Sunday, May 15, 2016

Silent Sundays: Tess of the Storm Country (1922)

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“Nearly two thousand years ago from a hill-top in Judea came the sublime command: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ But his philosophy of the Great Teacher is often preached where never practiced- and sometimes practiced where never preached.”

            A while back I reviewed the first silent version of Tess of the Storm Country from 1914 that also starred Mary Pickford. Sometimes with remakes I am curious to see the differences such as what was taken away from the original or what has been added to the original. With this 1922 version of Tess of the Storm Country I was interested to see what had been added and how Mary Pickford acted in this updated silent. Much was added and made better.
            For those of you who are reading this review I will once again write up a summary of the film.
            The story begins with Elias Graves who has built a mansion on a hilltop overlooking the water. Down by the shore is a squatters’ village. Elias can do nothing to kick them off the land due to squatters’ rights. His daughter Teola is seeing a young man named Dan Jordan who is studying to be a lawyer. Elias does not care for Dan too much so Teola tells Dan that he must come up with an idea to get rid of the squatters to be in her father’s favor. Dan comes up the idea to call in official wildlife gamers to remove the nets the squatters use to fish and make their living. Without the nets the squatters will have no way of making money and will have to move on.
            Living in the squatters’ village is Tess Skinner (Pickford) and her father. All the squatters are happy with their lives and live peacefully. Only one man named Ben makes trouble. He is hell bent on marrying Tess and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. One day Elias sends his son Frederick down to the squatters’ village to take care of things. Frederick does not mind the squatters he does not agree with his father’s views of them. But he does go down to the village and is almost immediately attacked by Tess. Frederick likes Tess besides being attacked. He tells her if she were to clean up she would be pretty. Frederick makes a return visit because he likes Tess.
            Dan goes down to the village with the gamers to take away the nets. Some of the villagers fight with the gamers and Dan. Tess sees what is happening and runs out to grab her father’s nets. She tries to hide them in the mattress but one of the pieces of the net comes out and Dan sees it. He tells one of the gamers but he says to way so they can catch Tess’s father in the act of using it.
            Sometime later the people of the village are starving without their main source of income. Tess’s father decides to take his net out to fish. For some reason he takes his shot gun with him. Dan and some of the gamers come to the water once they are informed that Skinner is going out to fish. Dan goes down to the water and is shot by Ben who just so happened to get Skinner’s gun. Elias is convinced that Skinner is the one that killed Dan and has him thrown in jail. Teola is beyond heartbroken and sick with worry now that Dan is dead because she is having his baby out of wedlock.
            Frederick loves Tess. He gives her reading lessons before he is to go away to college. He tells her that once he is done with college he wants to come back and marry her. Teola, meanwhile, is in a great state. She believed her father would be away on business for several months. When she learns that he is coming home early she is terrified of what he would do to her if he found out about her condition. Teola walks to the edge of the water to kill herself. She slips and falls in. Fortunately, Tess was there to save Teola and takes her back to her shack. The next morning Teola has her baby. She is still worried about her father finding out about the baby. Tess says she will take care of the baby and not tell anyone it is her’s. Everyday Teola comes back to visit her son. It is not long before the baby becomes very sick.
            Ben sees Tess walking down the road and goes to grab her to take her away. He is still determined to marry her and now since her dad has been sentenced for the murder of Dan he sees it as a perfect opportunity for her to marry him. Tess refuses and manages to get away from the huge brute but he throws a rock at her head and knocks her out. Before he had gone away Frederick gave Tess his dog to look out for her and the dog attacks Ben allowing Tess to truly get away and be free.
            One winter stormy night, Frederick comes back for winter break. The first thing he wants to do is see Tess. He races to her shack. He comes in to find Teola there with Tess. He hears the baby crying. Tess says that she found the baby is taking care of it. Teola yells at her brother to not question Tess anymore. Frederick thinks he figures out the baby is really Tess’s and he is heartbroken and does not want to speak to her anymore. Again Tess becomes very fortunate that Frederick is in her life. Ben comes around to the shack not long after Frederick found Tess with the baby. Ben is looking to take Tess away still and will do so through any means necessary. Frederick found out that Ben is really the killer after another man in the village confessed to the police that he was with Ben when he shot Dan Jordan. He came to tell Tess that her father is free and that Ben is really the killer. Ben and Frederick get into a huge brawl but Tess was there with a chair to Ben’s head to knock him out and tie him up for the police. 
Image result for tess of the storm country 1922
Image result for tess of the storm country 1922

            That Sunday Tess is informed by the squatters’ doctor that the baby is dying. Tess is concerned that the baby has not been baptized and if he is not he will not be able to meet God. She takes him to the church to try to have the priest baptize the baby. The Graves are at church in the front row. Elias is furious that Tess is there and says that Tess being there is a disrespect to the other women in the church. Since the priest will not baptize the baby Tess performs her own ceremony with some holy water. Moved by seeing the baby and what Tess has done for her Teola out loud tells Tess to give her the baby. The whole church is shocked and Elias sits down in shame and sadness. The poor baby dies. Elias seeing how distraught his daughter is and how he did not know goes over to her and hugs her. When Tess returns home her father is there waiting for her.
            Out of grief Teola dies. Elias wants to thank Tess for all he did for his daughter. He realizes how truly wrong he was of her and the squatters. He signs the land over the squatters. The story ends with Elias and Frederick being forgiven and Tess and Frederick kissing.

            This version of Tess of the Storm Country was very good. What was left out of the original was good such as there being a woman in the village who had a baby out of wedlock. There were a few scenes and some of the story that was made longer which was not. Sometimes I feel that when a remade film is longer the story tends to drag but the story did not drag with the added forty-five minutes. Mary Pickford’s performance greatly improved. Not like her performance was terrible in the first version but in this version she was not over the top dramatic or overacted she was perfect. If you are a classic film buff and like silent films definitely check out both versions of Tess of the Storm Country from 1914 and 1922. Both are currently available in full to watch on YouTube. 
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