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The Sporting Duchess (1920)

The Sporting Duchess (1920) Vitagraph Co. of America. A Vitagraph Special. Distributor: Vitagraph Co. of America. Director: George W. Terwilliger. Scenario: Lucien Hubbard. Camera: Joe Shelderfer and Charles Davis. Cast: Alice Joyce, Percy Marmont, G.V. Seyffertitz, Edith Campbell Walker, Lionel Pape, John Goldsworthy, Dan Comfort, May McAvoy, Robert Agnew, William Turner, Edward Keenan, C.T. Elmer. 7 reels This film appears to be LOST

See a Lantern Slide advertising this film from the collection at the Cleveland Public Library

Still photo. Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for these scans
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Still photo
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Alice Joyce at writing table with lamp with fringed shade
Crowd scene Lobby Card
Another lobby card
Crowd scene And another
Crowd scene Another still with Percy Marmont

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

Review from Variety, March 5, 1920


It does seem a trifle queer that with the alleged hostilities between American manufacturers of the cinema art and the British exhibitors, that we here should still keep on searching for material and at last pick it up in an English market. "The Sporting Duchess," one of the celebrated Drury Lane melodramas, born in England, has been given life in American by the Vitagraph Co, and is the feature offering at the Broadway.

Action! One of three mediums by which the cinema has and can hope to sustain the interest of a restless public is lacking in this "celebrated Drury Lane melodrama." Its subject, offering the eternal triangle, with one bad egg trying to separate a gentle son of English nobility from his cash and estates and making another effort to separate his wife from her virtue, is about as played out as "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

The story further taxes the credulity and patience of a thinking public (if picture patrons ever think) when trying to make an audience believe that a man can practice the villainy of Major Mostyn's and get away with it in the manner that he does. It makes one go away thinking that Englishmen either haven't any sense, or that for the purpose of the story it has been padded out to conform to a scenario writer's idea of fulfilling his job. It is not convincing and what is left of real dramatic worth is seen in odd moments in the picture causing a contrast between what is real and what is faked for the objective in continuity.

Its cast is better than its subject, and characters help to main an English air fitting with a locale in America that is highly deceptive.

The shots taken of the race is really the only palpitating thing in the entire feature. An average draw for the exhibitor is the verdict.


Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, March 20, 1920

Alice Joyce and her Associates Contribute Excellent Acting to Vitagraph Feature

By August Harris, Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton. Screen version by Lucien Hubbard from play. Directed by George Terwilliger. Released by Universal [sic!]

Duchess of Desborough Alice Joyce
Duke of Desborough Percy Marmont
Major Roland Mostyn G.V. Seyffertitz
Mrs. Delmaine Edith Campbell Walker
Capt. Cyprian Streatfield Lionel Pape
Rupert Leigh John Goldsworthy

[omitted, 4 photos: 1. Horses at the starting line of a race track. Caption: (At Top) The thrilling race on which "The Sporting Duchess " has staked everything is about to begin. 2. Head of Joyce with ruffled collar. 3. Joyce and man in top hat. Caption: Alice Joyce in "The Sporting Duchess" (Vitagraph) receives a friendly word from Lionel Pape when she most needs it. 4. Woman collapsed in chair with a man holding her wrist, Joyce stands nearby and looks away. Caption: The 'other woman" in the case stages a little scene for Alice Joyce's benefit in Vitagraph's "The Sporting Duchess" ]

Vitagraph's photoplay "The Sporting Duchess, " a picturization of the celebrated Drury Lane melodrama, is entertaining--emphatically entertaining.

It is worth the price of admission alone just to watch a thrilling race between the horses of the villain and the heroine. However, there is no intention to say that the rest of the picture is not also in the entertaining class. When a trio of players, such as Alice Joyce, Percy Marmont, and G.V. Seyffertitz, work in their most skillful manner, in a well balanced story, containing a logical plot--there is no room for fault-finding.

Seyffertitz as Major Roland Mostyn loves Muriel, Duchess of Desborough (Alice Joyce), but does not show any forced attentions upon the Duchess until he has Douglas, Duke of Desborough (Percy Marmont) financially indebted to him. He 'frames up" with the aid of a notorious young woman of London, to separate the Duke and the Duchess.

