant who becomes a power in Italian politics; the other, a beautiful girl, a foster sister of David's who is known as the mistress of Baron Bonelli, but is reunited to the man she had known as loved as a child.

Notice and Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror

January 6, 1915

Adaptation of Hall Caine's Novel and Play of the Same Name. Produced by the Famous Players Film Company in Eight Parts. Directed by Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford

Donna Roma Pauline Frederick
David Rossi (David Leone) Thomas Holding
Little Roma Kittens Reickert
Little David Arthur Oppenheim
Leone, a Papal guardsman George Stillwell
His Wife Della Bella
Baron Bonelli Frank Losee
Pope Pius XI Fuller Mellish
Charles Minghelli Ciquel Lanoe
Dr. Roselli George Majeroni
Bruno Rocco John Clulow
Elena Rocco, his wife Amelia Rose
Joseph Rocco, their son Freddie Verdi
Princess Bellini Lottie Alter
English Ambassador Lawrence Grant
Members of the Embassy Macy Harlan and Walter Craven
The Baker F. Gaillard
The Baker's Wife Mary Lander
Father Pifferi Robert Vivian
Padrone Herbert Huben
Felice William Lloyd

"The Eternal City" is the best argument that an American producer has ever offered in favor the long photoplay; more than that, we are inclined to name it as the finest dramatic work thus far made here or elsewhere. And having penned this assertion, we have premonitions of a chorus of protests that may, or may not, be forestalled by a little explanation. Stories have been presented in eight reels of pictures frequently enough; but there have been few eight-reel stories. Perhaps the difference is sufficiently obvious; but if it is not, if one wants to see exactly what is meant by an eight-reel story in contrast to a story made to fill eight reels, we can do no better than suggest a careful consideration of this presentation.

"The Eternal City" has the first essential of any drama, whether of the stage or the screen, a big, human narrative developed with surprising skill; it has the second, players who are able to express the last throb of emotion born of dramatic situations; and it has the third, magnificent settings, new to photoplays--the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Gardens--all photographed in Rome last Summer. Estimate the qualities comprising the appeal of "Cabiria," of "Quo Vadis," of any one of the startling spectacles, American or foreign, and the order will be reversed. First of all, one appreciates a tremendous scenic accomplishment, and after that one follows the classic narrative and the expression given it by the actors with an interest largely dependent upon a knowledge of history. And again, what makes the most lasting impression in our best western pictures? Is it the story, the acting, or is it some battle or massacre held in a valley flanked by towering mountains? Theatrical producers have learned to their sorrow that settings, however gorgeous, will not carry a play, and now that the novelty has worn off the same is likely to be true in pictures. People want more than an appeal to the eye, they want a story that grips the interest without offending the intelligence, and they want acting that touches the sympathies. Because "The Eternal City" scores high on these two counts, and is beautifully staged in the bargain, we call it the finest of dramatic works. Now for the chorus of protests.

To be truly consistent we would immediately point out the virtues of the plot derived from Hall Caine's novel and play; but Pauline Frederick upsets the natural order of things. The whole production is a surprise, and she is the biggest surprise of all. She sweeps everything before her in quite the most persuasive and natural portrayal of an emotional role that we recall. Her beauty, dark, intense, striking--the happy combination of strongly molded features, fascinating eyes, a wealth of hair and a superb figure--makes her an ideal type for pictures. And behind the physical charm, which Miss Frederick possesses to such a marked degree, is a mature art that makes a real character of Donna Roma--a woman of deep passion and high spirit. One feels the passion and the spirit, harbingers of tragedy, when Donna Roma stands on the balcony of the prime minister's house and hears herself denounced by David Leone, the young Socialist orator, whom she does not recognize as the playmate of her childhood. But the audience knows the relationship of these two people and recognizes the strong dramatic contrast in position and ideals that the years of separation have wrought. From this point Miss Frederick builds up a character of compelling force, revealing with remarkable fidelity each emotional fluctuation as her hatred of David turns into a love so sincere that to save him she shoulders the blame for a murder she did not commit.

Dominant as Miss Frederick is in the climactic scenes of the picture, the value of Thomas Holdings genuine playing of the part of David should not be overlooked. He is an excellent type for an idealistic reformer, as is Frank Losee for the character of Baron Bonelli, who becomes prime minister. The only questionable bit of acting is given by Fuller Mellish as Pope Pius XI, who, toward the close of the film, he reverts to his familiar state practice of over-emphasis and exaggerated gesticulation.

Returning to the story, opening with a prologue, one conspicuous virtue is immediately apparent. There are no loose plot threads taken up and then dropped because they are unrelated to subsequent happenings. No doubt this picture could be cut; but it would suffer in consequence; for as the story progresses and becomes more involved there are frequent references to earlier relationships that give poignancy to the situations in which the characters find themselves. It is important that we know something of the childhood of David and Roma, how they came to find shelter under the same roof and were separated; how Roma, in maturity, became the mistress of Baron Bonelli and how David became a Socialist orator, never guessing that his father was the Pope. The irony of fate looms large in the parts these characters play, and by odd coincidences, made plausible in the development, the steps of three people--a Pope, a concubine and a Socialist leader--widely separated by all social laws, are guided into the same path. Starting with a clear exposition Directors Porter and Ford progressed to sound drama in which the characters are made to work out their destinies.

Considered merely as a spectacle, "The Eternal City" presents unparalleled backgrounds in scenes such as the meeting in the Coliseum and the Pope's jubilee, to mention but two of the more memorable gatherings in which large crowds are used to good purpose. As shown at the Lyceum Theater, uncertain projection lessened the value of some choice scenic effects, but that cannot be charged against the producers of this remarkable Photoplay.


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Last revised, September 14, 2005