A Salty Melodrama

A Tragedy of the Cornish Coast
R: Sidney Northcote. B: Harold Brett. D: J. Wallett Waller, Dorothy Foster, Oriel Farrell. P: British & Colonial Kinematograph Company. UK 1912
Location: Newquay
Print: BFI National Archive

“Oversized characters populate this drama about a jealous fisherman who kidnaps a local girl when she falls in love with a travelling artist. A lifeboat team – arguably the real heroes of the hour – is corralled in attempt to make the rescue. B&C, the London-based producers of the picture, were well-regarded at the time for both feature films and documentary-style items.”
BFI Player

“‘I was in at the beginning’, recalled Douglas Payne, a veteran actor who had played thoughtful heroes since Herbert Asquith was prime minister. ‘Believe me, the British film industry developed through the efforts of the strangest conglomerate of humanity one could imagine. Of course, there were the visionaries, the pioneering spirits, the intellectuals; but in comparison with other industries, more than the usual percentage of adventurers, confidence men, and even a few of what used to be called in my youth, ‘white slavers’. They saw the casting couch as the answer to their wildest dreams. I once mistakenly lent a dress suit to a producer. It was returned to me covered in blood, the by-product of discharging pox. Yes, you met all kinds of game in those days.’
We know the names of the beasts that were bagged by the police. Bernard Edwin Doxatt-Pratt worked as a film director in Britain and Holland, making boxing pictures and movie versions of West End hits. He abandoned two wives, disappeared with the fees of a film acting school for which he failed to take a single class, and was sent to prison for failing to pay a hotel bill. His contemporary Sydney Northcote was a prolific producer of salty melodramas, all of which featured Dorothy Foster emoting on various stretches of British coastline. The titles he shot just in one year, 1912 – The Smuggler’s Daughter of Anglesey, The Belle of Bettwys-y-Coed, A Cornish Romance, The Pedlar of Penmaemawr, A Tragedy of the Cornish Coast and The Fisher Girl of Cornwall – suggest that he was not the most versatile of talents, but they also explain the nature of his life of crime. Shortly after this spurt of activity, it struck him that it was not absolutely necessary to make a picture in order to extract cash from its backers, and took to touring seaside resorts, raising funds for the production of movies, and absconding with the cash before a frame was in the can.”
Matthew Sweet
The Guardian, 8 Apr, 2011