RAFFLES, THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN
Starring John Barrymore
December 7, 1917
What the elder Barrymore and "Captain Swift" were
to a former generation, young John Barrymore and "Raffles,
the Amaeteur Cracksman" are to this. The initial production
of the newly organized L. Lawrence Weber Photodramas Corp., this
seven-reel picturization of the sensationally popular E.W.Hornung
rogue romances, by virtue of its artistry, intensely sustained
suspense and irrefutable logic must grip audiences for many seasons.
No type of hero in all the files of the drama or literature
is more fascinating than the polished outlaw, especially when
his deeds are impelled by some circumstances or trend beyond his
control. To gainsay that "Captain Swift" and "Jim
the Penman" were not the most welcomed and applauded of the
stage heroes of their periods would be to deny the overwhelming
evidence of box office statements. To question the world-side
éclat of "Raffles," when Hornung first flung
him before the gaze of an astonished reading public some years
ago, would be equally fatuous. To question the intense hold that
the same hero seized when Eugene Presbrey transplanted "Raffles"
to the speaking stage would be to dispute a stage revenue that
the records show exceed those of any play of its time. It is
this material that Anthony Kelly has absorbed and scenarioed flawlessly
and George Irving has directed with a delicacy, scenic beauty,
and sustained thrill that command for him a place in the ranks
of the country's artistic producers. Young Barrymore demonstrates
in this play his claim to the dramatic genius of his illustrious
father. Based on the irresistible inclination for excitement
that a well born English youth fights in vain until involving
himself in most thrilling situations as an amateur cracksman,
matching his wits and his brawn against the keenest and strongest
entities that society has made his foes merely that he may revel
in the thrills of danger his experiences evoke, the "Raffles"
role fits young Barrymore as it could fit perhaps no other player
before the American playgoing public. Suggesting youthful enthusiasm
with a steeled control of nerves that are clearly ever highly
taut, Barrymore typifies a splendid concept of a gentleman rogue.
The kind of fascination that ever appeals to women, even when
they know the object of their interest to be beyond the pale,
radiates from the act and makes all observers his friends at once.
The principal vivid incidents of the novel and those transferred
to the stage are retained, the theft of the Melrose diamonds,
when the Melrose maid hands them over the balcony to a waiting
confederate only to have them coolly appropriated by "Raffles"
(a guest in the house), reaching a big climax. The marine views
of the Mediterranean and including a hair-raising dive by "Raffles"
from the rail of an ocean liner in time to escape the bullets
of pursing detectives are admirably "shot." There is
not a scenic or personal blot in the production. Frederick Perry
as Bedford, the detective sworn to catch the elusive cracksman;
Mick Donlin, the real cracksman from whom "Raffles"
takes the Melrose stones; Charles Morgan, who plays "Bunny,"
Raffles' pal; and H. Cooper Cliffe, among the men, give the star
support that make the dramas vivid and convincing every moment,
while the lighter notes, including the love suggestion that runs
through and eventually dominates the theme, are sounded with fine
color and fervor by Evelyn Brent as Gwendolyn, whose influence
culminates in "Raffles'" final escape and reform, as
well as by Christine Mayo, the girl who loved and lost him. She
imparts to the difficult role of Mrs. Vidal a grace and feeling
that make it stand out conspicuously. This picture is being offered
in the open market. It is a superpicture too big and fine to
be limited to a regular program.
Video source: Facets, Nostalgia
Return to reviews page