This film is part of Free
The surviving reel of what seems like an action-packed adaptation of George Eliot’s 1859 debut novel.
This was originally made as a six-reel feature, but only one reel now survives. Assuming the same linear structure as the novel, this is most likely the final reel (the ends are damaged, so the final shots are missing), in which Hetty (Ivy Close, mother of future director-cinematographer Ronald Neame) is tried and sentenced to death over the alleged murder of her illegitimate child, but has a last-minute reprieve when the child is produced, a sequence making suspenseful use of cross-cutting.
Maurice Elvey (1887-1967) was one of the most prolific directors in British cinema history, with a filmography nudging 200 entries. Although much of his later work (which included many so-called “quota quickies”) has been critically panned as the epitome of quantity over quality, he had a stronger reputation in the silent era. Most of these early films are lost, but the belated 1996 premiere of his long-suppressed biopic The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918) revealed a film of genuine sweep, ambition and cinematic brio that was as impressive as anything being made anywhere at the time.