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The Third Degree (1919)

The Third Degree (1919) Vitagraph Co. of America. Distributor: Vitagraph Co. of America. Director: Tom Terriss. Scenario: Phil Lang and Eugene Mullin. Scenario Editor: George Randolph Chester and Mrs. George Randolph Chester. Camera: Joe Shelderfer. Cast: Alice Joyce, Gladden James, Anders Randolf, Hedda Hopper, Herbert Evans, George Backus, John P. Wade, L. Rogers Lytton, Edward McGuire. 6-7 reels This film appears to be LOST

This story was remade in 1926 by Michael Curtiz, with Dolores Costello, and that film does still exist.

Two clippings, probably from a pressbook for the film (thanks to Derek Boothroyd for these scans)

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

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

Review from Variety, May 23, 1919

In the ways and manners of Alice Joyce there is a sweetness that asserts itself despite the best laid plans of scenario writers. In "The Third Degree," an adaptation of Chas. Klein's play, it is the scenario writer who makes it hard for the star. His name is Phil Lang. He sawed out the continuity for this particular drama, but in making a mess of it he had, according to the program, the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. George Randolph Chester. A guess is that when it came to giving "assistance" to the scenario writer who devised the screen plot for "The Third Degree," Lillian let George do it, and George was asleep at the switch.

In offering it, Vitagraph puts forward a hodge-podge of incongruities that even the fickle dears who go to picture theatres on sunny Sundays balked at believing. To begin with, the plot takes a reel before it gathers wind enough really to get started. Secondly, the son of a millionaire would hardly be subjected to the third degree in the merciless fashion pictured here. Out of date stuff, that! Ten years ago it made good. In telling it on the screen Tom Terriss, the director, or the scenario writer, made up for efforts of omission chiefly by a hypnotism stunt that caught the interest and held it.

The story begins with a young college boy's romance with a waitress, and proceeds to the point where they marry and are disowned by the millionaire father, whose second wife is involved in an affair which ends in a man's suicide. The son is put to the third degree in the hope that he will confess to murdering the suicide. For this very confession, an earlier hypnotic scene has paved the way, and he is shown confessing only because he is hypnotized by the shining barrel of the revolver poked under his nose.

This bit is well conceived. It catches the attention, and we are held till the young man is finally freed and tells his wife that he knows the story she has told on the stand isn't true--that she only told it to save him. From this point, its natural end, the play proceeds some 700 feet. During this extra footage it is only the star's classic features that screen with so rich and full a charm, only her smile that revives dreams of girls unknown, only her competence as an actress that keeps one in his seat. What will sell this picture is not the story, but the excellently taken pictures of Alice Joyce.

Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, May 27, 1919

"The Third Degree"

Vitagraph, Alice Joyce, Directed by Tom Terriss, from the play by Charles Klein


Box Office Value Great

Exhibitor Comments: "Thrilling." Popularity of title drew."

Young aristocrat, forced by the "third degree" to confess to a crime he didn't commit, is freed by his waitress-wife.

Review from Moving Picture World, May 17, 1919

"The Third Degree."
Vitagraph's New Alice Joyce Picture Good for a Long Run.
Reviewed by Hanford C. Judson.

VITAGRAPH has a big picture in its new release, "The Third Degree." with Alice Joyce and Gladden James. It is a most affecting story. In working it up, Director Tom Terriss has resourcefully and without padding made each scene and just enough more to the developing situation to keep a constantly increasing hold on the spectator. This is accomplished largely by keeping the acting of each of the well-chosen characters so carefully within the probabilities, that the whole is perfectly convincing. After the hero is proved guiltless, the humanity of the wife, Alice Joyce, in her piteous predicament gives an interest even deeper than the excitement of the hours before the trial.

Alice Joyce provides masterly work in this character, Annie Jeffries. Gladden James ably portrays the boy who isn't a strong character. L. Rogers Lytton, as the police captain, and Edward McGuire, as his sergeant, are capital. These players carry the action, but they are ably supported by the whole cast. It is one of the best pictures of the year, and is sure to occasion talk of a highly commendatory kind. It can safely be boosted as a picture with both a big punch and a human heart story. Charles Klein's famous stage success of the same name is its source.

Annie Sands Alice Joyce
Howard Jeffries, Jr. Gladden James
Howard Jeffries, Sr. Anders Randolf
Mrs. Howard Jeffries, Sr., Miss Hedda Hopper
Robert Underwood Herbert Evans
Richard Brewster George Backus
Dr. Thompson J.T. Wade
Capt. Clinton L. Rogers Lytton
Sergt. Maloney Edward McGuire

Story by Charles Klein.
Directed by Tom Terriss.

The Story
In the Vitagraph picture, "The Third Degree," the hero is Howard Jeffries, Jr., son of a millionaire. Howard Jeffries, Sr., marries again, and we are told that the new Mrs. Jeffries and Robert Underwood, the rather fast roommate at college of Howard, Jr., had once been something more than friends. Howard, Jr., marries Annie Sands, a beautiful girl who had been a waitress in the college town.

When the father hears who his son's wife is, there is a flare-up, and the young couple leave the house. Underwood has opened a curio store, and lost money that didn't belong to him. He writes to Mrs. Jeffries., Sr., telling her that unless she comes to him, he will shoot himself.

Howard, Jr., remembers that Underwood owes him money, and goes to collect it. He is drunk, drinks more and falls asleep on the sofa. Underwood hides him. Mrs. Jeffries comes, refuses to have more to do with Underwood and leaves. Underwood shoots and kills himself. The sound wakes the young man who is trying to get out, is captured by the police. Under the hypnotic strain of third degree, he confesses to murder.

It is bought out that a woman had called on Underwood, and the police try to fasten it on Annie. The girl suspects that it is the other Mrs. Jeffries, and get her to provide evidence that will show a suicide; but, to save her relative, lets it be thought that she was the woman of the visit. Old Jeffries, after the trial, determines to get his son a divorce on the sly, and Annie is bravely going on with the role she has taken. A lawyer friend of the family gets the older Mrs. Jeffries to confess, and the happy ending is near.

Review from Photoplay, August 1919

Here is a powerful, logical, well-told story of police persecution as it flourished balefully at the time the late Charles Klein wrote his original play of the same name. Times have changed and conditions have changed, but the story, as it was, has been thoughtfully, carefully and altogether creditably brought to the screen by a company which includes Alice Joyce as Annie Sands, Gladden James as her wrongly accused young husband, Howard Jeffries, Jr., Anders Randolf as his wife [sic!], the lovely Hedda Hopper as his step-mother, Rogers Lytton as the burly Captain Clinton--doubtless you remember those characters very well from at least one of the many, many presentations of the play. Phil Lang has worked out a scenario that seems logical except in the situation in which Robert Underwood received young Howard Jeffries' step-mother in a room in which they are separated only by a screen. Tom Terris [sic] directed. Miss Joyce deploys all of her loveliness, her charm and her sympathy upon Annie Sands.

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Last revised October 17, 2009