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The Woman Gives (1920)

The Woman Gives (1920) Norma Talmadge Film Corporation/First National. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Directed by Roy W. Neill. Scenario by Grant Carpenter and Waldo Walter. Camera by David Abel. Technical direction by Willard M. Reineck. Cast: Norma Talmadge, John Halliday, Edmund Lowe, Lucille Lee Stewart, John Smiley, Edward Keppler. 6 reels. A copy of this film is located at the Library of Congress (35 mm.)

English advertising for the film courtesy of Derek Boothroyd.

See also a still photo from the J. Willis Sayre photograph collection at the University of Washington.

Review from Variety
Review from the New York Times
Review and advertising aids from Moving Picture World
Viewing comments

Review from Variety, April 16, 1920


Inga Sonderson Norma Talmadge
Daniel Garford John Halliday
Robert Milton Edmond Lowe
Mrs. Garford Lucille Lee Stewart
Cornelius John Smiley
Bowden Edward Keepler

This feature is a fair enough market product, but Norma Talmadge's unusual talents are wasted on such stuff as is provided her by this adaptation of Owen Johnson's novel. Mr. Johnson is a popular writer who lacks Robert W. Chambers' gift for dialogue. The rest is trash, and it is particularly noticeable in the screen version, which never for a moment rings true nor carries conviction. Considering all he had working against him, R. William Neill made a fair job of the directing, though he used close-ups without reason. The titling was stilted. At one point we have a thug using the Shakespearean "'tis.." At another a man who has been smoking opium rises from his couch and beats a Chinaman up. This is a physical impossibility, but nothing like such ever bothers a manufacturer of popular heroes.

Inga and Robert are in love and indebted to a famous artist named Garford for success. Garford's wife fools with other men and is caught. Leaving her, Garford goes to the dogs and takes to smoking opium. Though it makes her lover jealous, Inga proceeds to rescue him, even going to an opium den to drag him back to manhood. She succeeds, but loses her sweetheart. When Garford asks her hand she refuses. In the end she and her true love are reunited.

Edmond Lowe as the lover photographed well and managed to live up to the requirements of the part. In other settings and plots more and better work should come from him. John Halliday had more opportunity, but it was all of the melodramatic sort--Mr. Johnson's idea of a society man--and he overplayed. Lucille Lee Stewart appeared to good effect but briefly as a vamp, and Miss Talmadge was, as always, charming.


Review from the New York Times, April 12, 1920

Norma Talmadge brings her talent and ever pleasing person into a photoplay entitled "The Woman Gives," adapted from a novel by Owen Johnson, which is so artificial in construction and so filled with banal and stilted subtitles that it fails to hold the interest, despite its settings and the acting of Miss Talmadge and John Halliday. It was directed by R. William Neill, who has done better work.

Ap 12, 1920, 12:1

Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, date unknown


Norma Talmadge in First National Version of Popular Owen Johnson Novel

Adapted from the novel by Owen Johnson. Directed by Roy Neill. Released by First National.

Inga Sonderson Norma Talmadge
Daniel Garford John Halliday
Robert Milton Edmond Lowe
Mrs. Garford Lucille Lee Stewart
Cornelius John Smiley
Bowden Edward Keepler

Norma Talmadge, John Halliday, and the Art Director combined to lift the screen version of Owen Johnson's novel "The Woman Gives" out of hopeless mediocrity. Miss Talmadge is quite her usual charming self and her gowns are a constant delight. Had the director been more chary of closeups and lengthy sub-titles the action might have moved smoothly enough to conceal its obviously overdrawn motivation.

Mr. Halliday, by his sincerity and restraint achieved some success with the negative role assigned him. The sets, particularly the studio interiors, were pleasing in detail and atmosphere.

The plot is the customary predigested pot-pourri of artist life with a dash, at the end, which is reminiscent of "The Man Who Came Back." In the role of Inga Sonderson, Miss Talmadge is the model for an illustrious painter and later is just in time to catch him on the rebound from the disillusionment which attends his tardy discovery of the selfish character of his wife, one who is ravaged by a bad evil of the "gimmies."

The crushed genius seeks solace in the grape and poppy and in the process of throwing him the life-line Inga seriously jeopardizes her own happiness.

Her Fiance, whose character appears to be equally compounded of jealousy, and fanatic and inexplicable impulses to self-abnegation, fluctuates from one mood to the other. Inga brings the picture to a close by casting herself into the arms of this emotional chameleon.

It is scarcely a worthy vehicle for Miss Talmadge, but by virtue of her personality she carries it to success.

[Omitted, three photos. 1. Norma Talmadge in profile. 2. Talmadge and reclining man. Caption: Norma Talmadge as Inga Sonderson in "The Woman Gives" (First National) finds Daniel Garford (John Halliday) unconscious from the use of drugs and alcohol. 3. Talmadge grabbing arm of Chinese man. Caption: Miss Talmadge consults another opium expert, probably in the hope of finding some one who can beat her lover at hitting the pipe in "The Woman Gives."]

Review and advertising aids from Moving Picture World, April 17, 1920

"The Woman Gives"

First National Offers a New Revelation of Norma Talmadge's Radiant Personality in Owen Johnson's Story of a Woman's Sacrifice.

