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The Spider (1916)

The Spider (1916) Famous Players Film Co. Distributor: Paramount Pictures Corp. Presenter: Daniel Frohman. Director: Robert G. Vignola. Scenario, William H. Clifford. Cast: Pauline Frederick, Thomas Holding, Frank Losee. Filmed at least partly in St. Augustine, Florida. 5 reels This film appears to be LOST

This was the first film in a long association with director Robert G. Vignola.

Review from Variety
Reviews from Moving Picture World

Review from Variety, February 11, 1916

Valerie St. Cyr Pauline Frederick
Joan Marche      "       "
Julian St. Saens Thomas Holding
Count Du Polasy Frank Losee

"The Spider" seems to scenarioed by William H. Clifford to fit Pauline Frederick. The audience was regretfully neglected. It's a Famous Players (Paramount) feature, released last week and shown in New York at the Broadway. "The Spider" is such a story as you may have seen under a slightly different guides as "The Siren," "The Adventuress" or any of those features wherein was detailed the inner life of a "woman of ease." "The Spider's" single difference, as far as any lay interest is concerned, is that Miss Frederick, "the siren," takes a dual role, but (and one might add thank Heaven) without a double exposure that bridges the two characters simultaneously upon the scene. This is unique picture making in these days, when the possible tricks by the camera are seldom overlooked. It's a feature almost wholly made in the studio, thereby proclaiming itself as an inactive playing film, although Valerie St. Cyr sirenede herself to the guillotine at the conclusion. She was rolled over to her death under the knife in the presence of a regiment of infantry that stood at attention, making the affair look like a national event, though the audience does not see the decapitation. Then to remove the gruesomeness this scene suggests (the director made it an anti-climax), it goes into the climax with the usual mush stuff. Earlier views show St. Cyr, the wife of a struggling violinist in some country where there is plenty of snow, dissatisfied with her lot, leaving her husband to the Count du Polsay. In another part of presumably Paris was a young flower girl, in love with and engaged to an artist (Painter). Yes, this flower girl was St. Cyr's daughter, but St. knew that not. Saint wanted her portrait in oil and asked the sweetheart of her daughter to paint it. He refused on the ground the only painted gentlewomen. That was some slap thought Saint, so she wagered the Count 5,000 francs he would yet paint her. The count fell for the wager, and Saint in what she thought was lowly garb, but in reality was quite modish for tailor-made applied to the painter as a model. He had her pose for Cleopatra, and during the posing terms, Saint fell in love with the artist. At the last sitting she threw herself at him, but he threw her away, for Jean had looked in the door as Saint was hugging Julian. Julian raced after Joan to tell her about it, and while he was absent Saint cut the Cleopatra painting to ribbons. Meanwhile, the Count had been going beyond the boundaries. He saw the flower girl, liked her, gave her a gold piece, the painter made her give it back to him and when the all around connection became clear to the Count, the Saint asked him for revenge upon the painter, saying the artist had insulted her. The Count had the flower girl abducted, taken to his apartment where the flower girl stabbed him to save her honor probably or perhaps she just didn't like the looks of the Count, those French people are so funny. Saint afterward visited the Count's apartments and when the police came she was holding a dagger. Saint confessed she committed the murder, which much surprised Joan upon hearing about it, so that is why St. Cyr hit the guillotine on schedule time. Miss Frederick looked very nice as the siren and made up for the flower girl by allowing a poor looking wig with curls to hover about her head. Mr. Losee gave an excellent performance as the Count, something that could not be said for Mr. Holding as the artist. Robert G. Vignol [sic], who directed, might be commended for what he did not do rather than for what he did. The feature is not strong enough for Miss Frederick, there is not a tithe of novelty in the tale, which besides is unwholesome, and "The Siren" is a poor example of the Paramount standard.


Reviews from Moving Picture World

February 12, 1916

"The Spiders."
In the Famous Players Five-Part Subject Pauline Frederick Is Seen to Advantage in Dual Role.
Reviewed by George Blaisdell

With "The Spider," the five-part production of the Famous Players, Robert Vignola makes his debut as a director for that company. In his initial work he has made an interesting picture. William H. Clifford, the head of the company's scenario department, is the writer of the script. One of the notable factors in the subject, and one that as a general rule marks the difference between the original screen story and the stage play, is its short cast. There are but three principals--and around these the interest centers all through the picture. True, one of the three plays a dual role, mother and daughter.

Pauline Frederick is Valerie St. Cyr, the Spider, a woman who has left her husband and infant daughter to accompany Count Du Poissy to Paris, where she is installed in luxurious surroundings. The story opens years later, when the infant is grown to girlhood. Joan, the daughter, is employed in a flower shop. She is engaged to St. Saens, an artist just at the point of "arrival." Valerie, when St. Saens declines to paint her portrait, goes to the painter as a model under an assumed name. As the artist works on commission for a painting of "Cleopatra" the model falls in love with him. Du Poissy sees Joan and when she repulses his advances and Valerie complains to him that the artist has insulted her--he has spurned her endearments--the Count kidnaps the girl. In a struggle she kills him. Valerie, too late, learns Joan is her daughter. She assumes responsibility for the crime and is executed without the daughter having knowledge of the relationship.

The simultaneous portrayal of mother and daughter is difficult under any circumstances. Miss Frederick has imposed on her the added handicap of interpreting two entirely dissimilar characters--the mother a woman the painting of whose portrait a reputable artist would shy at: the daughter a simple girl of straight living. That Miss Frederick establishes the illusion and maintains it is a tribute to her artistry. "The Spider" is a subject of strong emotions; and it is in pictures of this character that Miss Frederick is at the height of her power.

Thomas Holding is St. Saens. Mr. Holding splendidly portrays the man tempted by the charms of the woman of the gay world, frankly in love with him and accustomed to having her own way with men. It is a finely drawn characterization. Frank Losee is the Count. It is a far cry from his Denman Thompson, as he was last seen, to De Bolssey. His conception of the Count is the antithesis of the melodramatic. He plays the part easily, naturally--to the life.

"The Spider" may in all truth be said to be played by a "star cast"; and the staging matches the acting.

February 12, 1916

THE SPIDER (Famous Players--Five Parts--January 27).--The cast; Valerie St. Syr and Joan Marche (Pauline Frederick); Julian St. Saens (Thomas Holding); Count Du Poissy (Frank Losee)

Valerie St. Cyr is the beauty who ran away with Count Du Poissy, leaving her baby daughter and her impoverished husband to shift for themselves. When the little girl, Joan, matures, she becomes engaged to Julian St. Saens, a puritanical young artist, who, never suspecting the relation of Valerie to his fiancee, refuses to paint the former's portrait because she does not come up to his moral standards. Piqued at the artist's snub, and equally ignorant of Joan's identity, Valerie contrives to become his model by pretending to be penniless. She falls in love with Julian but when he repulses her, she seeks vengeance for the insult.

The Count has taken a fancy to Joan and they plan to abduct the girl. The Count takes her to one of his private haunts but when she realizes her danger, Joan stabs him and escapes. Fatally wounded, the count summons the police. Meanwhile, Valerie has learned that Joan, the girl whom she has just be instrumental in handing over to the Count, is her own daughter. Rushing to the Count's rendezvous she finds him dying and as the gendarmes enter she decides to make final reparation to her daughter by declaring herself guilty of the crime.

Convicted by her own statements, Valerie goes to her death with an expression of almost heavenly contentment upon her face, happy in the belief that she has made atonement for her early desertion of the helpless infant.

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Last revised, March 29, 2015