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The Short Films of Norma Talmadge, 1915: Reviews

Note, this is not necessarily all of the films for this year, just the ones for which I've been able to locate review or have viewing comments. For list of all the films, see the Filmography

A Daughter of Israel
The Barrier of Faith
A Daughter's Strange Inheritance
Janet of the Chorus
Elsa's Brother
A Pillar of Flame
The Criminal

A Daughter of Israel

Released Jan. 2, 1915. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brook. Author: W.A. Tremayne. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Edward Elkas, Donald Hall, Garry McGarry, Viola Davis. 2 reels. A copy of this film is located at the George Eastman House (28 mm., not projectable). This severely damaged footage is now being restored by George Eastman House and Haghefilm.

Review from Moving Picture World, December 26, 1914

"A Daughter of Israel"

Van Dyke Brooke Gives a Fine Jewish Character Portrayal in a Vitagraph Two-Part Special Feature.

Reviewed by George Blaisdell.

In "A Daughter of Israel," a two-part Vitagraph subject to be released on January 9, Van Dyke Brooke gives an excellent characterization of Israel Levi, a benevolent Jew. It is a sympathetic interpretation, devoid of any exaggeration, and likewise devoid of offense for any one. Mr. Brooke directed the production, which was made from the script of W.A. Tremayne. Mr. Brooke has been very successful with his Jewish portrayals. One of the best of these was in "Countess Veschy's Jewels," a former two-part subject. In this story he takes the role of a dealer in antiques who raises a child who has been left in his care. He treasures the child as his own, gives her to understand that he is her grandfather; she takes in his heart the place of the daughter and granddaughter he has lost. It is only in later years, when the young woman is rejected by a prospective cousin-in-law as being not only an unknown woman but also a Jewess that Israel reveals the fact that she may be unknown but she is not a Jewess. It turns out in a really dramatic way that the man who had refused to sanction her marriage to a cousin is her own father.

Norma Talmadge plays the dual role of the mother who leaves the chld in the care of the old dealer just before she is killed in an accident and also the daughter of fourteen and later. It is a good performance-marked by the display of pathos in the desperately impoverished mother and by vivacity in the musicianly daughter who goes abroad to study as the result of interest in her by the great Russian violinist. Edward Elkas plays well the part of the musical friend of Israel who discovers the talent of the child.

Donald Hall is Count Strominoff, who proves to be the father of Olga. One of the best scenes in the story is that where Strominoff, having refused o permit the marriage of his cousin and ward to Olga, comes to Israel's home to lay emphasis on his refusal and is confronted by not only the denial of the antique dealer but also by the wedding ring given in Israel's care by the mother of Olga. Mr. Hall's work counts big right here.

The story is well staged and photographed. Much pains have been taken in the showing of the antique store and den of the old dealer. The picture is one containing heart interest-good, straight drama.

[Omitted: photo of Van Dyke Brooke and others]

The Barrier of Faith

Released Jan. 23, 1915. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brook. Author: Solomon Cossack. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Mary Maurice.

Review from Moving Picture World, February 13, 1915

THE BARRIER OF FAITH (Vitagraph). Jan. 28.-This finely produced drama is from the pen of Soloman Cossack. Van Dyke Brooke is the director and also has the role of a rabbi whose daughter marries a Christian. Norma Talmadge is the daughter, Mary Maurice the mother. The picture is produced with regard for Hebrew customs. One of the strongest of the situations is where the daughter, her husband dead, returns at the time of the celebration of the Passover to the home where she as been formally mourned as dead.

A Daughter's Strange Inheritance

Released February 20, 1915. Produced by Broadway Star for Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author. E.D. Ackerly. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Donald Hall. 3 reels.

Review from Moving Picture World, March 20, 1915

A DAUGHTER'S STRANGE INHERITANCE (Vitagraph). Feb. 27.-Norma Talmadge, first as a woman addicted to drink, then as the daughter who inherits an ungovernable nature and with it a taste for liquor, does some capital acting in this three-part drama directed by Van Dyke Brooke. It is a strong picture, particularly in the opening reel, and profits by the presentation of an idea which is at least open to discussion-the idea that a child inherits intemperate tendencies. Telling performances are given by Donald Hall and Director Brooke, and the production is thoroughly artistic.

Janet of the Chorus

Released February 20, 1915. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author. William Addison Lathrop. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, S. Rankin Drew. 2 reels.

