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The Common Law (1916)

British "Press Book"

This brochure, similar to an American press book, was intended for British theatre owners who might book the film. It includes a detailed plot, suggestions for musical accompaniment, publicity phrases, and information on where to book the film. Note that the brochure is for 1918, nearly two years after the film premiered in the United States.

I typed all this up when i had less web space. I've now made a PDF of this item and put it in the Internet Archive

Cover and title page
Detailed plot synopsis with pictures
Music cue sheet
Back Cover

Cover and Title Page

cover Cover (9 3/4" x 15", image is somewhat cropped at the bottom with no loss of text)
facing page title page Title page and facing page (images are a little cropped at top and bottom)

The Common Law

This is the story of a woman's heart and its brave fight to be true to Love, and yet not false to the world's ideals of marriage. Between evil and true love, between the hollow nothings of life and the things that make life worth living, and even between the sacrament of marriage and the common law--choice after choice was forced upon her, and though she was often in danger she never failed, but in the end won her life's battle.

When her invalid mother died, Valerie West had to find employment. But although she was intelligent and well educated--her mother, a gifted woman, had taught her carefully--her attempts to find work were at first fruitless. She obtained an introduction to a theatrical manager, but quickly discovered that she could not hope to succeed as a chorus girl and retain her self-respect.

Disgusted with her experience, she sought work as an artist's model. Fortunately for Valerie, her first application was to Louis Neveille, a celebrated mural painter. Neville saw in Valerie the ideal model fo his great decoration, and engaged her at once. Thinking her a professional model, he showed her to a dressing-room with the curt command, "undress." Valerie sank into a chair and hid her burning face in he hands. At last she summoned all her courage and prepared for her first sitting. She found Neville all gentleness and courtesy, and when she nearly fainted from her unaccustomed effort, and confessed that she had never posed before, he flung a wrapper around her, led her to a chair and gave he tea.

Neville's parents and friends soon found themselves neglected. Inspired by his beautiful model he was absorbed in his work, and Stephanie Swift, between whom and Neville there was supposed to be an "understanding," looked for a letter from him in vain.

Valerie's loveliness quickly made her famous, and she posed for many advertising companies. José Querida paid her marked attention and wished to engage her, but she refused to pose undraped for any artist but Neville.

Clara Kimball Young and Conway Tearle
After the first sitting--Valerie has tea in Neville's studio

Although no word of love had yet passed between them, Valerie and Neville were sure of each other's love and were supremely happy. But Querida noticed the growing intimacy and became fiercely jealous. He told Stephanie that Neville was losing his head over his new model, and Stephanie went to Valerie, and pleaded with her to give Neville up. When she said that if he marrid a model his career would be ruined, Valerie, broken-hearted, promised that she would never marry him.

To try to forget Neville, Valerie plunged into the gaities of upper Bohemian life in New York. On New Year's Eve she was the centre of attraction at one of the merriest tables in a fashionable restaurant. Neville, at another table, watched her jealously, then abruptly rose and left the restaurant. That was more than Valerie could bear. She hurried after Neville, and went with him to his studio. They could no longer resist the love in their hearts. He was about to take her in his arms when Querida appeared, and demanded that Valerie should return with him. She refused, and said that Neville was the man she loved. When Querida had gone, Neville asked Valerie to marry him. She was going to give a happy assent when she remembered her promise to Stephanie. She told Neville that she could not marry him, if she did it would mean disruption with his family, but that on the first of June she would come to him--under "the common law."

Edward M. Kimball shakes his fist at Conway Tearle
"Do not mention her name in my house!"

When Valerie told her friend Rita--another model with whom she shared the apartment--of her promise to Neville, Rita tried to persuade her not to keep it, and told her the story of her own life. Her fother was a lodge-keeper on Querida's estate. Querida had won her love, but after the death of their child,he had deserted her.

The sad story sobered Valerie, and she promised to stay with Rita in the country and try to forget Neville.

Neville, too, whent to the country to ask his parents not to oppose his marriage to Valerie. But his father forbade him to mention her name, and his mother implored him not to bring disgrace on them by such a marriage.

When Valerie, walking alone in the woods, met Querida, who was at his country house for a rest, the sight of her aroused his old mad passion, and he tried to embrace her. There was a furious struggle, but Valerie managed to lash Querida across the face with her dog whip, and ran away through the woods. But she missed her way, and in the darkness came on she was exhausted and hopelessly lost. At last she reached a house and was just able to ring the bell before she collapsed. It was Neville's home, and Valerie was taken in and tenderly cared for.

