Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: George Nichols

Unchanging Sea (1910)


This Biograph picture by DW Griffith is based on the poem “The Three Fishers” by Charles Kingsley, which provides a somewhat different structure to the storyline than similar shorts of the time. At the beginning of the movie, the intertitles are almost all quotes from that poem, which manage to tell the entire poem before the movie storyline completely takes over. That story involves a fisherman in a small seaside village who leaves his pregnant wife behind to go to the sea and fails to return, leaving her and the child alone for years. His companions’ bodies are washed ashore, but the sea never gives him up, leaving the wife uncertain to his fate. It develops that he’s been in another village all this time, apparently suffering from amnesia, but he finally returns to find his wife and now-grown child – who now has a fisherman sweetheart of her own. The husband is played by Arthur V. Johnson, who we’ve seen in “The Adventures of Dollie” and “The Sealed Room” and the wife is Griffith’s real-life spouse Linda Arvidson, who was in “Corner in Wheat” as well as “The Adventures of Dollie.” Mary Pickford (from “The Usurer” and later in “Poor Little Rich Girl”), again edging toward stardom, is the grown daughter, and Charles West (whose career includes “The Redman’s View” and “In the Border States“) is her boyfriend.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Camera: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Arvidson, Mary Pickford, Charles West, George Nichols

Run Time: 13 Min, 30 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.

Usurer, the (1910)


This is another early Griffith work for Biograph, with similarities to both “Corner in Wheat” and “The Sealed Room.” It portrays a greedy money-lender, contrasted with his unfortunate victims, and his ironic demise through suffocation after being sealed in his own vault. Although this one was made later, I feel that it is actually less artistically successful than “Corner in Wheat,” which included so much clever inter-cutting and fast-paced editing. Here, the approach is less successful, and Griffith appears to hope to make up for it by including more separate stories, which really only muddies the waters. The death of the villain is slow and drawn-out, lasting for almost five of the eighteen minutes, and inter-cut with scenes that don’t clearly connect, and Griffith relies more heavily on intertitles to tell the story. George Nichols (who we saw in “The Sealed Room” and “Fatty Joins the Force”) stars as the title character, with future-Keystone-founder Mack Sennett among his cohorts. Mary Pickford (who had a small role in “The Sealed Room” and was later star of “Stella Maris”) is obviously moving up in her career at this point, appearing in the important role of the “invalid daughter” whose bed is removed by strong-arm men when her mother cannot pay her debts, and Henry B. Walthall (from “Corner in Wheat” and “The Avenging Conscience”) is another unfortunate debtor.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Camera: Billy Bitzer

Starring: George Nichols, Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford, Henry B. Walthall, Grace Henderson, Linda Arvidson.

Run Time: 18 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Flirt’s Mistake (1914)


This is another of the classic Fatty Arbuckle movies from Keystone Studios. It has a simple premise: a philandering husband with a domineering wife (Minta Durfee, Arbuckle’s real-life spouse, who was also in “The Star Boarder” with Chaplin, and “The Rounders” with Chaplin and Arbuckle), and a case of mistaken identity that gives rise to a drawn-out chase and fight. In this case, poor fatty makes the mistake of hitting on a bearded Rajah (Edgar Kennedy, who would later play Daddy Warbucks in “Little Orphan Annie” and a memorable street vendor in “Duck Soup”), who, when seen from behind, appears to be in feminine garb (at least by Western standards). Now, in regard to early movies and race, this is not an especially (ahem) sensitive portrayal of Southeast Asian nobility, but the Rajah is so over-the-top that it’s hard to imagine anyone taking him seriously as a cultural stereotype. What’s more interesting to me is the gender-and-sexual-relations side of things. Fatty gets into trouble specifically because he crosses the gender barrier, and the problem arises from his inability to “read” the gender signals of another culture. His long-suffering wife doesn’t want him killed by the Rajah, but at the end, it’s clearly she who wears the pants and gives him a much-deserved dressing-down, despite his pleas for understanding.

Directed by: George Nichols

Starring: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Minta Durfee, Edgar Kennedy, George Nichols

Run Time: 8 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Fatty Joins the Force (1913)

Fatty Joins The Force

A friend asked me who Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was recently, and I said, “before there was Charlie Chaplin, there was Fatty Arbuckle.” This answer serves for casual conversation, but, of course, is an oversimplification, ignoring the degree to which the careers of the two men paralleled and even intersected one another. This is an example of a movie Arbuckle made at Keystone only a few weeks before Chaplin arrived at the lot, and it has a lot in common with the movies I’ve discussed from Chaplin’s Keystone era. It certainly lives up to the formula, “a park, a girl, and a policeman,” with the interesting twist that Fatty himself is the policeman, and a gang of local kids are his nemesis. It includes such recognizable comedic standards as pies in the face, mistaken identities, and clothes stolen while an innocent fool takes a swim. Fatty winds up the worse for the whole experience, even losing his girl (Dorothy “Dot” Farley, later in “The Unholy Three” with Lon Chaney, Sr. and “Pretty Policeman”) to the police captain! Arbuckle may be a bit heavier than the other stars of slapstick, but nearly as athletic in his pratfalls as the stars we remember better today. Mack Sennett, the head of Keystone, makes a cameo appearance as one of Fatty’s fellow officers.

Director: George Nichols

Starring: Roscoe Arbuckle, Dorothy Farley, Mack Sennett

Run Time: 13 Min

You can watch it for free: here.