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A Daughter of the Gods
Directed byHerbert Brenon
Written byHerbert Brenon
Produced byWilliam Fox
StarringAnnette Kellerman
William E. Shay
Hal De Forrest
CinematographyAndré Barlatier
A. Culp
J. Roy Hunt
William Marshall
C. Richards
Marcel Le Picard
Edward Warren
Edited byHettie Gray Baker
Music byRobert Hood Bowers
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
  • October 17, 1916
180 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
BudgetUS$1,100,000[1]
Box officeUS$1,390,000[2]

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A Daughter of the Gods was a 1916 American silentfantasydrama film written and directed by Herbert Brenon. The film was controversial because of the sequences of what was regarded as superfluous nudity by the character Anitia, played by Australian swimming star Annette Kellermann. The scene is regarded as the first complete nude scene by a major star, which occurred during a waterfall sequence, though most of Kellerman's body is covered by her long hair.[3] It was filmed by Fox Film Corporation in Kingston, Jamaica, where huge sets were constructed, and directed by Herbert Brenon.

Background[edit]

Daughter's

Brenon served as writer of this original scenario/screenplay for the film. However, he more than likely saw and was influenced by David Belasco and John Luther Long's 1902 Broadway play The Darling of the Gods starring Blanche Bates, Robert T. Haines, and young George Arliss, which has a similar theme of reward for rescuing a child and a large ensemble cast. The play differs in that it is set in feudal Japan while the movie is backdropped in an undersea kingdom, not unlike Atlantis.

Brenon made aspects of the play cinematic (underwater sequences, Kellerman's nudity, etc.) in an obvious effort to avoid charges of plagiarism of Belasco's play and hence a lawsuit.[4][5][6]

Plot[edit]

A film still of star Annette Kellerman

A sultan agrees to help an evil witch destroy a mysterious beauty if the witch will bring his young son back to life.

Cast[edit]

  • Annette Kellerman as Anitia (daughter of the gods)
  • William E. Shay as Prince Omar (credited as William Shay)
  • Hal De Forrest as the Sultan
  • Marcelle Hontabat as Celine
  • Violet Horner as Zarrah
  • Jane Lee as Little Prince Omar
  • Stuart Holmes as Moorish merchant
  • Katherine Lee as Nydia
  • Ricca Allen as Witch of Badness
  • Millie Liston as Zarrah's mother (credted as Milly Liston)
  • Henrietta Gilbert as Fairy of Goodness
  • Walter James as Chief Eunuch
  • Walter McCollough as chief of the Sultan's Guard
  • Mark Price as the slave dealer
  • Louise Rial as his wife
  • Edward Boring as Arab Sheik

Production[edit]

After receiving the film assignment with its budget limit of $1 million, director Brenon visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where he was inspired by paintings such as A Dream of the Arabian Nights by Villegas. The opening scene of the film was claimed to be a composite of Cabanel'sThe Birth of Venus and Coypel'sVenus Frolicking in the Sea with Nymphs.[7]

The film is credited as the first US production to cost at least $1 million ($16.5 million in 2019) to produce,[8] with actual costs just exceeding $1.1 million ($18.1 million in 2019).[1] Studio head William Fox was so incensed with the cost of production he removed Herbert Brenon's name from the film. However, Brenon sued to have his name restored to the film's credits, and won.[9] Advertising for the film would often note its million dollar cost.

Great cost was afforded to make a sanitary of mosquito-proofing over a section of Kingston, Jamaica. Sets consumed 2,500 barrels (400 m3) of plaster, 500 barrels (79 m3) of cement, 2,000,000 board feet (5,000 m3) of lumber, and ten tons of paper. Director Herbert Brenon employed 20,000 people during the eight months of production and used 220,000 feet (67,000 m) of film to shoot the picture.[10] The Moorish city cost $350,000 ($5.77 million in 2019) to build, and was destroyed in one climactic scene.[1] The total number of persons appearing in it was 21,218, which included 200 mermaids, and 300 dancing girls and women of the Sultan's harem.[1] The 100 women recruited from the US and Europe to portray nymphs underwent weeks of training by Kellerman to swim using a single stroke in unison and to avoid unnecessary splashing.[11]

