Alas and Alack
R: Joseph De Grasse. B: Ida May Park. D: Cleo Madison, Arthur Shirley, Mary Kearnen, Lon Chaney. P: Rex Motion Picture Company. USA 1915
“Alas and Alack”: used to express regret or sadness. An idiom combining a pair of terms with similar meaning. The first syllable in each word is like a sigh; las is from Old French meaning weariness; and lack is from Middle English meaning loss.
“Incomplete short has Cleo Madison telling her daughter a story about the noise in a seashell while her husband (Lon Chaney) is away fishing. The woman dreams of becoming rich one day and it seems her wishes are granted when a rich man pulls up on shore. The final six minutes of the film are missing so there’s no way of knowing if she leaves with the man or stays with her husband. The most important thing about this early Universal short is that Chaney plays two roles including a hunchback in a dream sequence.”
“Alas and Alack is significant in that Chaney appeared here, in the third year of his film career, as a hunchback in a fantasy sequence—an obvious precursor to Hunchback (i.e. the 1923 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Chaney). The film itself is rather hokey insofar as we traditionally understand the film form, as the bulk of the action in the film takes place internally for the characters as they mope around. A dissatisfied fisherman’s wife laments her existence on a beach when she is spied by a wealthy gentleman. She goes home, having not so much as spoken a single word to the gentleman, and he goes back to his yacht regretting not being able to be with her. The aforementioned fantasy sequence is tossed in in the middle there to demonstrate her internal turmoil, then Chaney as the fisherman pulls his boat ashore, and that’s it.”
“Joseph Louis DeGrasse (1873 – 1940) was born into a French Canadian family. (…) Joe immigrated to the USA around 1880 as a young child. Joseph began his career as a journalist, but soon became enamored of the theater and took work as a stage actor. Joe DeGrasse met and married actress, Ida May Park (1879-1954). By 1910, he and Ida were acting in motion pictures in Burbank, California. (…) In 1915, Joe became a founding member of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a forerunner to the Director’s Guild of America. During a career spanning from 1910 to 1935 he directed a total of 86 films, as well as writing and producing. Joseph DeGrasse died in Eagle Rock, California.”
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