A Niagara Falls Drama

The Diver
R: Harry Lambart. B: Marguerite Bertsch. D: Earle Williams, Rose Tapley, Mlle. Ideal, Lillian Mulhearn, Charles Wellesley. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE / Jean Desmet Collection
Dutch titles

“Margaret Brachen and her guest Rita Malrose, a handsome young widow, are extremely jealous of Mlle. Vivian, the Diver, whom Rupert Brachen, Margaret’s husband, and John Hawley, see performing at the Hippodrome. They are indignant when the two men invite the charming diver to perform at a lawn fete which Margaret has gotten up at their country place at Travis Sound. But Rita gets an opportunity to make Hawley suspicious and she puts her plans into execution. Some flowers are sent to Margaret by her husband for a sick friend, but arrive after Margaret has started for the friend’s house. Rita sends them to Vivian unidentified, and bribes the messenger boy to drop a handkerchief marked with Brachen’s initials in Vivian’s room. When Hawley sees the flowers and the handkerchief his suspicions are fully aroused. Rita sends a note to him saying that if he would know Vivian’s true character, to watch her house at midnight. She dresses up in some evening clothes belonging to Brachen, who is away, and when Hawley comes to Vivian’s house, walks down the front steps in full view, returning then to the Brachen home, thus confirming his worst suspicions. The Brachens and their guest Rita stop at Niagara Falls before returning to the city. One day little Agatha, Vivian’s daughter, wanders away and gets into a boat which some boys are playing with by the river. The boat slips from the grasp of one of the boys and is carried into the swift current toward Niagara Falls. Vivian, in Niagara to open her season there, while standing on a cliff above the falls sees the child coming down the river. She throws off her pumps and dives into the water. (…)”
Moving Picture World synopsis

“A two-reel feature number in which the chief figure is a famous diving woman, Mlle. Ideal. The remarkable swimming feat in the second reel, when she saves the life of a child about to be swept over Niagara Falls in a boat, is the strongest thing in the offering. The fore part of the story seemed rather below the Vitagraph standard, being in the nature of a common love intrigue, involving the husband of one woman and the lover of another. The spectacular features are of chief interest in this.”
The Moving Picture World, November 22, 1913

About Marguerite Bertsch
“Beginning as a staff writer at Vitagraph in 1911, Bertsch had risen by 1914 to become editor-in-chief of the scenario department — succeeding Beta Breuil — where she was responsible for evaluating hundreds of scenarios submitted weekly to the company, selecting promising properties, and revising scripts, all while continuing to write her own original scenarios. Contemporary reports, like that in the New York Telegraph in 1916 emphasize her professional achievements and intellectual acumen, describing her as ‘a big woman mentally’ and ‘delightfully feminine, but with the brain of a diplomat.’ (…)  In interviews, Bertsch articulates both the practical principles of cinematic craft and an idealistic vision of ‘the future of the photoplay,’ themes that she would develop more fully in her 1917 book, ‘How to Write for Moving Pictures: A Manual of Instruction and Information’. Bertsch’s approach combines traditional principles of literary and dramatic criticism with an eye to the particular demands of motion pictures, explaining the narrative functions of techniques such as close-ups, cross-cutting, dissolves, subtitles, as well as the practical economics of production.”
Jennifer Parchesky
Women Film Pioneers Project

>>> Lumière’s film Niagara (1897)