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Poppy (1917)

Poppy (1917) Norma Talmadge Film Corporation/Selznick Pictures. Presented by Joseph Schenck. Directed by Edward José. Scenario by Edward José. Camera by Ben Struckman. Gowns by Lucile and Travis Banton. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Eugene O'Brien, Frederick Perry, Jack Meredith, Dorothy Rogers, Edna Whistler, Marie Haynes. 8 reels. A two reel condensation of the last half of the film (reels 4-5 of 5?) is located Library of Congress (35 mm.)

Review from the New York Dramatic mirror
Review and notice from Moving Picture World
Review from Variety
Review from Photoplay
Viewing comments

Review The New York Dramatic Mirror, June 2, 1917


Eight-Reel Drama Featuring Norma Talmadge. Produced by Norma Talmadge Film Company Under the Direction of Edward Jose and Released by Selznick.

Poppy Destinn Norma Talmadge
Sir Evelyn Carson Eugene O'Brien
Luce Abinger Frederick Perry
Dr. Bramhan Jack Meredith
Mrs. Capron Dorothy Rogers
Sophie Cornell Edna Whistler
Mrs. Kennedy Marie Haines

In adapting Cynthia Stockley's well-known novel for the screen with the help of the stage version made by Ben Teal and John P. Ritter, the producers have utilized enough material from these to hold the attention of the spectator through eight reels, "Poppy's" length. The minutes that are consumed in running off a picture of this length are many, and it is no mean feat to give an audience enough entertainment so that its interest will not lag during this period of time, but all concerned in the production of this film have fulfilled the requirements.

In directing the material in an easy-going scenario, Edward Jose has done good work. He gets all the dramatic value out of various scenes without allowing them to be anti-climatic.

The story of Poppy Destin is much to involved to straighten out in small space. It embraces her fight for happiness against almost overwhelming odds from the time she is a young girl, in South Africa, to her return to that portion of the globe as a successful novelist. What she goes through, a marriage which she is too young to know what it all means, and her fight for success in London as a writer, contains enough happenings to satisfy even the most exacting spectator.

Norma Talmadge, the star, displays her usual ability and attractiveness in the title role. She is supported by a capable cast, including Eugene O'Brien, Frederick Perry, Jack Meredith, Dorothy Rogers, Edna Whistler, and Marie Haines.

"Poppy" should draw for several reasons--the popularity of the novel on which it is based, the box-office value of the star and the fact that it is a Selznick picture.


Review from Moving Picture World, June 9, 1917


Eight-Part Production for Selznick Program Features Norma Talmadge Adaptation of Cynthia Stockley's Story.

Reviewed by Margaret I. MacDonald.

"POPPY" represents a "miss" on quality. A popular star and an unpleasant and badly-produced story are its chief characteristics, side by side with an unwholesomeness of atmosphere. As presented the story is complicated and illogical and of questionable moral tone. Norma Talmadge is not at her best in the picture, and exaggerations such as uncalled for destruction of furniture by one of the bad men of the story are freqquent (sic).

The story of "Poppy" tells of how a young girl converted by a cruel aunt into a drudge on a South African farm runs away and finally finds herself in the home of an affinity of one of the three bad men of South Africa. This man takes her to his beautiful home under pretense of philanthropy, and previous to leaving on a visit to Europe he calls in a French priest who marries him to the girl, who is led to suppose that she is merely being adopted. She stays within the bounds of his home and garden without mingling with a living creature other than the servants, until one night the third of the three bad men, a bachelor, in a delirium from an attack of fever, enters the grounds by a gate that has accidentally been left unlocked. The girl happening there also a love scene is enacted which we are startled to learn near the close of the picture resulted in the birth of a child, which falls from a window in London, where his mother has become famous in the literary world, and is killed. The story is given happy ending by having the husband renounce Poppy in favor of the other man.

The production is one of that questionable type of life which has nothing but its rottenness to recommend it as an entertaining subject for the screen.

[Photo omitted: Talmadge and O'Brien at an afternoon party. Caption: Scene from "Poppy" (Selznick).]

Notice in Moving Picture World, June 2, 1917


Norma Talmadge in "Poppy," an adaptation of Cyhthia Stockley's charming novel of South African life, is the next Selznick-Pictures release. Director Edward Jose has finished cutting and assembling the picture and it will be shown for review this week.

Joseph M. Schenck president of the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, Mr. Selznick and all his executive staff attended a private showing of "Poppy" last week and all enthusiastically pronounced it by far the finest production in which Miss Talmadge has yet appeared. The central role affords the talented young star an extraordinary chance to display the versatility that has made her famous, a gift that enables her to make the transition from childhood to maturity with remarkable ease.

