In past and recent silent history, there were bold longhaired youngsters who had the nerve to adapt to the silent screen great oeuvres of literature; a very complicated matter this, to try to capture the essence and spirit of such classics in a free or faithful adaptation. Such attempts inevitably give rise to controversy about literature and film versions, a fruitless discussion, ja wohl!.
“Annabelle Lee” (1921) directed by Herr William J. Scully is an excellent example of what this Herr Graf is talking about.
Educated youngsters know that the film title of the picture coincides with the famous eponymous Herr Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, a mere coincidence this because any resemblance of Herr Scully’s film adaptation to Herr Poe’s original poem is purely coincidental.
Herr Scully quotes Herr Poe’s first verses from the poem leading the audience to expect the evocative, romantic and gloomy atmosphere of Poe’s poem but, on the contrary, the picture is done in a modernistic, conservative and traditional style.
But let’s forget for a moment the distinguished literary background of the story and turn to the film itself: The movie tells the tale of a girl from a good family, Frau Annabelle, who is in love with a young fisherman, Herr David, from a working class family. Obviously Frau Annabelle’s father disapproves of such a relationship but promises the young fellow that if he keeps apart from his beloved for one year and then still feels the same, the couple may marry. Frau Annabelle agrees to wait.
The eternal song…, boy meets girl, social classes differences, wealth and poverty… if you add to this the search for a sunken legacy that belonged to Herr David’s father, a mutiny afterwards and a long time on a solitary island in the middle of nowhere, well, then you even can add to the film more literary references ( Herr Shakespeare, Herr Stevenson), making the film a kind of hodgepodge of unoriginal ideas borrowed from here and there.
If it wasn’t for Herr Scully pretentiousness of taking advantage of Herr Poe’s poem ( a futile attempt at the expense of the Bostonian writer ), the film even could work as an interesting romantic story, emphasizing especially those scenes showing Frau Annabelle’s waiting in vain at the seacoast, but due to its lofty ambition, the movie fails badly in its artistic purposes and does a disservice to the literary masterpiece with which it has nothing in common.
And now, if you’ll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count has to go to his kingdom by the sea.
by FerdinandVonGalitzien (FerdinandVonGalitzien@gmail.com) (Galiza)
Director: William J. Scully
Writers: Arthur Brilliant, Edgar Allan Poe (poem)
Stars: John B. O’Brien, Lorraine Harding, Florida Kingsley
Ignore the 2014 caption – This is the 1921 version
The poem “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe:
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love–
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me–
Yes!–that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we–
Of many far wiser than we–
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.