Madonna of the Streets (1924)

QUESTION:  A remake of Madonna of the Streets was made only six years after the original, starring Robert Ames and Evelyn Brent in the rolls originally played by Milton Sills and Alla Nazimova. What was the biggest different between the two versions, besides the actors?
A)  The remake was done in color
B)  The remake was British, not American made
C)  The remake added sound
D)  The remake was a musical
ANSWER BELOW

Alla Nazimova.  Milton Sills.  Two American actors.  Neither of them have a large fan base today but, in the 1920's, they were both considered high celebrities for either their professional or private lives. They starred together in the film Madonna of the Streets in 1924.  Based on the William Babington Maxwell book The Ragged Messenger, it is the story of Reverend John Morton (Milton Sills), who aspires to follow the teachings of Jesus.  Shortly after inheriting a fortune from a deceased uncle, he meets and marries Mary Carlson (Alla Nazimova). Things do not go well between the two, in no small part because it was revealed that Mary had been having an affair with John's uncle when he died. Feeling she deserved the money from his uncle, Mary seduced Morton.  Having none of it, John sends Mary away and spends the money on charitable causes. One of those causes is a home for fallen women. When he spots Mary as one of the patients, he expresses his remorse for his harsh treatment of her, and the two are reunited.

Sadly, Madonna of the Streets is one of the thousands of films of the silent era considered lost today. In 1909, a U.S. Copyright law was passed that required one copy of every film ever made be sent to the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, the law did not stipulate that the Library was required to keep the print sent to them, and they often returned them to the studio that produced them. From there, they were often misplaced, forgotten, or destroyed.  Often, the destruction was intentional on the part of the studios, which saw no historic value in retaining the movies in the limited space of their vaults.  Now, it is believed, less than half the films produced between 1927 and 1950 survive today, with even worse odds of survival for films made before 1927 (up to ninety percent for some years!). Fortunately, a movement has begun to preserve those films that survive.  Let us treasure these wonderful movies that depict a world we can barely comprehend today - a world from before the invention of the first video games!

ANSWER:  C)  The remake added sound. The original was silent; however, the technology to incorporate sound had been patented in the interim. 

Milton Sills

QUESTION:  Milton Sills starred opposite yesterday's blog topic Alla Nazimova in what 1925 film?
A)  As Man Desires
B)  Madonna of the Streets
C)  The Knockout
D)  Paradise
ANSWER BELOW

Alla Nazimova was a controversial woman in her own time thanks to her multiple (simultaneous?) marriages and outrageous parties.  In contrast, today we would like to talk about another silent film era actor, Milton Sills. His rise to fame was hardly as dramatic as Nazimova's, although it was a little unusual. Sills was born in 1882 to a successful mineral dealer and the heiress to a successful banking family. His life was set out for him from day one. He was a prominent student at the University of Chicago, and was lecturing on philosophy and psychology when he hosted a lecture by a popular stage actor named Donald Robertson. Robertson liked Sills, and suggested that he abandon teaching to become an actor. Sills did.

It may come as a surprise that Sills succeeded.  He starred in around a dozen plays between 1908 and 1914. That was the year he signed on with a studio to become a film actor, and he not only starred in numerous films over the next sixteen years, including the highly popular Flaming Youth and 1924's top-grossing movie The Sea Hawk, but wrote a number of them as well. His star kept rising when, in 1930, he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing tennis with his wife, the actress Doris Kenyon.  He was 48 years old.

ANSWER:  B)  Madonna of the Streets.  And, as everyone knows, Paradise was released in 1926, not 1925.  So that is just a ridiculous answer!