Clara Kimball Young and Conway Tearle
"I will come to you on the 1st of June--under the Common Law."

Next morning Valerie left a note thanking them all for their kindness, and slipped quietly from the house. The Nevilles were genuinely sorry, for the firl's charm and refinement had won their hearts. Stephanie showed Neville the note, and he followed Valerie to the city.

Querida called on Valerie to apologise for his condusct, and to ask her once more to marry him. When she refused, he again tried to use force to make her consent. She resisted, he stumbled against the low window-sill, and fell through the open window.

When Neville came, bent on vengeance, he found Querida dying. His spine was injured, and it was a matter of minutes. But before he died he asked and obtained their forgiveness. And more than that, he warned them with his dying beath against life together under the Common Law.

The night came. In his studio, trembling between hope and deadly fear sat Neville--alone--waiting. The hour came, but not Valerie. And then, when he had almost despaired, when his heart was about to break, suddenly she appeared before him, and brought with her a message of forgiveness and welcome from Stephanie and from his parents. The Common Law was forgotten. She was to be his wife in holy marriage.

Musical Director's Guide to the Picture

The Common Law

Approximate length 7,000 feet.
(This will be found useful for even a limited library.)


SAMUEL MEY, London Opera House.

Film Action or Screen Title Character of Piece Suitable Music Publisher
Title--Valerie West Rol., melodious (not long) Dusk. Baines Swan
Title--Louis Neville Interm. (not too jolly) Brimelles. Hicks Liberte Musicale
When girl enters studio, or Title--Haven't I told you Rom. (slightly exciting) L'Appel d'amour. Rigaud Hammond
Change when seeing painter's studio, directly after Valerie with fellow at writing desk Lively Interm. Intermezzo. Sudessi Lafleur
Quick change when Valerie enters room and lights lamp Romance, pleasing Land of Dreams. Driffell Lafleur
Title--The Nevilles Rom. (not heavy but semi-light) Fruhlingslied. Atherton Fischer-Schott
Quick change when train arrives Light interm. Idyll. Calamani Ascherberg
Quick change when Valerie at writing desk Rom., with slight excitement Love's Pleading. Steane Schott

Garden scene Light interm. Lunita. Loraine Witmark
Quick change to Theatre entrance Light interm. (long scene) Lassie. McLeon Hawkes
Scene on stage after two Directors enter office 6/8 Dance (keep down when office scenes) Piazza del popolo. Frederiksen Cary
When Valerie enters Directors' office Dramatic rom. (very long scene) Meditation. Jeanjean Lafleur
Quick change to Neville's studio, after Valerie left office Rom. (not too slow, very long) Au temps jadis de Leva Ascherberg
When Neville by girl, or at title--Didn't you see Slow rom. (dramatic, long scene) Nocturne. Edw. German Novello

Title--Absorbed in his work Dramatic rom. Poeme. Franceshi Lafleur
Quick change when girl writing name on photo Rom., rather tuneful Plaisir d'amour. Martini Liberte Musicale
Quick change to painters in studio, or Title--What has become of Neville? Light interm. On l'aime toujours. Krier Lafleur
Quick change to garden scene Light interm. In Poppyland. Friedman Witmark
Quick change to party Waltz (short scene) Valse Paintive. Szulc Ascherberg
When girl starts dancing 2/4 Oriental dance. Keep down when dancer not seen. Kismet. Markey Hawkes
Title--Next Morning Sweet romance Portrait charmant. Tonyls Liberte Musicale
Quick change to Restaurant Valse Lente Oanto [sic?] si bella. Bonincontro Lafleur
Title--Querida replies in person Rom., slightly exciting Day Dreams. Wood Hawkes

Fourth REEL.
Neville in bathroom Interm., not too lively Stolen mements. Friedman Feldman
When girl enters studio, or Title--I was in town shopping Melodious romance Serenade. Leoncavallo Cary
Valerie on bed, reads letter
at title--I love him too
When Neville seen in his room
Same, slightly excited
Same, first tempo
Declaration d'amour. Telma Larway
Title--New Year's Eve Slow tuneful rom. (very short) Dream Castles. Hope Elkin
When friends enter studio Very lively music (noisy) No. 3 Norwegian Suite. Schytte Schirmer-Lafleur
When girls on stage starts dancing Two-step or Cake Walk. On the Mississippi. Markey Feldman
Quick change when clock seen 5 to 12 Slow rom. (short scene) Berceuse. Lefevre Lafleur
Quick change back in Restaurant Very lively dance (noisy) Selection--Little Miss Ragtime. Star Music Co.