Review from Moving Picture World, April 17, 1915

JANET OF THE CHORUS (Vitagraph). April 3.-The word "Smart," in its most complimentary sense, may be applied to everything and everybody connected with this two-reel comedy by William Addison Lathrop. The entire affair is a snappy, deftly drawn and vastly diverting page from the comic history of to-day. Even the sub-titles reflect the same spirit. As Janet, little Miss Norma Talmadge is irresistible; and S. Rankin Drew gives a perfect impersonation of a youthful "rounder." Vandyke Brooke's acting as the wealthy uncle, and his production of the film, are both greatly to his credit.

Plot and picture from "Little Stories from the Screen

Elsa's Brother

Released February 20, 1915. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author. William Addison Lathrop. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, S. Rankin Drew. 2 reels.

Review from Moving Picture World, May 1, 1915

ELSA'S BROTHER (Vitagraph). April 17.-There is much quiet strength in the acting of this two-part drama, by the efficient cast. W. A. Tremayne has supplied a human, self-respecting story, and Van Dyke Brooke has given it every advantage known to the art of the producer. Mr. Brooke also impersonates the kindly old watchmaker with fine insight and authority. Norma Talmadge plays Elsa with sincerity and charm, and S. Ranin [sic] Drew is a convincing John Smardon.

A Pillar of Flame

Released May 1, 1915. Vitagraph. Director: Van Dyke Brooke. Author. Norbert Lusk. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Harry Morey, Adele De Garde, Van Dyke Brooke. 2 reels.

Review from Moving Picture World, May 15, 1915

A PILLAR OF FLAME (Vitagraph). May 1.-Norbert Lusk has built up a remarkably truthful domestic tragedy, made possible by a man's weakness and a woman's selfishness and head-strong will. The author has drawn no fanciful picture of Madeline Danby, who leaves her husband and child for a stage career; neither has he painted her in likable colors. The lack of firmness which the husband displays in permitting Madeline to come back and upset his domestic establishment and thus bring on the tragedy, will also not endear him to an audience. It is a powerful two-reel drama, nevertheless. Norma Talmadge and Harry Morey could not be improved upon, and Producer Van Dyke Brooke deserves equal praise.

The Criminal

Released June 26, 1915. Produced by Broadway Star for Vitagraph. Cast: Norma Talmadge, with Van Dyke Brooke, Maurice Costello, Maud Milton, Estelle Mardo, Thomas R. Mills. 3 reels..

Review from Moving Picture World, June 26, 1915

"The Criminal."

Sympathetic Acting of Norma Talmadge is Conspicuous Feature of Three-Part Vitagraph Drama.

Reviewed by Lynde Denig.

NORMA TALMADGE has a character of great appeal in this three-part drama of the underworld, written by Anna Bressman and directed by Van Dyke Brooke. Nell Wells, the lost daughter of the district attorney, who becomes the adopted daughter of the leader of a band of criminals, is the big figure in the story; the one, it may be imagined, that inspired all the others and gave the author the idea for the plot. Reflected through the persuasive personality of Miss Talmadge, Nell is an irresistibly sympathetic girl in her struggle to remain good despite the adverse influence of the nefarious Wells. It is a character that almost invites overacting, yet this young actress reaches the emotions without once straining for effects and always succeeds in conveying the thought behind the action.

There is a nicely balanced melodramatic plot in "The Criminal," and because of the skill exercised in its handling and the uniformally [sic] strong acting, one unconsciously overlooks the conventional relationship on which the big scenes are based. Frequently enough we have met district attorneys placed in the unpleasant predicament of prosecuting their own children; still the situation remains good for a few heart throbs when treated with the sincerity that distinguishes the performances in this picture. Maurice Costello, as the district attorney, Mr. Brooke, Thomas Mills and several others, share the honors with Miss Talmadge in emphasizing the human note essential in a melodrama of this type.

Events are so arranged that Nell is accused of shooting a government official and through a mistaken sense of loyalty to Wells, whom she believes to be her father, she refuses to tell the truth and bring about his conviction. An old letter establishes the fact that she is the daughter of the district attorney and the and the imaginary blood ties having been removed, she establishes the guilt of the arch crook and returns to her rightful parents, not forgetting, however, the woman who befriended her through years of misfortune.

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Last revised, March 19, 2011

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