Maurice Tourneur

Alias Jimmy Valentine
R: Maurice Tourneur. B: Paul Armstrong (play), O. Henry (story). D: Robert Warwick, Robert Cummings, Alec B. Francis. P: Peerless Productions. USA 1915
Print: Library of Congress

Paul Spehr, Library of Congress, wrote on Facebook (Aug. 24th, 2016):
Alias Jimmy Valentine was found in Australia and was repatriated to the U. S. during the 1990’s in an exchange with the archive in Canberra arranged by my late wife Susan Dalton. It was one of the most notable of the more than 1000 American films in the exchange. Susan had to conduct a lottery because MoMA, Eastman House and UCLA all wanted it. I won the draw for the Library of Congress. The nitrate was copied by the Library’s lab in Dayton, Ohio and the film was shown first in Pordenone at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. It’s a charmer that demonstrates Tourneur’s versatility.”

“An influential cinema pioneer, Tourneur brought theatrical experience to the films he made in France and America. His talent for composition, combined with his knowledge of literature, produced films of visual and emotional impact. Tourneur is remembered in America mostly for The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) and The Last of the Mohicans (1920). But French cinephiles celebrate Tourneur’s later films, many of which influenced the development of French film noir.
Born in 1876 in Paris, Tourneur trained as an illustrator, worked as an assistant to sculptor Auguste Rodin, and acted in theater. In 1912, Tourneur started working at the Éclair film studio, where he established the formula for detective pictures in his first solo directing effort, an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel ‘Le mystère de la chambre jaune’ (1913). That same year, he also filmed a Grand Guignol production of the Edgar Allen Poe short story ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’.
The English-speaking Tourneur was chosen to head Éclair’s American studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1914. When World War I broke out in Europe, Tourneur remained in America and assembled a permanent film crew, including editor (and future director) Clarence Brown and the soon-to-be famous actor John Gilbert.”
Richard Hildreth
San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915) is a light-hearted melodrama about a safecracker who reforms. Jimmy Valentine was created by short story writer O. Henry, in his tale ‘A Retrieved Reformation’ (1903). The story was dramatized by Paul Armstrong in 1910, becoming a hit Broadway play, ‘Alias Jimmy Valentine’. It is this theatrical version that was adapted by Tourneur into a movie. Tourneur emphasized in his writings that he considered Armstrong’s play to be much richer and better developed than O. Henry’s brief source tale.
The film was remade in the 1920’s twice, under the same title. Maxwell Karger directed a 1920 version with Bert Lytell in the title role, and Jack Conway did the 1928 version with William Haines, and Lionel Barrymore as the policeman who tracks him down. The 1910 play was so popular that a hit song was composed in tribute to it, ‘When Jimmy Valentine Gets Out’ (1911), by vaudeville legend Gus Edwards. This was later sung by Bing Crosby in the movie The Star Maker (Roy Del Ruth, 1939), the musical biography of Gus Edwards. Jimmy Valentine was an early example of a multi-media sensation. The article on crime writer Jack Boyle also suggests that Jimmy Valentine helped inspire Boyle’s own sympathetic thief, Boston Blackie, who also had a prolific career of movie adaptations in the silent era.”
Michael E. Grost

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Maurice Tourneur