Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Enoch Arden


Enoch Arden (1911) This was included in the DVD extras for Move Over, Darling. I’m a little confused as to just what I saw. The movie was made in two parts because the studios back then didn’t think anyone would pay extra to see longer movies. This was listed as Part II, but it seemed like the complete story. A complete version exists at the Library of Congress. It is based on the famous poem by Tennyson (which I’ve never read), about a man who goes to sea, is marooned for ten years, and returns to find his wife married to his old childhood pal, and with a new baby. He dies of a broken heart. Not exactly fertile ground for a screwball comedy, right? Wrong! The story was remade as A Modern Enoch Arden in 1915 and I can find no information about that version. But it was remade again in 1916, and the IMDb lists it as a comedy. I’d like to see that one, as it sounds like it was the inspiration for no less than four other movies. Well, three and a half …

As for this version, the earliest of all … D.W. Griffith started making movies in 1908 and made 497 movies before The Birth of a Nation in 1915! He made 76 movies in 1911 alone. Assuming six days a week, that’s four days of shooting between SCENE ONE and THAT’S A WRAP!, not even counting writing the script, making the scenery, and editing. So you don’t expect a lot of visual artistry, and there is none on display here. As for the acting … this sort of shooting schedule worked a lot better for comedies than for dramas. Mack Sennett’s directors could head out one fine morning with a few cars, a camera, a handful of Keystone Kops, actors to play The Boy and The Girl, and very little idea of what they were going to do. They could make it up as they went along, and if they got stumped, they’d just have somebody slip on a banana peel. With drama you had actual scripts, and only one reel to get all the story done. Acting was way beyond broad. Eyebrows waggled, arms were thrown around, eyeballs bulged, and shoulders slumped down almost to the ground; this was all meant to indicate deep emotion. It’s all rather silly now, which is probably why people still watch silent comedies, and silent dramas—particularly one- and two-reelers—are seen only by film buffs and historians. This little film is just another potboiler from the Biograph celluloid factory: a week in a nickelodeon and then put on the shelf, where most of them were then lost forever.