The Quakeress (Broncho, 1913)
Directed by Raymond B. West
Starring Louise Glaum and Charles Ray
Priscilla (Louise Glaum) is a Quaker living among Puritans in a colonial-era New England village. She takes in boarders to support herself and her sick mother. The latest is the town’s new schoolmaster, John Hart (Charles Ray). Over time, John comes to love Priscilla, and on her mother’s deathbed, promises to take care of her.
The spiritual leader of the town is the Reverend Cole (William Desmond Taylor), who very much despises “the heretic” and forces through new legislation compelling all townspeople to attend Puritan services and forbidding anyone from giving food or lodging to non-Puritans. Priscilla is arrested, tortured, and banished. John follows her and they set out for a Quaker settlement somewhere in Pennsylvania, but on the way, they come across a hostile Indian tribe preparing to assault the Puritans. The question is then whether to return and warn them of the danger or to leave them to their fate.
In 1913, Charles Ray was just beginning his assent to his fleeting stardom, which peaked around 1915 and vanished almost before the year was out. The basic plot of The Quakeress mirrors what I would consider his seminal film, The Coward (1915). In The Coward, Ray plays a young man who deserts the Confederate army, accidentally learns of vital Union war plans while in hiding, and then must decide whether to save himself or save the army.
The Coward conveys the idea of torn allegiances significantly better than does The Quakeress, but that isn’t to say the latter is a bad film. I quite enjoyed it. Glaum’s Priscilla, Ray’s John, and Taylor’s Cole are all well acted – it’s a testament to how well acted they are in that the characters feel like they have some depth to them, despite the film never actually revealing anything about them beyond what’s necessary to advance the plot. I also must commend the film for never once becoming mawkish, given how easily the story could lend itself to that. I can only imagine how it would have turned out had this been a Biograph picture with Griffith at the helm.
I won’t be adding The Quakeress to my list of favorites, but it’s a solid film that I enjoyed watching and would recommend.
My rating: I like it.