A Hepworth Bucolic

Full page article on Hepworth's "Annie Laurie" (1916)

A Hepworth Bucolic
Beautiful Scenes in "Annie Laurie"
Mr Cecil Taylor is Britain's picture-poet. There is no other producer who has managed quite so successfully as he to catch and perpetuate on the screen the beauty of the British country-side. Nearly all his most notable works have been plays dealing with typical phases of British life and set amidst typical British scenery, His reputation as a great British producer rests not merely upon the fact that he produces pictures in Britain, but that he produces pictures of Britain. He is the Leader of the screen, Just as the great landscape painter immortalised the essential spirit of the British country on canvas, so has Mr. Hepworth immortalised it in the far fuller and more vivid medium of the picture play. As a technician he is unsurpassed, and to his mastery over his instrument he adds an artistic sensibility so acute that it enables him to grace even a commonplace subject with pictorial loveliness.

In his latest production, "Annie Laurie", we have a good example of Mr. Hepworth's great skill as a picture-maker. Of this simple, unpretentious and rather ordinary little play he has made a picture-story so eloquently expressive of the innermost spirit of that part of the country in which it is set that it becomes almost a pastoral poem. The production of such a play is not merely a question of finding charming backgrounds and planting a camera before them. To the development of his raw material Mr. Hepworth brings every device in the extensive technique of cinematography. Examine his scene, either singly as separate pictures or collectively as links in a chain of living landscapes, and you will find it difficult to detect one error in composition or reproduction. His view-points, his groupings, his wonderful chiaroscuro effects, his contrasts of scene with scene -- in all of these and in many other details the master-artistry of Mr. Hepworth is made clearly apparent. It is, in fact, true to say that he creates with his camera where most other people merely produce.

Putting upon one side the producer-photographer's share in the work, "Anne Laurie", although sufficiently pleasing, presents no features of extraordinary interest. The scenario, we understand, was written by Miss Alma Taylor, who also appears in the title-role, a part unusually well-suited to her capacities as an actress. Since the famous song which gives the film its title is a lyric rather than a ballad, the play must be aid to have been suggested by it rather than based upon it. If it suggests any story at all, we, personally, should have been inclined to say that it suggests some passionate romance of obscure peasant love rather than the somewhat mild attachment of a village school-mistress fro an elderly gentleman, which is the version given to us by Miss Taylor. Although the play has very little, if anything, in common with the song, however, that is not a matter of great importance.

Annie Laurie, in the film, is a wistful-eyed lassie who has apparently who has apparently been educated rather better than her friends and relatives, and who is, accordingly, lonely and sad in the narrow life in which she is pent up as a village school-teacher. Her deeper emotions are first stirred by the nephew of the local squire, but, owing to the machinations of a jealous rustic rival, his growing attachment for the simple country girl is nipped in the bud. In the meantime, she has met the squire himself, in whose elderly breast a great affection for Annie quickly springs. On the principle (possibly) of half a loaf being better than no bread, Annie reciprocates his love, and they are married. Then the nephew re-enters in the guise of a villain. His passion for pretty Annie re-awakens, and he deliberately, endeavours to oust his uncle (we are not quite sure that we have the relationship exactly, but its is approximately correct). Annie wishes to be faithful to her husband, and rejects in a somewhat half-hearted manner the advances of the would-be lover. Again, owing to the jealousy rustic, however, the squire is led to believe that Annie's heart is no longer his, and with quixotic magnanimity, he determines to set her free (presumably) by killing himself. But Annie quickly proves that he is mistaken, and the story ends with a happy re-union.

The characterisation of the play is somewhat vague and shadowy, with the result that one has no very clear idea of the emotions and motives which control any of the protagonists in their actions. Taking them at their central value as the conventional figures of a somewhat stereotyped story, they are quite skilfully presented. Mis Alma Taylor gives a very pleasant study of a simple, reserved, unaffected English girl, Mr Lionelle Howard is a graceful young lover. Mr Stewart Rowe makes a manly and dignified squire; albeit, he is a little given to mannerisms. Mr Henry Vibart strikes a warm human note throughout the few minutes he is on the screen as a rugged old Scotch doctor.

Although as a play it may be in some respects a trifle colourless, "Annie Laurie" as so beautiful a picture that it should receive a very warm welcome not only at home but also, and even more especially, abroad. To many exiles in foreign parts we can well imagine that it will come as an enchanting souvenir of the Old Country.'

TitleA Hepworth Bucolic
SourceThe Bioscope


Annie Laurie