An original score was composed for the film by Robert Hood Bowers, which was played by an orchestra during each screening. It was considered the most memorable film score up to that time.[12]

Reception[edit]

The existing film censorship boards in the United States and Canada and the National Board of Review passed the film in spite of its brief nudity scene, calling it artistic.[13][14] Fox made general distribution of the film for the 1916 December holiday season. President Wilson and his wife, to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, attended the film's December 18, 1916 showing at the Belasco Theater, where it opened in Washington, D.C. Prior to this, the Wilsons had only seen films shown at the White House.[15]

Preservation[edit]

Although stills and publicity photos have survived, A Daughter of the Gods is considered to be a lost film.[16][17]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ abcd'Silver Loving Cup Is Presented to Fox at Premier; Opening Night of Daughter of the Gods Is Celebrated by Gift of Wonderful Tiffany Creation About the Size of a Fat Lilliputian'. Motion Picture News. New York City: Motion Picture News, Inc. 14 (18): 2820. 4 November 1916. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  2. ^Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Stephen (2010). Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History. Wayne State University Press. p. 42. ISBN978-0-8143-3008-1.
  3. ^Robertson, James Crighton (1993). The Hidden Cinema: British Film Censorship in Action, 1913-1975. Routledge. pp. 9–10. ISBN0-415-09034-2.
  4. ^Magill's Survey of Cinema; Silent Films Essays 1 A-Fla A Daughter of the Gods, p. 361, Salem Press c.1981 by Frank Magill
  5. ^The Darling of the Gods as produced on Broadway Dec. 3, 1902 - May 1903, Belasco Theatre; IBDb.com
  6. ^Pictorial History of the American Theatre; 1860-1970, p. 71, c. 1970 by Daniel Blum (reprint edition of 1953 original)
  7. ^'New Method of Creating Big Drama: Director Brenon Fills A Daughter of the Gods with Lilting Rhythm'. Motography. Chicago, Illinois: Electricity Magazine Corp. 16 (1): 27–28. 1 July 1916. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  8. ^Schmidt 2013, pp. 29-30.
  9. ^Thompson, Frank T. (1996). Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared. Citadel, Carol Publ. Group. p. 60. ISBN0-806-51604-6.
  10. ^Thompson, Frank (1996). Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared. U.S.A.: Citadel Press. p. 58. ISBN0-8065-1604-6.
  11. ^'Mermaid Ballet in Fox Spectacle: Annette Kellerman Leads 100 Girls in Aquatic Feats'. Motography. Chicago, Illinois: Electricity Magazine Corp. 16 (2): 91. 8 July 1916. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  12. ^Altman, Rick (2004). Silent Film Sound. Columbia University Press. p. 299. ISBN0-231-11662-4.
  13. ^'Censors Commend Fox Films'. Motography. Chicago, Illinois: Electricity Magazine Corp. 16 (26): 1381–82. 23 December 1916. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  14. ^'National Board of Review Passes A Daughter of the Gods; Committee Viewing the Kellermann Spectacle Sends Fox Congratulatory Letter on His Conforming to the Requirements of the Body'. Motion Picture News. New York City: Motion Picture News, Inc. 14 (11): 1523. 9 September 1916. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  15. ^'President Attends Picture Show: Accompanied by Mrs. Wilson He Sees Initial Presentation in Capital City of William Fox's A Daughter of the Gods'. Moving Picture World. New York City: Chalmers Publishing Co. 31 (1): 61. 6 January 1917. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  16. ^'A Daughter of the Gods'. silentera.com. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  17. ^A Daughter of the Gods at TheGreatStars.com; Lost Films Wanted (Wayback Machine)

References[edit]

  • Synopsis (taken from the Library of Congress copyright deposit, with additional material from the film's original program) (Archived 2009-10-23)
  • 'Kellermann Film Shown at the Lyric; Daughter of the Gods an Elaborate Amphibious Picture for the Submersible Star.'The New York Times (October 18, 1916)
  • Schmidt, Christine (2013). The Swimsuit: Fashion from Poolside to Catwalk. A&C Black. ISBN978-0-85785-125-3.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to A Daughter of the Gods.
  • A Daughter of the Gods at IMDb
  • Synopsis at AllMovie
Retrieved from 'https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=A_Daughter_of_the_Gods&oldid=1026671586'
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