A Robust Western Woman

The Girl of the Golden West
R: Cecil B. DeMille. B: David Belasco (play), Cecil B. DeMille (scenario). K: Alvin Wyckoff. D: Mabel Van Buren, Theodore Roberts, House Peters, Anita King, Sydney Deane, William Elmer. P: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. USA 1914/15
French subtitles

“Much of the film was shot at the then-new Lasky ranch. DeMille wrote in his autobiography that the film was shot in eight days, and that some filming was done near Mt. Palomar in San Diego County. According to modern sources, DeMille was the film editor, as well as the director. The film was re-released by the Famous Players-Lasky Corp. in their Success Series on 15 Sep 1918.”

David Belasco (1853 – 1931) was an impresario, director and playwright from San Francisco. Throughout his long career, stretching from the 1880s 1930, Belasco either wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays including ‘Hearts of Oak’, ‘The Heart of Maryland’ and ‘Du Barry’, making him one of the most powerful personalities on the New York City theater scene. He is perhaps most famous for having adapted the 1898 John Luther Long short story ‘Madame Butterfly’ into a 1900 play with the same name and for writing ‘The Girl of the Golden West’ for the stage in 1905: both were turned into operas by Giacomo Puccini (1904, 1910). More than forty motion pictures have been made from Belasco’s works. (…) Giacomo Puccini saw the play in New York in 1907, and was entranced. He immediately decided that it should be turned into an opera. Carlo Zangarini and Guelfo Givinni began work on a libretto. ‘La Fanciulla del West’, the first piece to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, premiered at New York in 1910, with Belasco as stage director and a stellar cast of singers: Toscanini conducted; Enrico Caruso, Emmy Destinn and Pasquale Amato sang the leads; and Puccini, alone in his box, surveyed the scene. It was received very well. The Girl of the Golden West was made into four films: silent movies in 1915 and 1923, a talkie in 1930 and a Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy musical in 1938. The opera has been given many times since and remains one of Puccini’s finest, if perhaps underrated works.”
Jeff Arnold’s West

>>> Belasco’s play

“Set in concocted California mining town called Cloudy during the postwar interregnum, DeMille’s The Girl of the Golden West focuses on a love triangle between ‘the Girl’ (a.k.a. Minnie), Sheriff Jack Rance of New Orleans, and the Murrieta-type outlaw leader named Ramerrez, forced into banditry due to the dispossession of the Californios. The Girl, who runs the town’s rough-and-ready saloon, is a robust western new woman who nonetheless ‘has preserved her maidenly modesty’. Her compassion, strength, and love transform Ramerrez, whom she believes is Dick Johnson, a gentleman thief. (…) The film thus grapples with thorny racial and social relations in the borderlands after the Anglo-American colonization of California and the influx of forty-niners. At the same time, it evinced the reformist tenor of the Progressive Era, as well as the contested nature of whiteness in the early twentieth century; the light-skinned Ramerrez easily passes for the Anglo-American stranger Dick Johnson.”
Dominique Brégent-Heald: Borderland Films: American Cinema, Mexico, and Canada During the Progressive Era. University of Nebraska Press 2015, p. 186/87

>>> DeMille’s first film: The Squaw Man