» » Whispering Shadows (1921)

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    • Author: Uris
    In the aftermath of the Great War, the idea that the dead would try to communicate with the living spiked in popularity, and WHISPERING SHADOWS concerns itself with this belief. Someone has stolen $100,000 from Charles A. Stevenson's company. Suspicion and his signature indicate that Robert Barrat has taken the money. Because his daughter, Lucy Cotton, loves the man, Stevenson tells him to leave the country -- he has already gotten his commission in the army. After Barrat has left, Stevenson satisfies himself that Philip Merrivale has forged Barrat's name in the records and taken the money. He forces the malefactor to write a written confession, then sticks it in a book .... and dies of a heart attack; his sister sticks the book back on the shelves. However, Miss Cotton becomes convinced that her father wants her to lock up the library. A year later, she gives Merrivale permission to search the library for Barrat's confession; he actually intends to find and destroy his own. However, when in a moment of absent-mindedness, Miss Cotton writes "Blind! Blind! Blind!" on a note to her aunt, she follows Merivale to the house to find.... she knows not what.

    Miss Cotton is strikingly beautiful, but she would soon give up the movies to marry a succession of wealthy husbands, including a Romanof prince. Otherwise, the movie offers its story in a style reminiscent of classical French silent cinema. While in the hands of a master like Feuillade, the series of still camera placement frequently offered a startlingly subjective viewpoint, under the direction of Emile Chautard, there is no such effect. Instead, the story is driven by frequent title cards, without which most of the action would be meaningless.
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    • Author: X-MEN
    Richard Bransby (Charles A. Stevenson) heads a successful firm where he employs both Hugh Brook (Robert Barrat) and Stephen Pryde (Philip Merivale) in its South African division; Brook is a former soldier who is the apple of the eye of Bransby's daughter, Helen (Lucy Cotton). Pryde, however, is jealous of Brook, and also desires to win Helen's hand; moreover he is embezzling the company of thousands of dollars and doctoring the books to make it look as though Brook - - a known gambler -- is the culprit. One night, it all comes out, and Brook gallantly breaks his engagement with Helen and pledges that he will not return until he clears his name. Bransby is on to Pryde, though, and forces him to sign a confession to his dirty deeds. However, it all proves a bit too much for the aging industrialist, who expires that evening, leaving the confession in a book which is duly shelved away. Lucy is skeptical about the paranormal, and yet finds herself receptive to what seems to be posthumous messages from her father, reaching out to her from the beyond. After a year or so, and during a time when Pryde is pressuring Helen into what will surely be a loveless marriage, all of the principals converge at the house. Helen and Pryde are both interested in finding the book, but neither of them can remember which one it was. Based on a play which was moderately popular in its time, "Whispering Shadows" sounds much more interesting than it actually is. It is not a horror film, but sort of a supernatural mystery story with no detective afoot. Merivale looks like a young David Letterman who never smiles and has a square head; some of his anxious expressions as his fortunes flag here and there are comical, and are not meant to be. Cotton is attractive in the same way that Francelia Billington was, and while one realizes that in some scenes she is supposed to be in some kind of a supernatural trance, a fair amount of it just seems like bad acting. The search for the book is interminably long, to the extent that one wants to stand up, point to the bookcase, and say, "It's THAT one!" It is, nevertheless, a very early film about the paranormal, and the audience I saw it with was patient with it and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. "Whispering Shadows" is a very rare movie; it survives in a single 28 mm print at the Library of Congress, and was hardly shown at all upon its first release. It also marked the final screen appearance for Lucy Cotton.
  • Credited cast:
    Lucy Cotton Lucy Cotton - Helen Bransby
    Charles A. Stevenson Charles A. Stevenson - Richard Bransby
    Philip Merivale Philip Merivale - Stephen Pryde
    Robert Barrat Robert Barrat - Hugh Brook
    Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
    Mabel Archdall Mabel Archdall - Aunt Caroline Leavitt (as Mabel Archdale)
    George Cowl George Cowl - Dr. Latham
    Alfred Dundas Alfred Dundas - Morton Grant
    Marion Rogers Marion Rogers - Margaret Latham
    Celestine Saunders Celestine Saunders - The Medium
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