Sc.: Maurice Tourneur, Owen Davis. F.: John van den Broek. Int.: Vivian Martin (Sally), Alec B. Francis (the count ofBateson), Chester Barnett (Giles, the count’s son), Gyp Williams (the orphan). Prod.: World Film Corp.
35mm. L.: 1255 m. D.: 61′ a 18 f/s. Bn.
Maurice Tourneur’s first American film, The Wishing Ring, was released in November 1914 and established World Pictures as a major East Coast producerdistributor. It smoothly integrates American and French film practices at the time. If American personnel determined the story subject, scenario construction, and natural acting, the French exercised more control over the mise-en-scène and camera work.
Owen Davis adapted the scenario from his own play, An Idyll of Old England, in which a righteous father, the Earl of Bateson (Alec B. Francis), reconciles with his prodigal son, Giles (Chester Barnett), through the redeeming love of a parson’s daughter, Sally (Vivian Martin) ‒ a love symbolized by a gypsy ‘wishing ring’. Tourneur’s directing gives a fresh poignancy to the scenario’s mood of nostalgic, whimsical charm, particularly through his deft choreographing of the actors in Ben Carré’s painterly ‘deep space’ sets or defined by single-source lighting that could turn figures into silhouettes. “Tourneur Paints with Human Beings”, later wrote Charles Emerson Cook (in 1917) and The Wishing Ring already shows off his skill at mediating between European fine arts traditions and American studio filmmaking. The opening, a sequence of over forty shots without a single intertitle brings together the characters in half a dozen spaces in a model of continuity editing defined chiefly by eyeline matches and alternation. The climax of this opening, however, employs ‘staging in depth’. Appropriately, The Wishing Ring ends with a reconciliation scene that synthesizes its strategies of continuity editing, selective lighting, and staging in depth.