Few bars of same music
Valerie and Neville enter studio Melodious romance Le Reve.Golterman Fischer-Schott
When Querida knocks at door
At Title--This is the man I love
Rom., with excitement
Same, slow down (long scene)
Romance in F. Tsckaikowsky [sic] Schirmer-Lafleur
Quick change to other girl's room Tuneful rom. (short scene) Souvenir de jeunesses. Tonyls Liberte Musicale
Title--Now I'll tell you why I hate Querida Light interm. Summer Idyll. Newnes Ascherberg
Back to room, scene after Querida kisses girl Rom., slightly exciting (short) Souvenir d'automne. Rudd Aschenbert
Title--May Rom., ordinary, later exciting (long scene) Notto d'Incanto. Cerri Ricordi
When girl enters room Dramatic rom. (short scene) Premier Sermant. Rabey Marchetti

When train enters station Interm., not too lively, keep down when Neville and mother seen Sereenade. Cajani Schirmer-Lafleur
Valerie seen in woods 6/8 Pastorale interm. Pastorale. Mathe Liberte Musicale
When Querida attacks Valerie Romance, very exciting, almost hurry Le long du chemin. Fauchey Lafleur
Title--The evening prayer Slow rom., later dramatic Preghiera. Malhendorff Williams-Swann
When Valerie found at door Rom., exciting (very long scene) Pres de la Source. Candiolo Lafleur
When Valerie wakes up, or Neville at Querida's house Rom., exciting, later slow down (very long scene) Duo from Suite--Romeo et Juliette. Gounod Choudens Books

Querida arrives home Rom., serious, dramatic Dramatica. Gracey Lafleur
When Stephanie finds Valerie gone Rom., slightly exciting Fleur d'azur. Daniello Marchetti
Title--New York Same, slow down
Querida enters Valerie's room Same, slightly exciting
Querida attacks Valerie Overture or rom., with gr. exc. Overture Calypso. Brand. John Church Co.
Title--His spine is injured Rom., dramatic, slow. Reverie. Volpatti Gaudet-Lafleur
Quick change to other room after Querida dies Sweet melodious rom. Sous la feuille. Thome Lafleur
When Valerie enters Neville's studio Simple rom. or song (short scene) Refrain from Song "You, just You." Thompson Enoch


The Common Law

will bring money, prestige, and public approval to every theatre that presents it in the right way.

Each Selected Masterpiece is guaranteed to do that. Each one is chosen by the Western Import Company because it will do that. But remember, that the best picture poorly presented will not do half what it would with proper presentation.

Publicity Suggestions:--

These phrases might be useful for hand bills:

  1. The Story of a woman's heart.
  2. Bohemia at its best and brightest.
  3. A powerful drama of love's renunciation.

Sentences for your programmes, house organs, etc.:

  1. "The Common Law" (Selznick production, released by the Western Import Co.) founded on Robert W. Chambers' million-copy novel.
  2. Clara Kimball Young's presentation of Valerie West in "The Common Law" is a masterful and arresting performance.
  3. The first of the Selected Masterpieces, "The Common Law" is a wonderful production. Clara Kimball Young, the star, is surrounded by a cast of exceptional brilliance.

The cast is:

Clara Kimball Young as Valerie West.
Conway Tearle "    Louis Neville.
Paul Capellani "    Jose Querida.
Edna Hunter "    Rita.
Lillan Cook "    Stephanie Swift
Julia Stewart "    Mrs. Neville.
Edward H. Kimball [sic] "    Mr. Neville.
Lydia Knott "    Mrs. West.
D.J. Flanagan "    Dr. Ogilvy.

Posters: 4-sheets, two designs, at 2/- each.

Slides: Artistic and attractively-worded advance slides, 1/- each.

Back cover

facing page back cover Inside and outside of back cover (images are a little cropped at top and bottom)

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Last revised, June 3, 2016