Midchannel (1920) Garson Studios, Inc. Distributor: Equity Pictures Corp. Presenter: Harry Garson. Director: Harry Garson. Scenario: George Ingleton. Camera: Arthur Edeson. Gowns : Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon) (at least three teagowns); Lanvin (at least one gown). Cast: Clara Kimball Young, J. Frank Glendon, Edward M. Kimball, Bertram Grassby, Eileen Robinson, Helen Sullivan, Katherine Griffith, Jack Livingston. 6 reels. This film is available on video, and a 35 mm. print is held at the Library of Congress
|A nice tinted lobby card courtesy of Derek Boothroyd|
A Clara Kimball Young feature, presented by Harry Garson, with enough faults in the picture to have people walk out on it before it reaches the finish, but, once nearing that, the interest quickens so speedily that if the earlier direction had been equal to that of later "Mid-Channel" would have been a corking feature. As it is it's just a lucky picture.
The story has been adapted from the Sir Arthur Wing Pinero play that Ethel Barrymore played for a long run at the Empire, New York, several years ago. The title means nothing more than the mid-channel of married life, through a character in the feature likening the roughness of the English channel in the centre of the trip across from London to Paris to the woes married folks meet in their wedded life.
This "Mid-Channel" is full of bad photography, poor acting, many captions and middle-aged people, but it gets in a wallop when the parted husband and wife, brought together by a friend, mutually confess they have gone wrong while away from each other. The audience knows who was with each, and the estranged married pair know that as well.
So there's the argument for the equal rights of women and the suffragette, for the woman right at this point pays and pays until, finding her lover was glad their affair had passed over and engaged himself to another girl, the wife jumps out of a window to death on the street below as her husband is arguing with her lover to marry her. He said he would, but wanted to back out.
Everything is conventional about "Mid-Channel" up to that point. That sends it up and up, redeeming it by remembering, however, if it is closing a program, it's unlikely the audience will wait that long.
And then, to remove the edge of thrill, Miss Young, as the wife, is seen finishing the book, "MidChannel," receives her husband with a sigh of relief and they agree to remain at home that evening for dinner. Very nice--like trying to sweeten vinegar with ice cream. Some people prefer their vinegar straight.
No one did any acting to rave over, Miss Young included. They all looked well in close-ups and not at all well at other times. The dismalness of the long-shot photography could not be blamed upon the projection in this instance, as everything else was properly projected. In one close-up, when Miss Young attempted to express horror or something like that, she looked instead as though she was going after a fit. That close-up should be cut out of the picture. It's awful, both ways.
If the Clara Kimball Young name is big enough for a patient audience, "Mid-Channel" is all right to play as a customary feature. If not, then not.
Equity Releases Adaptation of Arthur Wing Pinero Play Featuring Clara Kimball Young
Reviewed by Margaret J. MacDonald.
The question which the Equity screen version of the Arthur Wing Pinero play, "Midchannel," presents is interesting, especially to those who have given thought to the why and wherefore of marital problems. It was no doubt conceived by the author for the entertainment of adults, and as presented on the screen by Equity Pictures this is precisely where it belongs. It treats of marital shoals and views married life from a sordid angle. Needless to say the picture is based on a skillfully constructed play and has been directed with an evident understanding of the theme and plot.
Clara Kimball Young, the star of the production, dresses the part of Zoe Blundell well and evinces a proper conception of the role. There may be a question, however, as to her personal adaptability to all the requirements of the character. As the wife at midchannel of the matrimonial sea, in her more petulant moods, she does excellent work. The softer shades of the role are not as satisfactory in definition, however. J. Frank Glendon is rather sombre in his interpretation of the role of Theodore Blundell The most pleasing interpretation is done by Edward M. Kimball as the Hon. Peter Mottram, a mender of broken friendships. Helen Sullivan as Mrs. Annerly is also noticeable for her clever handling of the role allotted to her.
The production is one that the average audience will like--in fact, it should run quite strong as a program feature.
|Zoe Blundell||Clara Kimball Young|
|Theodore Blundell||J. Frank Glendon|
|Hon. Peter Mottram||Edward M. Kimball|
|Leonard Ferriss||Bertram Grassby|
|Mrs. Pierpont||Eileen Robinson|
|Ethel Pierpont||Katherine Griffith|
The Story: "Midchannel" treats that period of married life, occurring principally in society circles, when the contracting parties grow weary of well-doing and of each other and turn from the family hearth to other quarters for amusement.
Zoe and Theodore Blundell are the two central characters of the story. Zoe, peeved at the seeming negligence of her husband, retaliates by spending most of her evenings away from home, usually in the company of men. And Theodore, not sufficiently impressed with the truth of the old adage, "There is safety in number," takes issue with her, with the result that quarrel after quarrel occurs.
Hon. Peter Mottram, an old friend of Theodore Blundell's attempts to establish a reconciliation between the Blundells, and almost succeeds, when Zoe's petulance overturns his plans, and a wider breach than ever is the result. Finally they separate and Zoe goes to Italy, where she is followed by an old flame, Leonard Ferris, who seeks to bring about a divorce between Zoe and her husband. In the meantime Theodore has found that although experience seems to have proved that it is impossible to live with a woman, neither can he live without one, and he is discovered living in a flat with a pretty young widow, Mrs. Annerly.
