The Safety Curtain (1918). Norma Talmadge Film Corporation/Select Pictures Corporation. Presented by Joseph M. Schenck. Directed by Sidney A. Franklin. Scenario by Sidney A. Franklin and Paul West. Camera by Albert Moses and Ed Weynard. Art direction by William Reinecke. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Eugene O'Brien, Anders Randolf, Gladden James, Lillian Hall. Copies of this film are located at the UCLA Film and Television Archives (16 mm. and videocassette viewing copy) and Nederlands Filmmuseum (film and videocassette viewing copy).This film is available on video
|Captain Merryon||Eugene O'Brien|
Select has taken the story for "The Safety Curtain" from the book by Ethel M. Dell, which probably antedates the war, since it is largely set in the military circles of India without delving into the present struggle. The plot itself has to do with the trials of Puck, an English music hall dancer, in her dramatic course to happiness. Puck was a waif forcibly married to a strong man known as Vulcan, who frequently beat his help-mate, though she really was his "meal ticket."
One night the theatre catches fire, and Puck's quick wittedness in ordering down the safety curtain saves many lives. Captain Merryon, on leave from India, leaps from a box and rescues the little dancer. The papers report her death, also that of Vulcan. So that when Merryon proposes marriage she readily accepts, and they go to his post in India. The alliance is one of those affairs in which the husband has agreed to be husband in name only. That because Puck has never been sure that Vulcan was lost in the fire.
The strong man turns up in Bombay, and is tipped off by a rejected suitor of Puck's that she is wed to Merryon. Vulcan demands that she return to him, and under threat of disclosing their relation and injuring the captain's reputation she accedes. This, while Merryon is engaged in having some plague stricken natives carried to the post hospital.
Merryon returns to his bungalow to find that Puck has gone to Vulcan. The latter is about to beat her when he falls dead with plague, leaving the way for the little dancer and the captain to become really man and wife.
A goodly portion of action in India occurs during rainstorms, the illusion being fairly well carried out save in one scene. The effect of the burning theatre could have been improved. What was shown resembled explosions more than anything else. Improvement too could have been made in the Indian settings and atmosphere. But the story itself is interesting and well acted.
Norma Talmadge played her role with sincerity and cleverness. She looked very dainty as Puck, the dancer, and a loveable companion as the captain's wife. Eugene O'Brien as Merryon proved an excellent lead, with almost as meaty a role as Miss Talmadge's. In the music hall scenes there were touches of reality, such as the stage manager in evening dress, which is the English custom in the bigger halls, The names, too, of the fire victims held one or two resembling English favorites.
In general results "The Safety Curtain," which failed to lock out Puck's past, but which started the little dancer on the road to final happiness, attains the standard of Talmadge releases.
"THE SAFETY CURTAIN"
Select Pictures Presents Norma Talmadge in a Strong Six-Reel Release.
Reviewed by Robert C. McElravy.
A COMPACT, well-built screen production in sex reels has been fashioned by S.A. Franklin and Paul West from the novel called "The Safety Curtain," by Ethel M. Dell. It provides an interesting role for Norma Talmadge, a screen performer who neither fears nor skimps the dramatic end of her work for the sake of merely looking pretty. She takes hold of her situations intelligently and is fortunate in this instance, as in many others, in having a part that calls out her best. Eugene O'Brien, the soldier-hero, also does first rate work, playing with fine repression until the dramatic moments come.
The story is one that contains much human feeling convincingly set forth. Miss Talmadge appears as Puck, a dancer of the London music halls. She is married to the "strong man," a brutal fellow named Vulcan, who beats her unmercifully and holds her to a strict social regime while he does not hesitate to make love to other women. There is a realistic fire scene in the theater, during which Captain Merryon, the hero, rescues Puck and takes her to his apartments. Both the captain and the girl are comparatively friendless and naturally fall in love. Vulcan is presumed to have died in the fire and the captain takes Puck with him to the Army Post in India.
The dramatic moments, which are splendidly presented, come when Sylvester, a former habitué of the dance halls, recognized Puck. The girl will not yield to his advances and Sylvester communicates with Vulcan, who has also appeared on the scene. The latter eventually succumbs to the plague and Puck and Merryon are happily wed.
Gladden James has the part of Sylvester and Anders Randolf appears as Vulcan.
Last revised, December 21, 2008