The Seats of The Mighty (1914)

First off, let me say how excited I am to finally write a post about this next photograph that my Great Aunt Blanche had in her collection. I’ve kept coming back to this photo many times over the years, as it has eluded me in so many ways.

The Seats of The Mighty (1914).

The image itself is interesting, as it contains a woman who is dancing in front of a bunch of men and 2 women in colonial-type attire, but it also appeared very french too. The people all have strong expressions on their faces. The man in the middle is elated and in love. The men behind him are swooning and falling over themselves. And the 2 women in the photo have a look of disgust on their faces. The only man that isn’t taken back by the dancer is the man standing in the top right corner with his arms folded.

When I first saw this photograph, I thought it was a newer photo for a theatrical production, as the man sitting in the middle looks like a younger version of a Geoffrey Rush (from Pirates of the Caribbean). And the woman behind him also looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Seinfield. The man standing with his arms folded looked familiar too, but I couldn’t place his face. But when you look closer at the photo, you can tell that it is a Gelatin silver print, most commonly used from the 1890’s until the 1920’s. You can tell this by tilting the photo at an angle. At an angle, you can see what they call “silvering” in the darker black areas. There are also Sepia tones throughout the photo that are yellowing with age.

For years I was on a hunt to discover who these people were and what movie or play this was for. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. The information and photos of actors from the early days of silent film and theatre are very lacking and broad. I first started by looking at EVERY actor that worked for Selig Polyscope company from its beginning to the 1920s, and to no avail, no one looked like the people in this image, and only a few movies were set in the colonial period for Selig. I then moved on to all of the movies Herbert Brenan (who my aunt worked with in the past) made and starred in, but none of those actors and scenes matched up to this image.

I was starting to lose hope.

So, my last stretch, before giving up, was to dig deeper (again, as I had done this in the beginning) into the production company my Great Aunt Blanche worked as a wardrobe mistress for in 1914. There isn’t alot of information online about the movies Colonial Motion Picture Corporation made, so I took to newspaper articles. After much digging, I found an article about a James D. Law from Philadelphia owning Colonial Picture Corp. (I’ll be writing a post on him later, as I have a postcard from him as well). I followed that train, and another newspaper article mentioned that a T. Hayes Hunter from Philadelphia was going to Direct Colonial’s first picture and it would be based on Gilbert Parker‘s novel “the Seats of the Mighty”. I looked into what that novel was about, and the setting takes place in colonial Canada among the French, and one of the scenes involves a dancer enticing the King Louis of France. Yes! I thought…this might be it!

And it was.

I got lucky and found that IMDB already had a very short page with a few images of the silent film. Unfortunately, the photos were very grainy but still incredibly useful to me.

It was this one that proved to me that I had found my target.

See the ornate banister with cherubs at the bottom of the steps? And the chandelier?

The Seats of The Mighty (1914)

(Squeal!! I found it!!)

So next, I had to figure out if the people in this image matched up with the people on the cast list. With The Seats of the Mighty book in hand, I read the part that talks about the dancer seen in the photograph and this scene. The dancer credited on IMDB is Yona Landowska, but I am unsure if in the movie there was a separate scene of Yona Landowska teaching Alice Dutvarney how to dance, or if that is really Yona Landowska dancing. Because in this scene, The dancer is supposed to be Alice (played by Millicent Evans). She was secretly taught how to dance by a famous Parisian dancer (played by Yona) when she was a child. During this part of the book, she wanted to distract the men in this place so that they wouldn’t go ahead with a plan to capture her lover, Captain Mora. She masked herself so that the men didn’t know who she was. She introduced herself as the Parisian dancer who trained her. It’s especially important to note that during this scene – she is imagining herself dancing in front of the king, but in reality, she is dancing in front of a bunch of drunk unruly men. She explains in the book, that this was how she was able to get herself emotionally through that experience. She also notices Monsieur Doltaire is there, played by Lionel Barrymore, staring at her with an inquisitive/unbelievable look. It’s almost like he knows it’s her behind that mask.

I had the following cast list to work off of for the main characters:

Lionel Barrymore as Monsieur Doltaire
Millicent Evans as Alice Durvarney (The woman that both Doltaire and Captain Mora are pursuing)
Lois Meredith as Mathilde (king Louis’s main squeeze)
Thomas Jefferson as King Louis of France
Glen White as Captain Robert Mora
Clinton Preston as Juxte Duvarney (The one who is dueling with Captain Mora in the above photo)

Next, I placed the faces with the actors, and I think that Millicent Evans is shown in this scene. As her face is quite similar to the woman’s face in the middle.

Pretty much everyone in this photo is similar to the actors in the movie, especially Thomas Jefferson (although I still can’t unsee Geoffrey Rush in his face).

The only well-known actor in this photograph is Lionel Barrymore, who we all know was Drew Barrymore’s great uncle. From wikipedia:

Lionel Barrymore (1910)

Lionel Barrymore (born Lionel Herbert Blythe; April 28, 1878 – November 15, 1954) was an American actor of stage, screen and radio as well as a film director.[1] He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in A Free Soul (1931), and remains best known to modern audiences for the role of villainous Mr. Potter in Frank Capra‘s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. He was a member of the theatrical Barrymore family.

Reluctant to follow in his family’s footsteps, Barrymore appeared together with his grandmother Louisa Lane Drew on tour and in a stage production of The Rivals at the age of 15. He later recounted that “I didn’t want to act. I wanted to paint or draw. The theater was not in my blood, I was related to the theater by marriage only; it was merely a kind of in-law of mine I had to live with.”[10

From 1912 to 1917, Barrymore was away from the stage again while he established his film career. He returned to the stage in Peter Ibbetson (1917) with his brother John and achieved star billing in The Copperhead (1918) (with Doris).[1] 

Postcard of The Barrymore Family: Georgiana Emma Drew, Lionel, Ethel, and John (
John Barrymore, Ethel and Lionel (1904)

I remember my Grandmother telling me that my Great Aunt was friends with many different actors and actresses from the silent film era (George Burn’s wife, Gracie Allen being one of them), but I can’t recall if Lionel Barrymore’s name was ever mentioned. It would make sense that his name was mentioned since My great Aunt designed the costumes for this movie under Colonial Motion Picture. Lionel was also born the same year as my great Aunt, and they were both born in Philadelphia. She also probably thought alot about this photo because it was kept safe by her relatives for generations. I also find it funny though that his name wasn’t written on the back of the photo. Not funny that she never thought out it, but that she probably thought that everyone would always recognize his face? I’m sure older generations could have noticed Lionel’s face right off the bat from seeing this image, but 107 years later, no one would be able to tell who he was.

Seats of the Mighty (1914)
My Great Aunt’s second photograph from the same production.

Finally, my aunt also had another photograph that has a man in the same costume as the same male characters in The Seats of the Mighty. I’m assuming that he was also in this production, although I am unable to pick him out of the main photo. My guess would be that it’s the actor Glen White who plays Captain Robert Mora, but I could be wrong.

Glen White
Glen White

I’m thankful that I finally cracked the code on both of these cards, or else they would have sat in her box of vaudeville cards lost and unrecognized. The National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) has included “The Seats of the Mightly” on its list of Lost Silent Feature Films as of October 2019. So, these 2 photographs may very well be the only photographs that are left of this movie. And beacuse they have been stuck in a box for 107 years, they really never got to see the time of day until now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s