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The Moment Before (1916)

The Moment Before (1916) Famous Players Film Co. Distributor: Paramount Pictures Corp. Director: Robert Vignola. Scenario: Hugh Ford. Camera: Eddie Gheller. Cast: Pauline Frederick, Thomas Holding, Frank Losee, J.W.Johnston, Edward Sturgis, Henry Hallam. 5 reels.

A 1200 meter (approx. 3900 ft.) nitrate copy with English flash titles (not yet preserved) is held by the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome. It lacks the opening scene before the flashback. This is the earliest Pauline Frederick film available in any form, and the first in which she portrays an aging character--though this part of the film is probably the part that is missing.

Review from Variety
Review from Moving Picture World

Review from Variety, July 17, 1914

Madge Pauline Frederick
Harold Thomas Holding
Duke of Maldon Frank Losee
John, The Gypsy J.W. Johnston
Ojoe Edward Sturgis

Israel Zangwill's drama, "The Moment Before," has been adapted for the screen and serves as the starring vehicle for Pauline Frederick in the latest Famous Players' release. Robert Vignola, who directed the picturization, is to be credited with a fine scene of the moment dramatic on the screen, and in selecting locations for the exterior scenes of the feature he has shown rare discrimination and taste. The story unfolds on he screen in a manner which grips the attention from the start and holds it until the final flash. The Duke and Duchess of Maldon, both advanced in years, devote the greatest part of their lives to charity. Through an accident while riding the Duke is fatally injured. His widow, while at services in church is so touched by the sermon preached that she arranges that in the event of her death, her entire fortune is to be devoted to charities, then as she kneels in prayer before the alter she is stricken, and in the moment before her death her past life passes in picturized review through her memory. It was in her youth she had fractured practically all the Biblical commandments. Starting as the belle of the Gypsy camp, she is betrothed to John, who has thrashed his rival for her affection. One of the other women in the camp reads the hand of Madge and sees in it that she is to be a duchess, commit a murder and finally die on the stroke of noon. All of this, and more besides, comes to pass and, as the dying woman lies at the altar rail, it is all visualized on the screen. There is her meeting with the younger son of the Duke of Maidon, when John is caught poaching on the game preserves, and the younger son, who is the black sheep of the family, permits John to go free on the plea of Madge. Later he visits the camp and finally persuades Madge to enter service as a maid in the home of his father. Later the elder brother and Harold, the younger son, quarrel and the latter strikes the elder down. Madge's gypsy husband enters the house, he tries to force her to return to him but she refuses. In escaping she runs into the elder brother, who is just recovering from the blow. He grasps her and Gypsy John enters and, picking up the andiron that was used a few minutes before, strikes the elder brother over the head and kills him. Later Harold is accused by his father of having caused his brother's death, and not knowing of the later circumstances, believes he is guilty. Years later in Australia, where he has wandered, he reads of his father's death and starts for England to claim his heritage. On the way he stops at a hut and there finds Madge and her husband. A revolver duel follows, in which it looks as though Harold is to meet his death, when Madge, who is lying on the ground where she has been flung by her husband, rises and shoots the latter. Then Harold and she leave together for England. This closes the vision of the dying woman and the picture cuts back to the scene at the altar rail , where she passes away. The picture is a corker from all standpoints and the only question that arises is, where did Pauline Frederic, as Madge, get the Turkish cigaret that she smokes in the hut situated in the Australian bush?


Review from Moving Picture World

May 13, 1916

"The Moment Before"
Pauline Frederick Is Well Supported in Strong Role in Famous Players Subject.
Reviewed by George Blaisdell

It is in the widely contrasting role of a duchess and a gypsy that Pauline Frederick is seen in "The Moment Before," the Famous Players' five five-part release of May 1. The picture is an adaptation of Israel Zangwill's drama. It is directed by Robert G. Vignola. The exteriors were photographed in Florida, and these are notable in their pictorial effect.

The story is shown in inverted form. The first reel and a half is of the duchess who gives freely of her time and money to charity. As her life draws suddenly to a close following the accidental death of the duke the scene fades into a gypsy camp, with the gray-haired duchess shown as a black-haired gypsy looking unconcernedly on a fierce fight of two rivals for her hand. The subject contains an bundance [sic] of action.

In the role of Madge Miss Frederick makes a striking gypsy. She becomes the bride of John the Gypsy through force, not through consent. It is primitive lovemaking on the part of the man. The real effection [sic] of the gypsy woman comes to the surface when she meets Harold, the younger son of the Duke of Maldon. It is through the intervention of two tragedies, the death of the older brother at the hand of John and the shooting of John by Madge to prevent him killing Harold that the way is cleared for the gypsy to become the duchess.

Thomas Holding is Harold, the dissipated younger son, who, following the death of his brother, straightens out in Australia; it is a finished performance. J.W. Johnston is forceful as John the gypsy, a strong interpretation. Frank Losee makes prominent the part of the elder duke. Henry Hallam is a bishop to the life.

Mr. Vignola's staging of the church scenes gives to them unusual atmosphere. The whole picture, for that matter, is well made. "The Moment Before" will make a good release.

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Last revised, September 16, 2005