Zola, Capellani, Griffith

R: Albert Capellani. B: Michel Carré, adaption of Emile Zola’s novel “L’Assommoir”. D: Eugénie Nau, Alexandre Arquillière, Jacques Grétillat, Jacques Varennes, Catherine Fonteney, Paul Lack, Henri Gouget, Paul Capellani, Stacia Napierkowska. P: Pathé Frères (S.C.A.G.L.- Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens de Lettres). Fr 1909

A Drunkard’s Reformation
R: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Arvidson, Adele DeGarde, Florence Lawrence. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1909
(Introducing title: “Incorporating scenes from Emile Zola’s play ‘L’assommoir'”)

“Drunkard can rightfully be called a morality play, a temperance propaganda film, a temperance melodrama, a cautionary tale about substance abuse and addiction, and the pointlessness of choosing the nice girl (Florence Lawrence or Linda Arvidson) over the (not too) bad girl (Marion Leonard).  You can’t go wrong calling it a ‘morality play within a photoplay’ — a melodrama ‘two-fer’,and that’s how it strikes the first-time viewer. (…) The play within our film is itself an extremely truncated version not of  ‘L’Assommoir’ by the French writer Emile Zola as stated in the film’s rerelease introduction and as it was originally promoted, but an English adaptation of Zola’s story, dramatised as ‘Drink’, and starring a popular English actor of the late 19th century, Charles Warner. (See David Mayer’s notes on Drunkard in “The Griffith Project”, Vol. 2: Films Produced in January–June, 1909, BFI Publishing, 1999; “A Drunkard’s Reformation”,” pp. 57-60) Warner, much celebrated for his role as a drunk in the final stages of alcoholism in the play ‘Drink’, committed suicide in a Manhattan hotel room just two weeks before filming of Drunkard began by Griffith and company at Biograph.  The close timing of events has prompted speculation that Griffith was moved by that event — in addition to whatever other motivations he may have had — to make A Drunkard’s Reformation as a tribute both threatrically and cinematically to the late actor.”
Gene Zonarich
11 East 14th Street