starring Erich von Stroheim and Francelia Billington


December 8, 1919

Many who saw Eric Stroheim as a Prussian villain in "The Heart of Humanity" and other war films may have wondered, because he seemed so completely designed for his part and nothing else what he would do when the public no longer demanded a Hun to hiss. If they will go to the Capitol Theatre this week and see "Blind Husbands" they will know that whenever Mr. Stroheim desires to give up acting, or is not required, in pictures, he can devote all of his time to directing - and if the promise that is borne of his first performance as a director is fulfilled, the screen will be greatly enriched.

"Blind Husbands" as it stands, is superior to most of the year's productions , and, more importantly, its outstanding pictorial quality indicates that Mr. Stroheim, unlike many directors, grasps the fact that the screen is the place for moving pictures and that whatever is to be done on it with artistic finish, must be done pictorially. So many directors use moving pictures chiefly to ornament and enliven their stories. They do not depend upon them in crises. Whenever dramatic movements come, or when plot is to be unfolded or carried forward, they turn to familiar, but ineffectual, words. But Mr. Stroheim, although he has not done all that he might in the elimination of text, has evidently relied principally upon picture, and in a number of his dominating scenes there are no words at all, only eloquent pictures, more eloquent than words could ever be.

The climax of the play comes when two men, an Austrian Lieutenant, a "love-pirate" and "lounge-lizard," and an American surgeon, a man of worthwhile ability, climb one of the peaks of the Dolomites together. The Austrian has boasted to women of the mountains he has climbed, and he has influenced the surgeon's neglected wife, but when he stands before the steep side of a real mountain, he is adequate only as to his faultless Alpine costume. He does not choose to climb, but he must. The other man has forced him to it. As he goes up, he weakens, while the other increases in strength, and when the two stand alone on the pinnacle, one is the master, and the other a contemptible thing. The story gives dramatic suspense to this scene, but the suspense is heightened, the scene is developed to its full power, by pictures, for which no words are needed, and few are used. And so in smaller scenes, in their intelligibility of action and genuineness of setting, Mr. Stroheim has worked and succeeded with the camera.

He needed, of course, competent actors, and found them in himself as the Austrian Lieutenant, in Sam de Grasse as the surgeon, and in Francelia Billington as the woman. H. Gibson Gowland, as an Alpine guide, and others in supplemental roles, met all requirements for background and atmosphere.

By its pictorial quality, therefore, "Blind Husbands," not especially original in plot, and weakened somewhat by its resort to the well-worn theatrical trick of withholding important information from the spectators, is interesting throughout and at times supremely compelling. Some of its scenes are continentally frank, they are not offensive nor more suggestive than is necessary to present the triangle of the self-absorbed husband, the neglected wife, and the human bird of prey.

It ought to be added that Mr. Stroheim originally named his production "The Pinnacle," and, according to report, seriously objected when the cheapening title, "Blind Husbands," was plastered on it by the proprietary company.

"Tom's Little Star," one of the Stage Women's War Relief films, in which a number of theatrical celebrities are displayed, is also at the Capitol.


starring Erich von Stroheim and Francelia Billington


February, 1920

Technically, Erich Von Stroheim's photodrama, "Blind Husbands" (Universal), is a flashing thing ­ but it lacks soul and spirit. Von Stroheim will be remembered as the Hun villain of a number of wartime films. "Blind Husbands," his own story produced by himself, relates the triangle of three people in the snow-capped Alps; a self-absorbed American doctor, his heart-lonely young wife and a young Austrian officer on sick leave. The dashing Austrian tries all his Continental wiles upon the American girl, but he finally meets retribution in a fall down the snowy precipices of the Alps. Von Stroheim has told his story with remarkable directorial dexterity ­ but, in the end, it is just an adroitly presented silversheet melodrama. Von Stroheim's characters fall short of the breath of realism, despite the remarkable superficial excellence of his direction. He has, for instance, attained his Alpine effects in striking fashion.

starring Erich von Stroheim and Francelia Billington
March, 1920

Here is a photoplay which excels because it is built on the solid foundation of a real idea, namely, the universal carelessness and inattention of husbands to their wives after, in common parlance, they have them securely bound by the gold or platinum band of domestic slavery. Just so long as husbands allow themselves to take their wives for granted, to forget the little attentions and kindnesses after the honeymoon is ended, just so long will pretty young wives be the prey of Don Juans who appease them with pretty sayings and suave signs of devotion. This in the main is the theme of "Blind Husbands," this particular case being set in the Alps and brought to a happy finale by the timely awakening of the husband. As the wife, Francelia Billington uncannily resembles Dorothy Phillips, Miss Billington's performance is excellent at all moments, Erich Von Stroheim is nothing less than delightful as the would-be lover while Sam de Grasse portrays a husband to the life!

starring Erich von Stroheim, Francelia Billington, Sam De Grasse
December 12, 1919

This picture is exceptional. It marks an epoch. The arrival of Gustav Sayfferitz as a legitimate director was no more important to the stage than that of Eric Stroheim to motion pictures for in "Blind Husbands" this former Griffith heavy has written, directed and acted in a feature that makes others shown on Broadway seem like a novel by Chambers besides a masterpiece by Sudermann of Schnitzier. Beside it the much discussed "A Gay Old Dog" is a doll in a nursery full of live babies.

What Stroheim has done is to state a problem all too frequent in American married life. He proceeds next to tell it artfully.

Dr. Armstrong arrives at a small Alpine village with his pretty wife. Engrossed in his work, he is kind to her but forgetful of those little attentions. An Austrian lieutenant, riding up in the bus with them notices this and begins his work. He is soon, thanks to his perseverance, acquainted with the young woman. While her husband is away, he buys her a beautiful box she has admired and comes to her door with it. On the pretext that someone is coming down the hall, she lets him in, though she is not yet fully dressed.

Here is a pretty scene. She gets rid of him as soon as she can by promising that she will yield to him completely later. This later is while they are at a mountain lodge preparing to climb the Pinnacle. While her husband and the lieutenant are still downstairs, we see her slip across the hall and put a note under the Austrian's door. We see the lieutenant read the note, put it in his pocket and prepare for bed. The guide, a man under deep obligations to Dr. Armstrong, has lighted his wife to her room and when the lieutenant leaves his chamber to go to hers, he opens the door on the guide who smilingly shows him the way back to his own apartment.

What the guide has done is to take the wife to the wrong room. She and her husband are sleeping apart, so he won't disturb her when he rises early to climb the peak. The impression is left that she was prepared to receive the lieutenant, but on the mountain top the Austrian, alone with her husband, draws the letter by mistake from his pocket, only to throw it away before the husband can take it and read it.

In the picture itself there is some amazing mountain climbing and falls and perfect photography, but the story, acting and directing are superior even to these effects. The flirtation scenes have a sex appeal that is at once charming and arousing. Francelia Billington, as the wife, is pretty and dainty to a degree, but we think Stroheim made his one mistake in his own exceedingly sharp cut impersonation. It's bad business to make a lover ridiculous.

The picture itself never really skirts the rough edges. It does not offend. It is a safe bet for any exhibitor and every exhibitor should show it or consider himself at once the manager of a second grade house.

For more information, see "Blind Husbands" as our "Feature of the Month"

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