Saturday, December 8, 2012

Silhouettes From "The Little Minister"

Dallas Anderson as Gavin Dishart and Maude Adams
as Lady Babbie
      Maude Adams has so far successfully withstood the fabulous offers made her to act before the motion picture camera. She has always declared that she will not belittle her art by appearing on the screen despite the large financial remuneration. In order to find a satisfactory substitute for the film drama, however, Miss Adams has hit upon a novel compromise something which she believes will answer the same purpose. 
      It Is nothing less than a series of shadow pictures of herself and her companies in the plays of J. M. Barrie, In which she has made her greatest reputation. It will not be many years before Miss Adams will retire from the speaking stage altogether and she has already set about making silhouettes of herself. The first of these, reproduced here to-day, are taken from "The Little Minister," In which she Is now appearing with great success at the Empire Theatre. The play was first seen on the New York stage over ten years ago, but it's charm has never grown old. 
      The shadow pictures are extraordinarily life like reproductions of the stage characters. In many respects they surpass actual photographs. Miss Adams plans to have them taken of every scene in which she has appeared and to file them away for future reference and comparison. 
      Heretofore managers have believed that the best way to carry down their productions to posterity was to have motion pictures taken of the plays. Besides the additional financial revenue that accrues to them by this method a certain additional publicity is secured by means of the plays on the screen, especially as they reach a much larger public than the spoken drama. Of course there is always the possibility that the movies may ultimately Interfere with the popularity of the spoken play but the managers have been willing to take this chance. 
      The characters portrayed in the present series of silhouettes of "The Little Minister" include Miss Adams as lady Babbie; Dallas Anderson as Gavin Dishart, Elsie Carens as Felive, Gladys Gillen as Micah Doir. Ada Boshelll  as Nannie Webster, and Angela Ogden as Jean. 
      To any one who has seen the present production of "The Little Mlnister" the silhouettes will immediately recall not only the scene of the play but the particular facial characteristics of the persons therein if not the very conversation or dialogue that is taking place. 
      When Miss Adams was questioned about this novel idea of hers she said that it was the nearest substitute for the "movies" that she could think of at the time and besides that in many respects the silhouettes were much more artistic than photographs. 
Scenes from Barrie's famous play preserved
in shadow pictures.
      The manner of taking them is quite simple. The actors stand in front of a large white sheet, curtain or other smooth material while a bright light from the front Is directed upon them, throwing the shadows out in bold relief on the light background. After that, the process is that of any other ordinary photograph or portrait. One convenience of the silhouette photograph is that each character can be carefully cut out with a pair of shears and packed away in a small space. 
      If Miss Adams carries out her intention to have silhouettes taken of her other plays, she will have a particularly delightful field of endeavor in "Peter Pan," the boy who never grew up in the play that never grows old. It Is doubtful, however, if Tinker Bell would ever consent to have a silhouette made of her. But the Lost Children, Wendy, Captain Hook: and the scores and scores of other delightful and charming people pictured in Mr. Barrie's plays would form excellent subjects. 
      It Is not at all unlikely that other managers will follow Miss Adams's example in the same direction by having similar pictures taken of their various productions. It would undoubtedly make for a higher artistic appreciation of the art of the theater and would carry down to future generations something of the spirit of the plays which their fathers and grandfathers saw before them. (The Sun, Sunday, February 20, 1916.)

"The Little Minister" tells his love.

Lady Babbie goes away.

Lady Babbie serves tea.

The two at the well.

Now the little minister has to explain.

Now the little minister sees Babbie as a fine lady.
Later, a film was made of J. M. Barrie's 1897 play. 

Theatrical release poster
      "The Little Minister" is a 1934 American drama film directed by Richard Wallace. The screenplay by Jane Murfin, Sarah Y. Mason, and Victor Heerman is based on the 1891 novel and subsequent 1897 play of the same title by J. M. Barrie. It was the fifth feature film adaptation of the works, following four silent film versions. The original novel was the third of the three "Thrums" novels (a town based on his home of Kirriemuir), which first brought Barrie to fame.
      Set in rural 1840s Scotland, the plot focuses on labor and class issues while telling the story of Gavin Dishart, a staid cleric newly assigned to Thrums' Auld Licht church, and Babbie, a member of the nobility who disguises herself as a gypsy girl in order to interact freely with the local villagers and protect them from her guardian, Lord Rintoul, who wants to keep them under his control. Initially the conservative Dishart is appalled by the feisty girl, but he soon comes to appreciate her inner goodness. Their romantic liaison scandalizes the townspeople, and the minister's position is jeopardized until Babbie's true identity is revealed.
      Katharine Hepburn initially rejected the role of Babbie, then reconsidered, against the advice of her agent Leland Hayward, when Margaret Sullavan was offered the role. The film was budgeted at $650,000, which at the time was considered a high amount, and much of it was spent on exterior shooting in California's Sherwood Forest and Laurel Canyon and on the elaborate village set constructed on the RKO back lot. (It later was used in a number of films, including Laurel and Hardy's Bonnie Scotland). It was RKO's most expensive film of the year and the most expensive film in which Hepburn had appeared.
      The soundtrack includes the traditional Scottish tunes "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond," "Comin' Thro' the Rye," and "House of Argyle." The 3-CD set Max Steiner: The RKO Years 1929-1936 includes ten tracks of incidental music Steiner composed for the film.
      The film had its world premiere at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Wikipedia)

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