Several complications occur in which Leonard Ferris and Ethel Pierpont, whose mother has been angling for Ferris as a son-n-law, figure. Peter Mottram again steps in and this time succeeds in bringing about a reconciliation between the estranged pair.
Program and Advertising Catchlines: A Story of Marital Problems.
A Story of Married Life from a Sordid Angle
Clara Kimball Young in an Adaptation of an Arthur Wing Pinero Play.
Advertising Angles: Play Miss Young to the limit, but don't let them forget the stage success of the play. Use posters, for Miss Young appeals both to those who read the newspaper advertisements and those who follow the pictorial displays. Make a good showing and if possible use a perambulator. It will return its cost.
Fine Pinero Drama Very Badly Done in Pictures by Equity
Today the motion picture loving world want to see something which they think photoplay producers should aspire to and achieve. This picture has been adapted from Sir Arthur Wing Pinero' play "Midchannel" but it has very little of Pinero in it and it is handled with amateurish directing. Aside from these glaring facts the star shows apparent struggle to retain her audiences by strenuous 'emoting.' Those days are over. Nearly all of the cast put over a forced and stilted performance. It may be that this is the director's idea of good production; it may be that he is a 'futurist' who is misunderstood There is bad judgement shown even in the titles. These are, in the main epigrammatic extractions from the original manuscript. It takes a clever gesture and the subtle sound of the voice to put these lines across to the right effect. In the picture this cannot be done; they become monotonous to the point of boredom.
There is little need to repeat the story. In short it concerns a married couple who find it hard to get along with each other.
If the connubial voyage can be weathered beyond the fault-finding point the matrimonial ark will safely achieve its ultimate goal of happiness. Side issues are involved to throw this into a stronger light--this test of marriage. After a series of emotional events and struggles the pair finally find happiness in each other in their complete understanding of the situation they are in. In the play there were many tense dramatic moments. In the photoplay it was just barely possible to keep from yawning. The only good feature to it is the fine photography and excellent lightings, which, however, the picture public has come to look for as a matter of course.
(Thanks to Randy Bigham for this review. It was perhaps syndicated, as it appeared in several newspapers, but it reads rather like part of the promotional materials for the film.)
ETHEL BARRYMORE'S FORMER STAGE PLAY NOW IN BIG MOTION PICTURE
Clara Kimball Young's Finest Photodrama
On viewing Clara Kimball Young's latest photoplay, one is irresistibly compelled to conclude that the supreme reign of the motion picture is here to stay, and that whatever happens to other fields of entertainment, the photodrama is an institution that has become firmly intrenched in the hearts of the public. When a production like "Mid-Channel" appears, and not only reproduces with striking faithfulness the original force of the stage-play, but actually improves and heightens the effect of this dramatic masterpiece with gorgeous setting, elaborate scenic effects, dazzling costumes and a panorama of colorful environment, then our recognition of the finer sort of pictures is even greater than that accorded to stage-plays.
This is saying much, considering that no less a star than Ethel Barrymore appeared in the leading role during the run of Pinero's play on Broadway--and bearing in mind that even then, the success of "Mid Channel" was sweeping. The triumph of Clara Kimball Young with this latest vehicle, however, is so certain that it can be safely predicted that the picturization of "Mid-Channel" will create nothing short of a sensation. For no more intimate theme could have been chosen at this time than that of this produciton. It deals withthe throbbing problems of a young maried couple, in fact--and strikes a sympathetic chord in e very human heart. The sitations it depicts are much as every lover and every married person has experienced and struggled with--the temptations are wonderfully true to life, and the entire treatment of the play will endear it to the memory of every human being.
CLARA KIMBLL YOUNG plays the rôle of Zoe Blundell in the screen version of Sir Arthur WIng Pinero's play, "Mid-Channel." With all due respect to Miss Young's beauty and talent, she hasn't the half-disdainful, haft-wistful charm necessary to give life to Pinero's aristocratic English lady. The rôle was played on the stage by Ethel Barrymore. The film translation of the tragic drama of marital life is, at best, mechanical. And the adapter has given it a sappy happy ending. Lo and behold! it is all a dream and no such nasty things as bitter quarrels and suicide really occurred. Like Both Tarkington's Willie Baxter, we mutter, "Ye Gods!" .
It is rather surprising to see how contemporary critics panned this film, viewed today it is one of Young's better efforts. It has an interesting and plausible story set in everyday realities. "Midchannel" starts off in midchannel, with a husband and wife already in the midst of an argument, and their relationship deteriorates from there. If it settles on conventionalities at the end, it is hardly surprising from an American film of this era, and doesn't erase the impression of the previous scenes. The film plays to Young's strengths as an actress, and its fairly leisurely pace gives us ample opportunity to sample her fabulous Lucile wardrobe. Edward Kimball has his best surviving role as the family friend who tries to patch things up. The film is available on Video from Grapevine. The image quality is good, and the piano score is appropriate It is also available from other video distributors, including PicPal,Ebony Showcase Theater, Nostalgia Family Video, Movies Unlimited, TV Video, Ronnie Cramer's Cult Film Site, Foothill, and other public domain dealers.
Last revised March 30, 2012