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The Woman Suffers (1918)

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clip Philip vows vengeance

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Joan (Evelyn Black) has thrown herself in the river and drowned rather than bring disgrace on her family. Her mother (Ida Gresham) finds her suicide note too late, and faints. Philip (Boyd Irwin) finds her body in the river, still clasping the locket with a picture of Ralph Manton. Philip vows to avenge his sister’s death.

Curator’s notes

Raymond Longford strove for realism with his actors, and The Sentimental Bloke (1919), made one year later, is notable for the lack of histrionic gesture. The Woman Suffers is a mixture – there is a fair degree of realism in scenes that depict these families in daily life, but the moments of high emotion are given a more conventional style of silent screen performance. Note the way that Mrs Stockdale and then Philip both put a hand to their forehead, in horror at the news of what Joan has done. (Indeed, Ida Gresham does it five times before she faints). Boyd Irwin, as Philip, only manages it twice, but he throws in a couple of classic gestures as well, particularly the clenched fist clutching the breast in rage and grief. Longford was himself an actor before he became a director, but the film was a high melodrama, and such gestures were commonplace in that kind of film. The scene is notable also for the beautiful shot of Joan floating in the river. There is a strong hint of the kind of bush romanticism found in some Australian painting of the late 19th century in this scene – notably the works of Frederick McCubbin, who died in 1917, the year of the film’s production.

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