Maurice Elvey’s silent-film version of Stanley Houghton's play was remade in 1931 and 1952, but the original remains the most masterful translation of the landmark that scandalized theatergoers in 1912.
Fanny Hawthorn (Estelle Brody) and her friend, Mary Hollins (Peggy Carlisle), get through their hard days at Lancashire, England, textile factory by dreaming of the annual vacation boss Nat Jeffcote (Norman McKinnel) gives all his employees. Chris Hawthorn (Humberstone Wright) once had the opportunity to be Jeffcote’s partner, but he’s now a humble manager and his daughter is locked into an inferior social position. During the company-wide downtime, Jeffcote
finalizes arrangements for the marriage of his son, Allan (John Stuart), to Beatrice Farrar (Gladys Jennings), the mayor’s daughter. Mary and Fanny, meanwhile, visit a Blackpool holiday camp and dream of romance, which Allan and his caddish pal materialize to offer. The factory girls dump their regular beaux and it looks as though Mary will be seduced in a whirlwind of dances and amusement-park thrill rides. But it's who winds up losing her virginity to the boss’s son, after persuading Mary to give her an alibi so she and Allan can lip away to a seaside resort. Tragic news tips off Mr. Hawthorn and his wife (Marie Ault) about Fanny’s true whereabouts: Mary drowns in the park’s lake. Lambasted by her mother, Fanny refuses to play the martyr. But Mrs. Hawthorn insists that that her husband share the news Mr. Jeffcote, who in turn acts honorably and demands that his wastrel son make a decent woman out of fallen Fanny. While Mrs. Hawthorn reconfigures the calamity as an opportunity for social climbing, Allan breaks off his betrothal to Beatrice. But in all the hubbub, no one has consulted Fanny about her future plans.
Director Elvey’s career spanned silents and talkies, but he poured his heart into this furious condemnation of class restrictions and sexual hypocrisy. More than eight decades later, the shock waves generated by this celluloid slap in the face still resonate; Hollywood, Fanny would have had to repent or commit suicide, but Elvey’s film flatly refuses to brand her with shame or blame.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Maurice Elvey’s silent-film version of Stanley Houghton's play was remade in 1931 and 1952, but the original remains the most masterful translation of the landmark that scandalized theatergoers in 1912. Fanny Hawthorn (Estelle Brody) and her friend, M… (more)