This week’s mystery movie was the 1915 film “Hypocrites,” written and produced by Lois Weber, photography by Dal Clawson and George W. Hill. With Courtenay Foote as Gabriel, the Ascetic; Myrtle Stedman as the Woman; Herbert Standing as the Abbot; and Adele Farrington as the Queen.
“Hypocrites” is available on DVD from TCM.
I picked “Hypocrites,” written and produced by Lois Weber, in honor of Women’s History Month and the International Women’s Day. “Hypocrites” involves intertwined stories of a Christian ascetic who carves a statue of a naked woman titled “Truth.” At the unveiling, the local townsfolk, naturally, are so shocked that they kill him. Cut to modern day (1915), when a minister preaches about hypocrisy, cutting to scenes of contemporary life with a woman (I assume in a body stocking) appearing in a double-exposure as the Naked Truth. Members of the congregation are offended by the sermon and several of them plan to get rid of him, but the minister expires shortly after the service.
The movie is part pageant, part play and part film, produced before some of the cinematic vocabulary was fully defined. For example, a main character (the Abbot) has his back to the camera for most of one scene. The movie is quite religious. It is didactic. It is an allegory. Even in its day, Tarleton Winchester said in Motion Picture magazine: Written and produced under the direction of Lois Weber [“Hypocrites”] is so searchingly, ruthlessly true that it will probably be hard to find a theater owner with the courage to book it.”
A tip of the hat to Mary Mallory for sending articles about Dal Clawson’s multiple exposures in “Hypocrites.” Motion Picture News said he ran the film through the camera 24 times in the “mirror of truth” sequence.
I assume this movie is so early that there was no New York Times movie critic to hate it….
Not at the time, but Dave Kehr, writing in the New York Times (April 29, 2008) said: “Hypocrites … is one of [Weber’s] earliest long-form films and a typically confounding Weber mix of middle-brow moralism and unbridled stylistic experiment.”
Note: As with many early movies, credits aside from the main characters are sparse. “Hypocrites” has a huge cast in some scenes, notably a village festival and a church service, and although the images can be quite clear and even haunting, the actors’ and actresses’ identities remain elusive. The AFI catalog isn’t much help and IMDB isn’t always reliable in questions of speculation (see my dispute with IMDB over Elizabeth Flournoy 1886 and Elizabeth Flournoy 1913).
For Monday, we have a mystery gent. He does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Nigel de Brulier.
For Tuesday, we have this remarkable mystery scene, the “mirror of truth” sequence involving many exposures.
Update: This boy in this photo is identified as Antrim Short. He has his back to the camera because a better photo is all over Google image search, alas. The woman on the left appears to be Myrtle Stedman, but I’m not positive.
Brain Trust roll call: Anne Papineau (Monday’s mystery guest), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery guest), Mary Mallory (Monday’s mystery guest) and Sheila (Monday’s mystery guest).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mystery woman.
Update: Based on comparisons with a publicity photo for “False Colors” (1914), I’m fairly sure this is Dixie Carr.
We also have this mysterious gent.
Update: This is Herbert Standing with Nigel de Brulier at the right. In most of the scene, Standing is facing away from the camera. What were they thinking?
And you’ll just have to figure out what’s going on here.
Update: This is Margaret Edwards as the Naked Truth.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery man and mystery teen) and Anne Papineau (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery teen).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery girl.
Update: This is Marjorie Daw.
We also have this mystery woman, who is unhappy about a certain turn of events.
Update: This may be Dixie Carr.
And finally, we have this mystery woman.
Update: This is Myrtle Stedman.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mysterious out of focus persons and mystery naked Truth, mystery abbot and mystery cleric), Funky PhD (mystery movie, Monday’s horrified mystery cleric, Wednesday’s mystery abbot, mystery naked Truth), Anne Papineau (Wednesday’s mystery abbot and mysterious naked Truth), Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery teenager, Wednesday’s mystery abbot, mysterious cleric, and mysterious naked Truth) and Sarah (mystery movie, mysterious naked Truth).
For Friday, some bad news in the paper.
Also for Friday, our leading man in one of his two roles as a doomed man of faith. Plus the Naked Truth seems to have tagged long.
Update: This is Margaret Edwards, Courtenay Foote and possibly a very young Jane Darwell.
And here is our leading man in his other role, preaching about hypocrisy. The congregation does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Courtenay Foote.
Brain Trust roll call: Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and mystery guests), Mary Mallory (Wednesday mystery monk and Thursday’s mystery guests), Beach Gal (mystery movie and mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests) and Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery guests).