Meg o' the Woods (1918)
- also known as: Meg o' th' Woods
- length: 4 or 5 reels
- released: 1918
- production company: Holmfirth Producing Company Limited
- distribution company: Butcher's Film Service
- director: Bertram Phillips
Initially announced in August 1917 as "a picture of rural life in typical British surroundings, and one in which [...] Miss Queenie Thomas is being given an opportunity of displaying her great versatility". The scenario was written by Irene Miller.
- Queenie Thomas — Meg
- Harry Drummond — Harry
- Alice de Winton — Cecilia
- Cameron Carr — Gerald (husband of Cecillia)
- Minna Grey — Meg the Elder
- Frank Randell — Lord Edward Kingslake
A lord destroys the evidence of his son's marriage to a gypsy, but their granddaughter marries his heir.
Kinematograph Weekly (06/Dec/1917):
"Meg o' th' Woods" is a delightful, really British picture with some truly magnificent scenery, the scenario of which was written by talented Irene Miller, with home we viewed it. It is a wholesome story told in five reels, and takes us through three generations. The unravelling of the plot is ingenious, and there is in parts a strong dramatic element, although for the most part the picture is of the light, bright, happy order. Various domestic animals and introduced, and here and there are some remarkably pretty touches — both novel and amusing. The quality is splendid. Miss Thomas makes Meg a delightful creation, and "Meg o' th' Woods" should do well for whoever is fortunate enough to get it. Talking on British-made films, Miss Thomas said she thought that all the American crook and Wild West plays and the morbid Continental drama had been worked to death, and that after the war there will be a revival of the old-style English comedy, and that Britain should supply the demand for artistic and beautiful pictures of English life.
The Bioscope (21/Feb/1918):
“Meg o’ the Woods”. Butcher. 4 reels. The four-act drama shown by Messrs. Butchers, Ltd., has many qualities which will undoubtedly appeal strongly to a very large public, being a simple ingenuous story of considerable interest lightened by many scenes of pleasant comedy, and with a charming setting of beautiful English country scenery.
Meg o’ the Woods is a beautiful girl who is allowed to run wild under the care of her old grandmother, a poor creature known as Meg the Witch, who lives in a poor cottage, dreaded by the villagers more for her forlorn and neglected appearance than for any evil that is known against her. But old Meg has been young and beautiful and has had her romance, and when old Lord Kingslake happens by chance to meet Meg o’ the Woods she brings back visions of his early days. He had made love to Meg’s grandmother and married her secretly, but his parents had sent him abroad and destroyed all record of the marriage, and the old woman, crazed with grief and neglect, does not long survive the late reunion.
Meg is sent to school by her grandfather and eventually taken to live with him, when she meets his young nephew, Harry, who is greatly attracted by the beautiful girl. Lord Kingslake has another nephew, Gerald, who is anxious to inherit the old man’s wealth, and he and his wife determine to get rid of the girl who seems likely to become first favourite. Their methods of bringing this about are somewhat crudely melodramatic, an attempt being made to implicate Meg in the theft of the family pearls which Mrs. Gerald covets for herself. By the agency of a detective and a clever retriever dog the schemers are tripped up in their own toils and Meg’s innocence is established to the satisfaction of her grandfather, though one must admit that a British jury might have regarded her connection with the plot in a less lenient spirit.
However, Meg is such a charming young person that one is not inclined to judge her actions too severely, and it would be a pity to deprive a pretty story of the essential happy ending. Miss Queenie Thomas, who plays in turns three generations of Megs, finds ample scope for her talents and is attractive throughout. Mr. Frank J. Randell gives a pleasant study of Lord Kingslake at two periods of his life, and Mr. Harry Drummond gives a good performance as the young lover. Miss Alice de Winton gives a picturesque study of polished villainy, and Miss Minna Grey infuses much character into the part of Meg the elder.
Two delightful dogs and a varied collection of lesser animals give material assistance, and the production includes some very beautiful settings which are excellently reproduced. “Meg o’ the Woods” has all the elements of popularity.
Kinematograph Weekly (21/Feb/1918):
When you hear behind a discussion as to whether the scene is in Kent about St. Paul’s Cray, or down in Surrey, which is Guildford way, you can guess rightly that the play is a British production. For that, of course, Bertram Phillips, the producer, takes the credit. Equally sharing the honours, however, of this charming play is the scenario of Miss Irene Miller. If the one pleases the eye, the other satisfies the heart that occasionally yearns for relief from murder, secret service and detective, sexual and neurotic problems. Miss Irene Miller is to be congratulated upon a bright — almost fairy-like — story, unspoilt in its simple delicacy by attempts to make it “strong.” Briefly, it is a delightful little idyll, clean in motive and action, yet invigorating and refreshing.
“Watch the photography,” was a whisper in my ear as I entered the New Gallery on Wednesday to see Butcher’s latest acquisition. It doesn’t need watching, it obtrudes itself, it fascinates. It is a revet in the woods with Meg, a succession of delightful woodland glades, dells, and bracken-covered hillocks. We might lose ourselves, as does the oncoming lover, but Queenie Thomas takes us in hand at once, and it is a pleasure to follow the guidance of that innocent child of the woods, Meg. But I shall have to “get out of the wood” if I am to tell the story.
One day — this is a lovely start — a handsome young man, heir to ancestral estate, loses his way. He meets Meg, and loses more than the way home. In fact, he is not keen upon the discovery of the right pathway. As events follow, he is, however, keen upon honourable love, and he marries Meg straightforwardly — well to a point. He does not consult his parents, and the inevitable happens. He is disowned, and for money’s sake seeks fortune in distant countries. Evil-minded relatives successfully intervene, intercept letters, inform Edward Kingslake that his wife is dead, and so eventually when Kingslake returns many years later to take up his position as Lord Kingslake, he mourns the Meg that should have been at his side. He does not marry again, but is faithful to his early love.
