Alma Taylor – More than acting

An Engagement of Convenience
R: Hay Plumb. D: Alma Taylor, Cyril Mannering, Harry Royston, Marie de Solla. P: Hepworth. UK 1914
Print: BFI

Alma Taylor spent virtually her entire silent career, beginning in 1907, with producer Cecil Hepworth, co-starring with Chrissie White in the Tilly Girl series (1910-1915) as well as 75 or more short subjects. She was the obvious favourite of the producer, who was proud that she never used make-up in any of his films, and Taylor, in return, was Hepworth’s most loyal performer, starring in his last film, The House of Marney (1926).
She starred in only three non-Hepworth films: The Shadow of Egypt (d. Sidney Morgan, 1924), Quinneys (d. Maurice Elvey, 1927) and Two Little Drummer Boys (d. G.B.Samuelson, 1928). In 1924, she was named by the ‘Daily News’, along with Betty Balfour, as Britain’s top star.”

“Very few of the films which Taylor made in the 1910s seem to have survived, and these are nearly all short one-reelers from the first half of the decade rather than any of the feature film productions that she went on headline. This scattered evidence does give us some indication of what the formal performative indices of her famous spontaneity and artless probity were, though. An Engagement of Convenience, for example, seems at times to be carefully trying to direct and organise the viewer’s intimate and privileged bond with the actress. It dictates an interpretation of the resonances of her performance, so that this can be seen as something more than a piece of acting. (…) In her diegetic role as the phoney fiancée, Nance accompanies Fred to meet Aunt Rosemary at the station. Taylor’s Nancy stand apart from them both to signify a degree of awkwardness, and as they exit left (in both shots) she makes three nervous half-glances to the right of the screen to further betray her unease. One does not need to read between the lines to understand that she is distinctly uncomfortable and unconvincing precisely because she is consciously acting.”
Bruce Babington: British Stars and Stardom: From Alma Taylor to Sean Connery. Manchester University Press 2001, p.32/33

>>> Hamlet and The Magic Glass by Hay Plumb on this website

>>> Tilly the Tomboy Visits the Poor with Alma Taylor