Downton Abbey and a Milestone in the Movies

A century ago yesterday the first full-length color movie opened in England. “The World, the Flesh and the Devil”.  The title comes from the Book of Common Prayer.
According to my Downton Abbey deck calendar, it was a “silent British drama, directed by F. Martin Thornton…about a rotten lawyer trying to find a way to prevent a nobleman from inheriting his due.”

It was barely an hour and starred Frank Esmond, Stella St. Audrie, and Warwick Wellington. I bet Warwick played the nobleman.

The ads of the time said it cost 10,000 pounds to film.  Depending on the accuracy of my Google search , I think that would be 660,000 pounds today. Or  the equivalent of about $1,1oo,ooo I don’t know if they made a profit.  In those days there were no DVDs to make up for a bad box office.

I’ve seen most of the Downton Abbey episodes, and I don’t recall any mention of this breakthrough  on the big screen. Neither the Earl of Grantham nor the Countess seems to have brought it up at dinner or in the boudoir. And I don’t think it was a topic of conversation downstairs in the servant’s hall.  Their tastes probably gravitated more toward the ups and downs of the working class.

And Maggie Smith, I mean Violet, the Dowager Countess?  If the cinema did come up in one of those stilted, mannered conversations in the drawing room, I’m sure she would have had a snappy retort about the end of civilization.

In any event, the movie is lost, like the generation that followed.

Filed under: drama, Movies, nostalgia, Pop Culture


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  • Strangely, most references are to a 1959 film, not this 1914 one.

    I haven't watched Downton Abbey enough to see if they left the Abbey to go to the Cinema, as they couldn't watch it on the Telly in 1914; certainly not in the boudoir.

  • Well, I haven't watched Downton, er. Seriously -- gasp! -- but I suppose that since the Dowager Countess so famously asked "What is a 'weekend'?," she'd have a hard time understanding what a cinema is.
    By the way, I have a good converter for old pounds to new:
    When I was a student in Britain for a short, great time in, er, the last century, I saw a sign in London about a littering fine, 5 pounds. I soon read something from before the second war about the same place -- and the fine was there, but 5 shillings (one twentieth of the cost). Multiply old shillings by 20 to get a better estimate of the more recent price.

  • Yes, I'm back... with a poetic (or at least limerick) thought:
    Quark in the Road, alias AW,
    I really do not want to trouble you;
    but I miss all your poems (certainly not tomes!)
    -- the lack of them has burst my bubble, you!

    In prose, I can add that while I like your new essay format, I am (of course) Serious -- I miss the poetry of the birthday posts. Any chance of a return?

  • In reply to MargaretSerious:

    MargaretSerious, it is so kind of you to say that you miss those verses. It was a challenge I set for a year and, believe me, sometimes I felt I would not rise up to it. You know how that is. Life has a way of discouraging your best efforts. But I kept at it because of your gracious comments, and those of Weather Girl, Jack, and 4zen.
    I can assure you I won't stop writing light verse. Whenever the spirit moves me. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    BTW, your limerick is quite good.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    You're most welcome. You met the challenge very well. I'm enjoying your prose (not prosaic!) comments as I wait patiently for the verse(s?) to return.

    Many thanks for the comment on the limerick -- fine light verse seems to be contagious!

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