By the Sun’s Rays (1914)
With the clock ticking here at the end of 2014, I’m trying to get ready for “awards season,” watching as many 1914 films as I can in order to better pick the nominations for the Century Awards. This movie is apparently the earliest known film Lon Chaney (who would later be best known for the impressive makeup of his monster roles, such as he played in “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). Here, he’s a deliciously evil villain, feeding intelligence from the bank to a gang of bandits so that they can rob stagecoaches full of gold while making time with the heroine, Agnes Vernon (also in “Bare-Fisted Gallagher” and “A Miner’s Romance”). When our hero (Murdock McQuarrie, who I found pretty forgettable, though he had an extensive career, including a role in Chaplin’s “Modern Times”) shows up, the girl quickly gravitates to him and Chaney winds up exposed for the scoundrel he is, of course. There appears to be some dispute about who directed the movie: archive.org says it was Tod Browning (who would later direct many of Chaney’s best films, as well as “Dracula” and “Freaks”), while Wikipedia and imdb both claim it was one Charles Giblyn, about whom I know nothing, and The Silent Era simply says it is “unknown.” I wouldn’t dare t guess, but it doesn’t have any tell-tale signs of Browning’s later genius, if it is him.
Director: ? (See above)
Starring: Lon Chaney, Agnes Vernon, Murdock McQuarrie
Run Time 11 Min
You can watch it for free: here.