Meg in despair returns home, but is driven out by her grandfather. He does not believe in “a marriage of that sort.” But the child of that marriage grows up into another Meg, who in turn, and exactly like her mother, the original Meg, marries for love. The result is the grandchild, Meg, jealously guarded by the now witch of the village, an old hag really, but her grandmother.
Lord Kingslake remains still the lover of his, dead Meg, and that is one great charm of Miss Irene Miller’s story. He is boating on the river he knew so well of old, and seeks the trysting tree. No illustration could be chosen that so fully gives an idea of this idyllic woodland story than the one we use. Meg is there, the grandchild, we know, but to the sad-hearted Lord Kingslake, a vision of the past. I can imagine it. “God of mercy, it is my Meg,” he cries as he stretches out his arms, over-balances the boat, and scrambles ashore helped by the flesh and blood Meg. Dazed and bewildered, he follows to the little cottage, where his own Meg is crooning over the fire. All the chivalry of an English gentleman is aroused, the embers of a past love are revived into flame, but grandmother Meg (very finely acted by Minna Grey) feels that it is too late. In the morning her body is found in the river near the tree at which she met her Edward.
Now we leave the idyllic to dip into melodrama, but even then of a mild order. True, we have a nephew and bis wife, Cecilia, plotting against Meg, who is now at the mansion of my Lord. An attempt is made to implicate her in the stealing of a pearl necklace, a family heirloom. Indeed, she is arrested for it. But behind her is Harry, another nephew, and Harry’s love has also the keen approval of the grandfather, Lord Kingslake.
It is only fair to say that the complications that set in are very cleverly sketched, and they at least serve to introduce us to an exceedingly intelligent dog. But more than this, they enable us to see Queenie Thomas as a wild and almost untameable madcap, both at school and at the ancestral home of her grandfather. She fears no one — except her Harry. Naturally matters end with the flight of the plotting nephew, Gerald (Cameron Carr), and his wife, Cecilia (Alice de Winton).
I apologise at having forgotten to mention who takes the part of the other nephew, Harry. But Harry was enough for Meg, and that must be the excuse. It is well played by Harry Drummond.
Where to lay the blame for the great success of “Meg o’ th’ Woods” is difficult to decide. I will take the safe course and ascribe it equally to Bertram Phillips as producer, Miss Irene Miller for the delightful story, Queenie Thomas for her interpretation of it, and Butcher’s Film Service for — well, for their knowledge of what will please a British audience anywhere.
Kinematograph Weekly (22/Aug/1918) included a set of suggestions by Butcher's Film Service for musicians accompanying the film. Uniquely, these give details of the film's intertitles and scenes.
|Sub-Titles or Action where Music changes.||Character of Music.|
|Part 1. (Prologue)|
|1.||Commencement||Short quiet melody.|
|2.||And then one day Edward Kingslake, heir of a noble family||(Country scene.) Flowing melody.|
|2a.||So the first link in this strange chain||Exciting melody.|
|2b.||At Kingslake Hall|
|3.||A bitter parting||Slow dramatic melody.|
|4.||A year later, believing herself deserted||Very short slow melody.|
|5.||In the hopeless years that followed||(Country scene.) Fairly bright intermezzo.|
|5a.||History repeated itself|
|6.||Five years later, the younger Meg now widowed||Very slow dramatic melody.|
|7.||So the first generation of Meg's||Long, slow melody|
|7a.||Meanwhile Edward Kingslake has long since inherited the family title|
|1.||A week later||(Country scene). Flowing melody.|
|2.||Meg! Meg!||Same composition worked up.|
|3.||The next day||Fairly bright intermezzo.|
|4.||T-T-think I know your Grandmother, child?||Strong, slow dramatic melody.|
|5.||In silent watches of the night||Very soft mysterious melody (short).|
|6.||And on the morrow||Very pathetic melody (short).|
|7.||A month later||Flowing melody or Valse lente.|
|8.||A morning surprise||Exciting melody.|
|9.||Having routed the enemy||Bright intermezzo.|
|1.||The next morning||(Country scene.) Flowing melody.|
|2.||So Meg arrives at her ancestral home||Fairly bright intermezzo.|
|3.||Dressing for dinner||Valse lente.|
|4.||After dinner||Flowing melody.|
|5.||All on a summer's day||(Country scene.) Bright intermezzo.|
|6.||Two days later||Slow melody.|
|7.||That evening||Slow mysterious melody.|
|7a.||At the dead of night|
|8.||And when the morning came||Exciting melody.|
|2.||Meg's only thought is to shield Harry||Dramatic melody.|
|3.||Doubting fears||Quiet melody.|
|4.||Shall we have some music?||Slow to exciting melody.|
|5.||Detective Beaumont wants a man at the lake||Flowing melody.|
|6.||Gerald, the game's up||Exciting melody.|
|7.||They've only taken some pebbles||Slow balled.|
|7a.||Sentenced for life|
Believed to be the final Bamforth film, although likely filmed entirely in London and the south of England. Based on press coverage, this was likely the most popular and most widely screened Bamforth production.
According to several newspaper reports, actress Queenie Thomas appeared at some of the public screenings of the film singing "songs from her repertoire" and "also sold autographed cards" for fans.
Notes and References
- ↑ According to contemporary trade journals. IMDB states "1,665 m (6 reels)".
- ↑ The film received its first trade shows in early 1918.
- ↑ The Bioscope (23/Aug/1917) page 863.
- ↑ The Bioscope (17/Jan/1918) page 10.
- ↑ Kinematograph Weekly (13/Mar/1919) page 89.
- ↑ Kinematograph Weekly (02/Jan/1919) page 57.