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La Tosca (1918)

La Tosca (1918) Famous Players-Lasky Corp. Distributor: Famous Players-Lasky Corp; Paramount Pictures. Presenter: Adolph Zukor. Director: Edward Jose. Scenario: Charles E. Whittaker. Camera, Ned Van Buren. Cast: Pauline Frederick, Frank Losee, Jules Raucourt, Henry Hebert, W.H. Forstelle. Filmed at least partly in St. Augustine, Florida. 5 reels. This film appears to be LOST

Famed Italian actress Francesca Bertini also made a version this same year, of which only fragments survive.

A grand exit for Floria Tosca. Many an egret died for that hat. Thanks to Thomas Graham, this site has been identified as the door to the chapel at the Castillo de San Marcos, then Fort Marion, in St. Augustine, Florida. Film still from La Tosca, Frederick at door with feathered hat
Film still from La Tosca, tropical locale? Frederick and unknown man Another still from La Tosca, presumably with Jules Raucourt as Cavaradossi(who looks nothing like he does as Hollywood Extra 9413. This scene was shot on the west loggia of the Hotel Ponce de Leon.
Click on thumbnail for larger view

Short story adaptation in Photoplay, April 1918

Review from Variety
Reviews from Moving Picture World
Review from the New York Times

Review from Variety, March 29, 1918

La Tosca Pauline Frederick
Baron Scarpia Frank Losee
Mario Cavardossai [sic] Jules Raucourt
Cesare Angelotti Henry Hebert
Spoletti [sic] W.H. Forstelle

Paramount's screen production of Sardou's immortal drama, "La Tosca," starring Pauline Frederick, had its initial public presentation at the Strand Sunday. The production has been elaborately staged, requiring the construction of a number of massive sets, such as the Cathedral of St. Andrea and a number of exterior scenes in harmony with the architecture of the period of 1800 in Rome. The strong hold which the church had on even the nobility in those days is admirably visualized by Director Edouard Jose, who shoes Baron Scarpia seated at his desk looking over official police documents. The Angelus is heard. He rises, walks to the other end of the room, kneels before the crucifix and crosses himself, returns and signs an order for the execution of a number of victims. All this implants firmly the atmosphere for the big scene in which Floria Tosca, after stabbing Scarpia to death, places a candlestick at each side of the body and a cross upon his breast before making her escape. In the matter of detail of production it is well nigh flawless and magnificently impressive. Miss Frederick as Floria was somewhat disappointing. Oddly enough she seemed at her best in the lighter moments, in her passionate love scenes with Mario. Her big emotional scenes--the ones in which she is called upon to depict almost unbearable anguish--the torturing of Mario, and when she is forced into agreeing to the lecherous desires of Scarpia, seemed to last effective sincerity. She is growing somewhat buxom and losing the appearance of spiritual beauty, which is her greatest asset. Frank Losee as the villainous Baron was sufficiently wicked for all purposes, and Jules Raucourt as Mario a handsome, manly lover. Some day when the film has developed its own genuine Bernhardt we shall have a proper screen visualization of "La Tosca."


Reviews from Moving Picture World

March 30, 1918

Adolph Zukor Presents Pauline Frederick in a Victorien Sardou's Masterpiece--Scenario by Charles E. Whittaker--Directed by Edward Jose--A Paramount Picture Released March 25.

La Tosca Pauline Frederick
Baron Scarpia Frank Losee
Mario Cavaradossi Jules Raucourt
Cesare Angelotti Henry Hebert
Spoletti W.H. Forestelle

One of the most popular of all operas is Sardou's "La Tosca." It tells the story of the young singer who avenges her lover's torture and the insults to herself by stabbing old Baron Scarpia, chief of police, and then, finding that her lover has actually been shot in spite of a promise to the contrary, leaps to her death from the parapet of the castle of St. Angelo, Rome

Feature: "The stage classic made famous by Sarah Bernhardt and Fanny Davenport, faithfully portrayed by Pauline Frederick.

Program and Advertising Phrases: La Tosca: First a tragedy of the stage; next a grand opera and now the most gripping of all screen dramas.
Written by Victorien Sardou for Sarah Bernhardt. Made famous in America by Fanny Davenport. It will live for ever in Pauline Frederick's artistic screen portrayal.
Farrar, Fremstad [sic], Cavalieri, and Mary Garden made the Opera Famous in America. Pauline Frederick records the drama in lasting form.

Stunt Suggestions: Only the most dignified appeal should be made in behalf of this great work of the stage and screen. Possibly the most interesting adjunct would be a window display of rare candlesticks. Advertise for contributions to a "Loan Exhibition" of candle-sticks. Give credit on plainly lettered cards to those who contribute. Hook the display with a good story in the local papers. Street stunts are not to be considered.