The villain draws his strings tighter and bankrupts the Duke. An auction sale of the Duke's stables is in order. The Duchess makes her appearance on the scene and, with the aid of a friend, outbids the villain for the favorite horse "Clipdale." A few days later the big event of the year--the annual derby is at hand. The thrilling horse race then makes its appearance on the screen. "Clipdale," upon whom the Duke and the Duchess are betting triumphs, and love does the rest.

Review from Moving Picture World, March 13, 1920

Vitagraph Presents Alice Joyce in an Adaptation from the well-Known Drury Lane Melodrama.
Reviewed by Louis Reeves Harrison.

"THE Sporting Duchesss" is a racetrack melodrama derived from an English stage product of the same name and produced by Vitagraph. Like most of its kind, it is dominated throughout by a villain of the deepest dye. The entire action springs from his misdeeds. There are some appropriate settings in "The Sporting Duchess," many of them giving an atmosphere of English society and sporting life, and there is an intention shown to be elaborate in these details. This is especially true of the exteriors. They are more imbued with the spirit of the picture than some members of the cast. Many of the latter seem affected by the artificiality of their roles.

Alice Joyce, so perfectly at home as an American girl, is rather languid as a sporty member of the English aristocracy. Most of her support seems to be in the same mood. More "zip" in their performance would hot have been amiss. G.V. Seyffertitz, as the arch villain, Major Mostyn, looks and acts his important part in true English style. Her performance and those of Percy Marmont and William Turner are consistent.

The general value of "The Sporting Duchess" depends largely upon the drawing power of a rattling good title and the fame of the melodrama from which it was derived. As shown at the Broadway Theatre it held the attention without applause. It might be justly estimated as a fair entertainment with good billboard possibilities.

Muriel, Duchess of Desborough Alice Joyce
Douglas, Duke of Desborough Percy Marmont
Major Roland Mostyn G.V. Seyffertitz
Mrs. Delmaine Edith Campbell Walker
Capt. Cyprian Streatfield Lionel Pape
Rupert Leigh John Goldsworthy
Harold Dan Comfort
Mary Aylmer May McAvoy
Dick Hammond Robert Agnew
Joseph Aylmer William Turner

From the play by Sir Augustus Harris, Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton.
Adapted by Lucien Hubbard.
Directed by George Terwilliger.
Length, Seven Reels.

The Story.
Muriel, the "Sporting Duchess" of Desborough, is a happy young wife and mother when she entertains Major Mostyn among her guests. Mostyn proceeds to ruin the young Duke at cards, causing him to pledge the winnings he expects from "Clipstone," already a favorite at the Derby. Mostyn enlists the services of Mrs. Delmaine, former flame of the Duke, to upset the confidence of his wife. She is too loyal. She finds Mrs. Delmaine in his arms, but forgives him. The Duke is told that his wife pardons him readily because she needs watching herself.

Mostyn seizes an opportunity to accompany the Duchess to London at night, and has her husband informed of what appears to be an elopement. Mostyn goes with the Duchess to a hotel and registers there as man and wife while she is engaged at the telephone. She permits him to accompany her to her room, where he forces a way in and enters upon a struggle with her. The Duke arrives in time to get compromising evidence.

At a divorce trial great stress placed on the false testimony of a caddish friend of Mostyn and the Duke is granted a decree. Mostyn next forces a public sale of "Clipstone." An old admirer of the Duchess buys in the horse. Mostyn corrupts the jockey who was to ride Clipstone, but his villainy is revealed by a girl he has ruined. He now attempts to win the race by having his jockey strike Clipstone a foul blow near the finish. For this he is ruled off the track. The Duchess is a winner when the race is given to Clipstone. When she attempts to visit her child, however, she is repulsed at the door. The confession of the caddish friend of Mostyn, however, clears her name, and she is restored to those she has always truly and loyally loved.

Review from Photoplay, June 1920


"THE SPORTING DUCHESS" was presented on the stage years and years ago with Rose Coghlan as the Duchess of Desborough. It is a melodrama of high life and low tricks. The high life is furnished by Alice Joyce and Percy Marmont. The low tricks are the work of Gustav Suyffertitz. [sic] The horse race climax is very well filmed; in fact, the whole picture has the proper gallop for a melodrama.

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Last revised June 4, 2016