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Joan the Woman 1916
Description: A WWI English officer is inspired the night before a risky point by a vision of Joan of Arc, whose storyline he relives.
Released: 25 Dec 1916 Director: Cecil B. DeMille Writers: Jeanie Macpherson (scenario), William C. de Mille Actors: Geraldine Farrar, Raymond Hatton, Hobart Bosworth, Theodore Roberts Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
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See Joan the Woman [1916 Full Movi on youtube.

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Joan the Woman Reviews:

This is a curio - the storyline of Joan of Arc leading on from a view of the English trenches in Globe Fight One (which was still of course, a reality when this movie was made). Geraldine Farrar might not look the part of Joan but she manages to convey all the power, spirituality and vulnerability the part demands. her acting is a tiny theatrical as you would expect from an opera diva but she is perfect nontheless. Wallace Reid (a tragic casualty of Hollywood not that long after this) is cute nice as well, although I thought the love storyline angle stretched credibility a bit in places. The movie itself meanders a bit but when you consider it is over eighty years old it still retains a remarkable amount of effect. Not as nice as the 1928 Dreyer movie but one to seek out.


All the Demille trademarks are here - large crowd scenes, wild orgies, torture - but there is also a beauty and imagination here that is lacking in some of his soon work. The test of double exposures for Joan's visions, the superb test of lighting and colour tinting, reveal a film-maker of greater depth than we might expect.Opera diva Geraldine Farrar seems a tiny old and hefty for Joan of Arc, but once you receive past that she truly gives an perfect performance. And Wallace Reid as her English lover lends powerful support.The camera is a tiny static and the "spectacular" war stage is really just hundreds of folks running around waving sticks in the air and falling backwards off walls (and I think very tiny attention was paid to the security of the extras and the horses), but this is still a very rewarding and innovative film. And we receive the original 1916 score performed on a Wurlitzer.The historical storyline is framed by a Globe Fight 1 (then currently raging in Europe) scene, which adds poignancy to the piece, but does create the central thesis of the storyline (that God takes sides in wars) a tiny harder to take. Ramon Novarro's in this somewhere - can you search him?


Joan The Girl was Cecil B DeMille's first epic, the category that today he is greatest remembered for, although at this mission it was more the situation that was hopping on a band wagon. After the heavy success of Italian "super production" Cabiria, DW Griffith had made Intolerance and Thomas Ince (forgotten today but a large name at the time) did a Globe Fight epic named Civilization. In 1916, all the large names were doing epics, and DeMille, actually established as Paramount's star filmmaker, wasn't going to be the one to miss out.Joan The Girl was something like De Mille's fourth or fifth collaboration with Jeanie Macpherson. Typically of Macpherson it has a tight story somewhat marred by some rather odd ideas. The framing story, set in war-torn Europe, is apparently there to give the tale some contemporary relevance, and it may be in part an Intolerance-inspired blending of narratives in various historic periods. However on MacPherson's part it seems to be a possibility to discover her interest in reincarnation. So we receive this daft tiny storyline about a British soldier who was in a past life the boy who betrayed Joan, and actually has to go and sacrifice himself in war to repay the debt. An officer holds up a bomb as if it were the catch of the day – "I need one of you chaps to go and drop this in the German trench. Oh and by the method it's a suicide mission, so think carefully before you volunteer" The entire thing looks like something out of Blackadder Goes Forth.This is DeMille though, and it's not about the daft plot – it's about the large picture. De Mille's deftness at handling crowd scenes had been apparent since his earliest films, but here he really gets to test that skill to its full potential. The main war sequence is as spectacular as those in Intolerance, but it is also convincing. DeMille apparently set the two opposing armies of extras genuine objectives – hence we receive a very true sense of desperation and determination. He makes nice test of high angles looking down on the action – God's-eye-views, perhaps. DeMille also builds up tension to the clash of armies with a mighty cavalry charge across the screen, and in this we see the seeds of the equivalent sequences in DeMille's The Crusades (1935) Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Olivier's Henry V, all of which used and developed the opening cavalry charge to add excitement to war scenes.DeMille continues to progress well with his mastery of visual grammar. As per usual in his silent pictures, he makes some test of "Rembrandt lighting" – well lit actors vs dark backgrounds. Here however he achieves a related effect, albeit it with light and dark reversed, with clouds of dust or smoke framing the characters as silhouettes. Also much in evidence here is DeMille's test of photos to imply sound – for example a shot of church bells ringing, followed by a shot of Joan reacting to the sound conveys narrative (and in this situation hero information) without resorting to intertitles. DeMille knows that he doesn't necessarily have to throw in a game each time a hero opens their mouth, and as often as possible keeps a smooth flow of meaningful images. The romantic scenes between Geraldine Farrar and Wallace Reid are particularly effective as a result. Having told that, there is perhaps a bit too much pompous theatrical gesturing from the actors, which I suppose goes hand-in-hand with the rather unnecessary test of "thees" and "thous" in the titles.It's perhaps rather appropriate that, as well as being the first time DeMille brought epic spectacle to the fore, this is also his first storyline to include a massive dose of religious piety. For DeMille, as we can see here, God is a showman, a god of miracles, visions and righteous destruction. The incredibly egomaniacal DeMille probably saw himself as a related figure, dazzling the populace and hammering home his messages with spectacle and unique effects. So, with Joan The Woman, we see the beginnings of the DeMille who would one day part the red sea and resurrect Jesus on the silver screen.



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