Advertising Aids: Two designs each one, three and six-sheets. Rotogravure. Photos 8x10, 11x14, 22x28. One 24-sheet. Ten cuts each for star and play, one three-columns wide. Advertising layout mats. Slides. Press book.

April 28, 1917

Paramount Version of Sardou's Play with Pauline Frederick an Elaborate Production.
Reviewed by Edward Weitzel.

Thirty years ago, when Victorien Sardou wrote "La Tosca" for Sarah Bernhardt, that wonderful woman's display of tragic power in the character of the Italian opera singer gave the play a vogue quite beyond its own merits. It was put together by the French dramatist as a tour de force to furnish the great tragedienne a vehicle with which she might depict the soul of a woman tortured to frenzy until in a moment of righteous rage she slays the author of her misery.

The period of the play is early in the last century. "La Tosca" is introduced as a beautiful, light hearted Italian woman surrounded by admirers, courted by everyone for her artistic ability, and loving the painter, Mario Cavaradossi, with all the ardor of her Latin temperament. Life for the singer is only another word for happiness. Suddenly she finds that Mario and she are in great danger. The painter has helped Angelotti, a political prisoner, to escape, and Baron Scarpa [sic], the dreaded Chief of Police, is aware of the fact. Events begin to move swiftly. The singer and Mario are arrested, and Tosca is forced to listen to the groans of her tortured lover until she reveals the hiding place of Cavaradossi [i.e. Angelotti]. The prisoner swalls poison and dies, and Mario is thrown into a cell.

Pleased with his work Scarpa dines at ease, and sends for the singer. There is one way to save her lover's life. If she will agree the Chief of Police will arrange for Mario's escape. He will order him shot, but the guns will contain no bullets, and after the soldiers are gone the lovers can leave Italy. Tosca consents to give her honor in exchange for the safe conduct that will save the man she loves. As Scarpa turns to write the document the desperate woman catches sight of a knife on the table. The first embrace of the beastly Chief of Police nerves her arm, and she buries the blade in his heart. Snatching the paper from his nerveless fingers, Tosca turns to flee. As she reaches the door the half-crazed woman remembers that she is in the presence of death. A good Catholic, she pauses to put candles at Scarpa's head and a crucifix on his breast. Then she hurries away.

Arriving at the prison she shows her safe conduct to the officer in charge and is admitted. Mario is led out to the execution. Tosca waits in an angle of the wall. The volley is fired. The singer rushes to her love, and bends over him. He does not move, and there is blood on his breast. Scarpa has tricked her. Mario is dead. The agonized woman throws herself from the parapet of the prison.

The success of the operatic version of the play was a foregone conclusion. It contains the strong elemental passions to be found in all grand opera librettos. The picture version, prepared by Charles E. Whittaker for the Famous-Players-Lasky Corporation reveals how curiously the screen applies its own laws to the spoken drama. Adhering to the lyric rather than to the stage version, the picture, contrary to the spoken play, does not reach its strongest effect in the killing of Scarpa, but in the execution of Mario. On the stage the slaying scene is full of eloquent pauses, and the two people concerned carry it through with an intensity of suspense that requires little movement. The execution scene is full of life and motion, and the shifting action offers the shadow play a better medium. The interest never lags in the pictured "La Tosca," but the suspense is frequently sacrificed to explanatory detail.

Edward Jose directed the production. It is mounted with splendid effect, and its artistic merits of scene, costuming, and general ensemble are of a high order. Pauline Frederick plays Tosca with a just appreciation of her varying moods, and shows considerable tragic force. Frank Losee is a polished but vividly repulsive Baron Scarpa. Jules Raucourt as Mario, Henry Herbert as Angelotti, and W. H. Forstelle as Spoletti give well considered characterizations. The camera work by Ned van Buren is in keeping with its importance to the artistic result.

Review from The New York Times, November 21, 1921

LA TOSCA, directed by Edward Jose, with Pauline Frederick in the title role, re-edited and set to music by Dr. Hugo Riesenfeld; ... at the Rialto

Music and motion pictures are happily joined in the opening number of the Realto program this week, a reissued film version of "La Tosca," accompanied by selections from Puccini's opera, played by the orchestra. The picture was made as a six-reel feature five or more years ago, under the direction of Edward Jose, but has been cut to two reels for its present exhibition. How well Mr. oJse [sic] directed the scenes now used and how well Dr. Riesenfeld and his staff have done the cutting are testified to in the statement that the film as it may be seen today is an exceptionally well-done work, interesting from beginning to end, and in its critical scenes as intensely dramatic, and cinematographic, too, as anything that has come to Broadway for a long time. This, of course, is largely due to the sure acting of Miss Frederick, and also the accompanying music. It is to be hoped that Dr. Riesenfeld will repeat what he modestly calls his experiment.

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Last revised, March 29, 2015