It was a warm evening in the theatre the night Joan the Woman played at the Royal Theatre. Based on the life of the Immortal Joan of Arc a motion picture directed by Cecil B DeMille, with Geraldine Farrar in the role of Joan. It has begun an engagement of three days’ endurance at the Royal theatre.
It will mark Geraldine Farrar’s first appearance as the star In a cinema drama of length sufficient to comprise an entire evening’s entertainment. There Is a certain timeliness about the story of Joan of Arc. Although the story of Joan, the Woman ” written for the screen by Jeanie Macpherson has been carefully guarded it is said that Mr DeMille and Miss Farrar have touched upon the feature of modernism in relating to one of the most fascinating stories of medivialism. All the scenes of the picture were made in the summer in California. Please note that the movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Geraldine had to gain 50 pounds to be able to wear an eighty – pound suit of armour in the film Joan, the Woman.
Beginning in 1908, Farrar had a seven-year love affair with the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. Her ultimatum, that he leave his wife and children and marry her, resulted in Toscanini’s abrupt resignation as principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in 1915. Farrar was a close friend to the Met’s star tenor Enrico Caruso and there has been speculation that they too had a love affair. It is said that Caruso coined her motto: Farrar farà (“Farrar will do it”).
Her marriage to actor Lou Tellegen on February 8, 1916 was the source of considerable scandal. The marriage ended, as a result of her husband’s numerous affairs, in a very public divorce in 1923. The circumstances of the divorce were brought again to public recollection by Tellegen’s bizarre 1934 suicide in Hollywood. Farrar reportedly said “Why should that interest me?” when told of Tellegen’s idea.
Cecil B. DeMille’s first feature-length epic is an exercise in equivocation. Joan the Woman (1916) attempts to tell the story of a woman whose chosen path in life is inherently defiant of the gender norms of both her time and that of the film’s audience, while at the same time using the Maid of Orleans to reinforce the value of feminine-patriotic virtues. Joan the Woman follows the popular story of Joan of Arc, portrayed here by Geraldine Ferrar, from her departure from Domremy to her arrival at the court of Charles VII of France, where she convinces the dauphin to put her at the head of an army to oust the English from France. Her subsequent victory at Orleans comprises roughly twenty minutes of the two-and-a-half hour film. After Charles’s coronation at Reims, however, the film departs from the documented history dramatically. Joan is captured at Compiegne only because of the betrayal of her English suitor, Eric Trent. The Maid’s fictional love interest attempts to redeem himself through a daring rescue, but ultimately fails. Joan is led to her inevitable death at the stake in Rouen. Watching her burn, Trent laments, “We have killed a saint!” and the villainous Cauchon is led away in disgust before she is dead.
Framing this version of Joan’s story is a prologue and epilogue that takes place in the trenches of World War I in France. English soldiers keep watch over the parapets for any signs of a German attack, though as the audience is introduced to the story all is fairly quiet. Here, Eric Trent has supposedly been reincarnated as an English officer. In the dugout, he pulls an ancient sword from the wall and wonders “what queer old chap” once carried it into battle. Moments later, the armored apparition of Joan of Arc appears behind him to inform him that the time has come to expiate his sins against her. After Joan’s story is told, Trent goes on a suicide mission to destroy a German trench. His mission is a success, and as he lays dying Joan once more appears and all is seemingly forgiven.
While the film was met with generally positive reviews, it was a box office disappointment. DeMille had a $300,000 budget, partially as a result of the success of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915). Griffith’s film, which was an expensive but epic story, grossed at least $20 million. The Birth of a Nation emboldened fledgling studios to invest great amounts of capital into large film productions; audiences were willing to sit through multi-hour historical epics.Joan, bringing in only $600,000, was an unexpected failure. Critical assessment generally praised DeMille’s innovative use of lighting, novel intertitles such as raised text, and the new Handschiegl color process, which allowed for the striking use of colors against an otherwise monochrome palette. Joan’s paltry box office take, however, was indicative of its failure to resonate with a large audience, particularly the lower-middle classes, who found no characters with whom they could relate despite Joan’s humble beginnings. The film seemingly appealed to mostly those of the upper or middle classes.