Reviewed by Mary Kelly

THE introduction of commonplace and melodramatic incidents mars the essential nobility of the basic idea in the First National picture, "The Woman Gives," which is a story of a woman who has held honor and gratitude dearer than love. But the fact that the picture is graced by the art of one of the screen's most accomplished actresses, Norma Talmadge, and that she is supported by an excellent cast, goes far in establishing the feature as a likable one. In devoting herself to the task of redeeming the man who was responsible for her successful career, the heroine forfeits the respect and almost the love of her fiancÚ, who misinterprets her acts. At the height of his indignation he reverts to the popular style of expressing wrath in movies-that of violently destroying a work of art for which she had posed. This and similar episodes tend to cheapen what would otherwise be dignified drama.

Always beautiful, always individual and vibrant with emotional sincerity, Norma Talmadge gives a performance that is not often paralleled. Much is to be said in praise of the photography, which has most effectively reproduced her beauty and expressiveness. Edmund Lowe as her young, impetuous sweetheart, gives the star sympathetic support. The other prominent role is handled by John Halliday, who plays a serious part with understanding.

The crying need for better sub-titles is distressingly apparent in "The Woman Gives." There is a note of affectation in the flowery, bookish phrases that distracts and detracts. For instance; "'Tis madness to come here" is not the natural way of chiding a young girl who has braved the extreme dangers of an opium den that she might save her benefactor.


Inga Sonderson Norma Talmadge
Daniel Garford John Halliday
Robert Milton Edmond Lowe
Mrs. Garford Lucille Lee Stewart
Cornelius John Smiley
Bowden Edward Keepler

Story by Owen Johnson

Directed by Roy Neil

Length: Six Reels

The Story

Two young artists, Inga Sonderson and Robert Milton, win recognition through the disinterested efforts of Daniel Garford, a famous painter. Garford's brilliant career is suddenly halted by a horrible disillusionment which he suffers in learning of his wife's faithlessness. He loses all ambition and sinks lower and lower into a state of disreputable immorality. Inga, meantime, feels bound by gratitude to him, and is doing her utmost to redeem him. Her efforts are misinterpreted by Milton, her fiance, who thinks she is unnecessarily meddlesome in trying to solve Garford's problems. Inga, however, cannot bear to see Garford give up a career that holds so much promise. She continues to make every effort to uplift him, despite Milton's evident resentment and jealousy. But her visit of supplication to Garford's wife, as well as her care of Garford after a drunken stupor, fail to awaken any dormant sense of manhood.

Upon learning that he has become addicted to the use of drugs, she determines to follow him into the recesses of an opium den. To accomplish this she is subjected to the unpleasant experience of fighting back an evil-minded Chinaman. She is saved from harm by Garford, who suddenly revives sufficiently to trounce her assailant. She then pleads with Garford, but he only resents her intrusion. Desperately she snatches his smoking outfit and smashes it. Garford is enraged. HE loses all control and is about to attack her, but is strangely stayed by the look of innocence in her face, and he decides to go back to the studio wit her. In making sure that he returns home she goes to his door with him and is seen by Milton, who wrathfully upbraids her for this unconventional act. The engagement is then broken off, and Milton, angered beyond words, smashes the statue which he has carved with Inga as the model.

Garford now begins to reform. Slowly he wins back his former position of respectability and fame. The rumor reaches Milton that she is to marry Garford. He is heartbroken, and by now has become thoroughly remorseful. He is about to leave the city, when Inga comes to him and in response to his query about her marrying Garford, she answers that she is going to marry the man she loves-Milton.

Program and Exploitation Catchlines:

While One woman gives, Another Takes. See Both Types in "The Woman Gives."

Norma Talmadge in the Role of a Guardian Angel in "The Woman Gives," a Story of a Woman Who Appoints Herself as the Special Protectress of a Man Who Had Fallen from Respectability. See How She Redeems Him

She Gave Up a Woman's Greatest Happiness-The Love of a Good Man---That She Might Pay a Debt of Gratitude to Another.

"The Woman Gives" Affords Norma Talmadge a Rare Opportunity for Emotion in a Role of Superb Womanliness and Unselfish Love. Exploitation angles : Next to the star, the title is the best medium for arousing attention. "The Woman Gives. What Do Women Give? Why Do They Give? And similar questions will attract. Special appeal should be made to women, as the plot is one that will interest them essentially, although Norma Talmadge's popularity will go far in appealing to both sexes.

Viewing comments

This was fairly interesting, though I would have liked it better if Norma had not been quite so saintly. She's an artists model and artist ... "a painter of adorable babies!" [exclamation is theirs, not mine]. She's engaged to Edmund Lowe, who is making a small statue of Joan of Arc with her as the model. She also poses for a famous artist (John Halliday) who is some kind of benefactor to her and Lowe, though Lowe is jealous of him for no apparent reason, presumably just on general principal. Halliday's adored wife (Lucille Lee Stewart, Anita's sister) turns out to be cheating on him, so he hits the skids and Norma has to rescue him from an opium den. This really upsets Lowe who comes off as a sulky prig. Norma's good, though, and Halliday gives his part more dignity than it deserves.
Print viewed: 35 mm print at the Library of Congress.

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Last revised, October 9, 2010