Cast & Crew
Lorna, while traveling with her mother, the countess, on a lonely Devon road, is kidnaped by Sir Charles Ensor and his band of outlaws; and adored by Sir Charles, she is reared by them. While in search of evidence against the robbers, young John Ridd meets Lorna; they become friends, and John agrees to aid her should she ever need him. When Sir Charles dies, Carver Doone tries to force Lorna into marriage, but she is rescued by John. Later, Lorna's noble parentage is discovered, and she is taken to court. John comes to London, and when the king's heir is being baptized, he saves the child from an anarchists' plot and is acclaimed a hero. Lorna decides to surrender her station and returns to marry John. Just as the marriage ceremony is ending, a vengeful Doone shoots Lorna. John leads the peasants in a victorious attack on the Doones, and returning home, John finds Lorna on her way to recovery
The story of Lorna Doone (1922) has inspired a number of films, including a 1935 version directed by Basil Dean, a 1951 version directed by cult favorite Phil Karlson and, most recently, a 2-part BBC television adaptation in 2000. The original 1869 novel by R. D. Blackmore (1825-1900) was by far one of the most popular novels of the 19th century, selling hundreds of thousands of copies by the turn of the century and continuing to sell to this day. The son of a curate, Richard Doddridge Blackmore studied at Exeter College in Oxford, became a barrister (though his career was undoubtedly hampered due to his epilepsy) and taught at a grammar school before finding his true calling as a fruit grower and novelist. He is said to have written, "Anyone looking at my vines would say, 'this is your role my good fellow, stick to it; any ass can write novels." Although Lorna Doone is the only novel of his that is still widely read, at one time he was regarded as a serious rival to Thomas Hardy in his richly detailed depictions of life in rural England. Other notable novels by Blackmore include Mary Anerly (1880) and Springhaven (1887).
Director Maurice Tourneur (1873-1961) was born in Paris under the name Maurice Thomas. His remarkable visual sense likely comes in part from his experience as a graphic designer and book illustrator and his work as an assistant to sculptor Auguste Rodin and the painter Puvis de Chavannes. He made several films in France for the Eclair film company before moving to the United States in 1914. Like the majority of films from the silent era, many of Tourneur's early movies are lost. Today his best-known film is The Last of the Mohicans (1920), based on the James Fenimore Cooper novel and co-directed by Clarence Brown, who took over while Tourneur was ill. Like Lorna Doone, it is part of a long series of visually striking literary adaptations directed by Tourneur, including Ibsen's A Doll's House (1918), Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird (1918), Joseph Conrad's Victory (1919) and Stevenson's Treasure Island (1920). He established himself as one of the leading American directors of the era before quitting The Mysterious Island (1926-1929) mid-production and returning to France in 1926. His career there survived well into the sound era, his last film being Dilemma of Two Angels 1948. His son Jacques Tourneur started out as an assistant director to his father's films in the 1930s and later became an accomplished director in his own right, making the atmospheric film noir Out of the Past (1947) and Val Lewton horror films such as Cat People (1942) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943).
Lead actress Madge Bellamy (1899-1990), born Margaret Philpott, got her start in the New York stage production of Pollyanna. She later appeared in John Ford's The Iron Horse (1924) and Fox's first "talkie," Mother Knows Best (1928). However, her career ran aground when she angered studio executives by turning down the lead role in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929); Norma Shearer took the role instead and Bellamy was shunned; she was unable to find work until 1932, when she starred in the low-budget horror classic White Zombie. Her memoirs, entitled Darling of the 20s, were published shortly after her death in 1990. John Bowers (1899-1936) is chiefly remembered for playing opposite Colleen Moore in the 1924 adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel So Big. Occasionally he appeared onscreen with his wife Marguerite de la Motte. A casualty of the transition to sound, his last film role was in 1931; in 1936 he committed suicide by walking into the Pacific Ocean, undoubtedly providing inspiration for the Norman Maine character of William Wellman's A Star is Born (1937). Frank Keenan (1858-1929) was a noted character actor of theater and film. Among his many stage appearances included the smash 1905 David Belasco production The Girl of the Golden West, which Puccini later turned into an opera. In addition to Lorna Doone, Keenan is best known today for two Civil War melodramas, The Coward (1915) and Thomas Ince's The Despoiler (1915). He was the grandfather of actor Keenan Wynn.
Like most of Maurice Tourneur's films, Lorna Doone was well received by the critics. The reviewer in Variety wrote "Madge Bellamy has just the right wistful quality of beauty for Lorna [...]", adding that "the histrionic honors, however, go to that best of character portrait makers, Frank Keenan, as Sir Ensor Doone." Nonetheless, it was Tourneur's direction which truly captured the imagination of the critics of the day; the same Variety reviewer wrote: "The scenic features of the picture have been splendidly managed. The stagecoach inn might have been lifted from an authentic print of the times. The spirited passage of the coach robbery on the seashore is a smashing bit of pictorial emphasis and the action in the robber's village is scenically impressive." The New York Times critic concurred, writing: "[...] Mr. Tourneur is a storyteller as well as a maker of motion pictures, and he knows the value of restraint as well as that of emphasis, and so does not too heavily underscore any incident for the sake of unrelated and independent effect he might obtain with it. For instance, the mother does not wallow on the sand in a prolonged close up. She does not cry out, with the aid of a subtitle, "My Child! My Child!" or anything else. A flash of the figures on the sand, a gesture, the intensifying reflection--and that is all."
Lorna Doone is making its TCM premiere in a newly restored print with a new music score thanks to 20-year-old film archivist Jesse Pierce of Atlanta, Ga.
Producer and Director: Maurice Tourneur
Screenplay: Wyndham Gittens, Katherine S. Reed and Cecil G. Mumford, based on the novel by Richard Doddridge Blackmore.
Cinematography: Henry Sharp
Art Direction: Milton Menasco
Principal cast: Madge Bellamy (Lorna Doone), John Bowers (John Ridd), Mae Giraci (Lorna as child), Charles Hatton (John as child), Norris Johnson (Ruth), Frank Keenan (Sir Charles Ensor Doone), Donald MacDonald (Carver Doone), Jack McDonald (Counsellor Doone).
by James Steffen
For information on other film adaptations of Lorna Doone, please consult the entry for the 1951 Columbia film of the same title, directed by Phil Karlson and starring Barbara Hale and Richard Green.