Sog.: dal romanzo e dalla pièce omonimi (1920) di Zona Gale. Scen.: Clara Beranger. F.: L. Guy Wilky. Int.: Lois Wilson (Lulu Bett), Milton Sills (Neil Cornish), Theodore Roberts (Dwight Deacon), Helen Ferguson (Diana Deacon), Mabel Van Buren (Ina Deacon), May Giraci (Manona Deacon), Clarence Burton (Ninian Deacon). Prod.: Adolph Zukor per Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. 35mm. L.: 1761 m. 20 f/s. Bn.
In February of 1920, Wisconsin author Zona Gale published her sixth novel Miss Lulu Bett to great acclaim and popularity. Critics praised the book’s naturalistic dialogue, its critique of small-town conformity, and its relevance. At a time when the women’s suffrage amendment was marching toward its eventual ratification, readers were eager to embrace what scholar Deborah Lindsay Williams has called a “self-actualized Cinderella” story. It depicts the life of Lulu Bett, a 33-year-old woman living in the home of her sister’s husband. Treated as the ‘family beast of burden,’ she longs to take steps toward independence. Gale adapted her novel into a play, which premiered on 26 December in front of an audience of inmates at Sing Sing Prison. The following day Miss Lulu Bett settled in for an acclaimed 198-show run at New York’s Belmont Theatre, before going on the road for hundreds of performances nationwide. In 1921, Zona Gale became the first woman playwright to win a Pulitzer Prize. William C. deMille, the elder brother of Cecil B. DeMille favored human drama. As a filmmaker, he was looking for properties such as Miss Lulu Bett that could be made on a modest budget. Lulu Bett was Lois Wilson’s favorite role, and William C. deMille her favorite director – it was the fourth of six collaborations between the two at Paramount. His preference for understated acting drew him to her natural, low-key performance style. The screen version of Miss Lulu Bett took both Zona Gale’s novel and play into account. After directing The Ragamuffin from his own scenario in 1916, deMille preferred to partner with another scenarist, usually a woman. His regular collaborator, Olga Printzlau, was unavailable for Miss Lulu Bett, so Clara Beranger, who had written many scenarios for Famous Players-Lasky, stepped in. Beranger became deMille’s closest associate, and remained so for the rest of his career. Miss Lulu Bett may be William C. deMille’s best-known work, but it is scarcely remembered in the shadow of his brother’s big-budget spectaculars.
(San Francisco Silent Film Festival)