Clara Kimball Young home

For The Soul of Rafael (1920)

For the Soul of Rafael (1920) Garson Studios, Inc. Distributor: Equity Pictures Corp. Director: Harry Garson. Adaptation: Charles E. Whittaker. Scenario: Dorothy Yost. Camera: Arthur Edeson. Art director: Ben Carre. Cast: Clara Kimball Young, Bertram Grassby, Eugenie Besserer, Juan De La Cruz, J. Frank Glendon, Ruth King, Helene Sullivan, Paula Merritt, Maud Emery, Edward M. Kimball. 7 reels. A 35 mm. and two 16 mm. prints are held by the Douris Corporation (Thanks to Tim Lanza for bringing these to my attention--I had formerly listed the film as lost)

There seems to be some disagreement amongst the reviewers as to the actual title (particularly in Variety, where they give it three different titles in the same review). The book on which it is based is entitled For The Soul of Rafael, as is the title frames of at least one of the the existing 16mm prints (however, this print has bogus director and writer credits!).

Four Stills For the Soul of Rafael
For the Soul of Rafael
For the Soul of Rafael
For the Soul of Rafael
At Mission San Fernando with family members who appear in the cast For the Soul of Rafael
Click on thumbnails for larger view

Review from Variety
Review from Moving Picture World
Unidentified Review
Viewing comments

Review from Variety, May 28, 1920

Marta Raquel Matevas Clara Kimball Young
Angela Bryton Helene Sullivan
Teresa Maud Emery
Ricardo Edward M. Kimball
Rafael Artega Bertrum Grassby
Dona Luisa Eugenie Besserer
El Capitan Juan de la Cruz
Keith Bryton J. Frank Glendon
Ann Mendez Ruth King
Flower Girls, Vanqueros, Bandits, Soldiers, etc.

Running for an hour and full of unnecessary and long drawn-out details the Harry Garson Equity distributed feature "For the Soul of Rafael," starring Clara Kimball Young, was shown at the Hotel Astor Wednesday afternoon. It is from a story by Marah Ellis Ryan, a vividly descriptive novelist--and it is this very gift of the author's that is the picture's chief weakness--an attempt to visualize descriptive writing, with the result that the undertaking partakes more of a scenic than a drama of action. Again the star isn't really the star, for the reason that hers is a receptive role--things are done to her and she never does anything to anybody else--a monotonous, long-suffering individual, utterly devoid of animation or the spirit to free herself of bondage with an undesirable husband and go with the man she really loves.

Despite all this "For the Love of Rafael" is an impressive production, colorful with the romance of lower California, brilliantly photographed and excellently acted throughout. With the reputation of the star, the pretentiousness of the production, the atmosphere and general bigness of it all, it will make good for exhibitors. But there isn't a smile in it.


Review from Moving Picture World, May 15, 1920

"For the Soul of Rafael"
Clara Kimball Young's Latest Picture Has Auspicious Opening at Los Angeles.
Reviewed by A.H. Giebler.

If the reception given Clara Kimball Young's latest picture, "For the Soul of Rafael," on its premier showing at Grauman's Rialto Theatre, Los Angeles, is any criterion, the film is destined to enjoy a long and profitable popularity. The opening was not marked by anything special or ostentatious in the way of presentation stunts. There was no personal appearance by the star, no elaborate prologue, and outside of an artistic stage setting and lobby decorations that carried out the atmosphere of the story and the time in which it was laid and an excellent and appropriate music program, nothing more than characterizes the usual high class premier was noticed.

"For the Soul of Rafael" is an adaptation of a novel by the same name by Mary Ellis Ryan. It is a story of California seventy years ago, with its old missions and its old convents. The scene of the romance is laid near San Juan Capistrano, and the photography, with the exception of the interiors, was taken in that locality.

The film, although depicting a phase of life of seventy years ago and of the habits and costumes of the people of that day, cannot be called a costume play. To one sitting in the audience the costumes of the players were not noticed except that they fulfilled the technical requirements. The continuity and movement of the story are almost perfect; the episodes blend into one another, with no breaks or illogical sequences; the photography is exceptional throughout and the atmosphere correct in all the details.

All of the important people in the cast, with the exception of three, are Spanish. Clara Kimball Young, in the part of an aristocratic Spanish girl just out of a convent and facing life with the contending problems of love and duty tearing at her conscience, does some of her best, if not the very best, work of her career. J. Frank Glendon, as Keith Bryton, a young American with a tendency to adventure who has drifted into the country, played his part with a repression that was as natural as it was welcome. Bryton was a heroic character without heroics. Bertram Grassley, as Rafael Artegas, had a part that might have been overdone in less capable hands.

The Story. The story of "For the Soul of Rafael" begins when Miss Young, as Marta Estavan, is ready to leave the convent where she has been reared. Dona Luisa Artega, mother of Rafael and the young girl's guardian, arranges a marriage between the two, because she thinks that Marta's influence will rescue her son from the wild life he is leading and make a man of him. Marta rescues the American Bryton, when he is attacked by Indians, and falls in love with him. Rafael's mother sends Bryton away by telling him that the girl has entered a convent for life, and after telling Marta that Bryton had been killed on the trail she exacts a vow from the girl that she will marry her son.

Marta marries Rafael. Bryton comes back after the marriage and after Marta has found out the true character of her husband. The story moves on from this point to a happy ending, but with much action of tense and strenuous nature in between.

Unidentified Review

The point of it is, was Rafael's soul worth saving? Decidedly not, for the Spamish husband of the lovely heroine was the worst specimen we have seen, on screen or off, for a long time. And so Clara Kimball Young is seen as a beautifyl martyr with nothing much to do in the struggle for the soul of Rafael. The picture is so slow that you even grow a little tired of its picturesque beauty. Miss Young looks like a lady steppped from a painting. The picture is a thing of beauty so far as settings--and Clara--go. But somehow it got wound up into reels without any plot.

Viewing comments

Garson doesn't appear to be a particularly good director of actors, and there is a great deal of scenery chewing my most of the participants. Particular offenders are Eugenie Besserer bugging out her eyes and Bertram Grassby generally hamming it up. Young does her share too--in her saintly moments she is given to putting hand to forehead and sighing dramatically. Fortunately she also has several opportunities to get angry, when she is always at her best. Her costumes and hairstyles are exceptionally becoming, but the dull leading man has a very bad wig (or very bad hair, perhaps). The early California scenery is pleasing, with some location work at Mission San Fernando. The story appears to depart considerably from the novel. The film runs approximately 51 minutes, and there seems to be some footage missing after the first reel or so, but it doesn't interfere with the plot.

Back to Filmography
Back to Clara Kimball Young Home

Last revised July 7, 2007