Review from Variety, June 8, 1917


"Poppy" first gained its fame in book form, written by Cynthia Stockley. With Norma Talmadge starred, it has been made for the screen, under the direction of Edouard Jose. "Poppy," according to reports from England, where it was first heard from, was an immensely popular novel over there, so intensely in favor the presses could not keep up with the demand. Over here the story is not as well known, and while in English speaking countries abroad, "Poppy" filmized will be relished as the visualization of a dearly beloved tale, in America, on the sheet it must stand by itself as a feature picture. The Jos. M. Schenck Co. presents Miss Talmadge in "Poppy." It gives that young screen star a sweetly pathetic role that remains with her from the beginning, when but a waif, to the finale, when, as Eve Destiny, a famous authoress, she finds solace in the love of the man thought by her forever lost. "A sweetly sympathetic role," at least for contrast with the more strident demands of picturedom in special feature films especially can do no harm to Miss Talmadge. It may attract an added clientele to her banner, for there is no male who can pretend to gauge how a picture such as "Poppy" will appeal to the feminine heart. It surely can not turn the feminine mind against poor little Poppy, who had but her own head to lead her and was the victim of a scheming old rogue. There is a spot in the picture that stands out. It is where Poppy, after having been married unknown to herself (she believing the ceremony one of guardianship), walks, while in the garden of her home, into the arms of the hero of her dreams, the man who once saved her from the attack of an African negro and then disappeared. It was picture license perhaps as well as novel writing that only could bring this meeting about and there was a tinge of sadness to the audience, who knew Poppy's hero at the time was delirious from fever. However, Poppy, without reservation, delivered herself to him, for that evening only, and he again disappeared from her life. She remained, however, to have her delicate condition discovered by her husband upon his return from England (the earlier and final scenes are laid in Africa). Poppy fled and left him a husband only by virtue of the certificate he had viciously secured, Poppy going to London and endeavoring to earn her living by writing. Story after story was returned, and to climax her anguish, the little son born to her in London was killed by a fall from a window. Fate then decreed that her suffering should be eased by checks from publishers and as Eve Destiny, Poppy's fame spread even back to her native land, where she returned sometime afterward, to seek an annulment of her marriage. Taken up by society, it leaked out Poppy had a "past," but at the night of a ball in her honor, Poppy was redeemed through explanations and again gained the love of her hero-seducer, he recalling "that night in the gardens." One feels for "Poppy's troubles and though, perhaps the English did accept in good faith that bit of the garden that meant so much afterward. Americans can hardly believe there is a good girl who would have done the same thing, without at least asking the man his name, something Poppy, in her excitement, seemed to forget. But it makes a box office incident for a "sweet" picture, and as such, is of great value to it. Miss Talmadge takes to the part with east and this is of help. The picture looks expensive in the producing, and Mr. Jose got all possible out of the direction. At the New York Monday and Tuesday, where "Poppy" was shown for the two days (the house usually holding a feature but one day), "Poppy" seemed to have extraordinary drawing power, holding a line in the front of the house almost intact each evening.


Review from Photoplay, August 1917

The Shadow Stage: A department of Photoplay Review
by Julian Johnson

"Poppy" is the best vehicle Norma Talmadge's talents have ridden in since "Panthea," and in many ways is a marker screen play, for, like the Cynthia Stokely novel from which it was adapted, it has an unwonted freedom from the conventional manner of narration, and a remarkably effortless play upon and development of human character, of the usual bad puppets and good puppets and mediocre puppets who are at once the furniture and cogs of contemporary screen drama. This author starts with the assumption that all her mimic people are more or less wicked, and that it's up to the years, experience, chastening sorrows and perhaps some love to make them a bit better, if not really good. Which is about like real life--isn't it? The action passes mainly in South Africa. Poppy Destin, bound out to a Scotchwoman who is a sort of super-Boer, vamps away to the swamps and freedom. Luce Abinger, a gentleman of slightly predatory instinct, finds her at the gate of his compound; takes her in, educates her, and upon the verge of a departure for England, marries her with a French ceremony which she believes is legal adoption. The author now steps heavily upon the accelerator of probability when she asks us to believe that a young man wandering in the delirium of fever can be a genuine Don Juan; but after this shoal the tale flows in smooth lifelikeness to its conclusion. Poppy sails to London, struggles for literary success, and beholds her beloved little nameless boy die in a fall from a window on the very day that triumph came. Eventually, back to Africa, where she divorces Abinger, and, after enduring a barrage of moral stone-throwing by a lady who lives in a large glass house, she weds Sir Evelyn Carson, her rare knight who could unite a temperature with temperament.

The easy, human performances of most of the people in this play assure us that the screen naturalness not only endures, but flourishes. Miss Talmadge passes perfectly from short-frocked, barbarous childhood to slightly satiric, elegant maturity. There is not another camera woman who could so contrive this character's long range and unexpurgated catalogue of every female emotion. Eugene O'Brien is so fine as Carson that we wonder why we don't see more of his work before the camera. Frederick Perry brings all the assets of his acting maturity to Abinger, and there is a wonderful colored woman the cast doesn't name. Edward Jose is stamped by this picture a genuinely big-time director.

Viewing comments

One of Talmadge's most flamboyant films of this period, Poppy has a delirious plot that leaves one shaking one's head in amazement. Some of the furniture destruction Margaret MacDonald complained of survives in the existing fragments-the last two reels of an abridged version of the film which leaves the action careening from one incident to the next.
Print viewed: 35 mm. condensation of reels 4 and 5 at Library of Congress

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Last revised, December 21, 2008