Cecil B. DeMille: The Captive

The Captive
R: Cecil B. DeMille. B: Cecil B. DeMille, Jeanie Macpherson. K: Alvin Wyckoff. D: Blanche Sweet, House Peters, Gerald Ward, Page Peters, Jeanie Macpherson. P: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. USA 1915

“Based on a play scripted by DeMille and Macpherson (who has a small part in the film), The Captive will come as a surprise to those more familiar with the director’s ‘sin-and-salvation’ efforts or even his later Biblical epics. It’s sparingly told (the movie’s length is only five reels), and awards us a look at how the 34-year-old Cece is becoming more and more assured behind the motion picture camera. (…) While DeMille would later develop a reputation in the industry for being able to masterfully control ‘thousands of extras,’ on Captive he was still learning the ropes; his insistence on using real, loaded guns during some of the battle scenes resulted in an extra being killed.”
Ivan G Shreve Jr.
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

“The film stars Blanche Sweet and House Peters, neither of whom had much of a career once talkies got going. Sweet’s performance as Sonia is effective – she doesn’t go in for the arm-waving histrionics that are the stereotype of silent movie acting, but keeps most of her performance in her face, and her posture. (…) Tinting is widely used: the indoor scenes have a light blue tint, while the outdoor scenes are practically yellow. The sets of the film are filled with detail and character, and a lot of care clearly went into the production design. The firefights are energetically staged, and the battle where Markos loses his life has a sense of scope to it that would point to DeMille’s later much more elaborately staged epics.”
Kent Conrad
Cinema Sentries

“The film is gorgeous! It has that moody 1910s cinematography, all shadows and silhouettes and light streaming through things. Alvin Wyckoff once again proves himself to be one of the finest cameramen of the decade and it is his contribution that makes the film such a looker. The set design and costuming also have a nice layer of grit to them, you believe that these people really do live out in the middle of nowhere. (…)
(T)he biggest draw is seeing Blanche Sweet at the height of her fame. (…) I can say with confidence that Sweet gives a superior performance in The Captive when unshackled from Griffith’s bizarre notions of fluttering, fragile femininity. While The Avenging Conscience has her ridiculously cooing and pecking at a portrait of Henry B. Walthall and Judith of Bethulia has her go to pieces when she has to decapitate him, the heroine of The Captive is cool and confident. Sweet convincingly plays a tough cookie who is trying her best to hide her softer side. She strides around, owning her scenes but she melts for her kid brother. These scenes are the riskiest but they do not fall into the trap of tweeness and are instead rather charming. Reviews published at the time had nothing but praise for her skill and they are correct. Sweet is natural, attractive and appealing.”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently