Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 30 (1999) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
While we are still awaiting news of the completion of a new film of Daniel Deronda, something that has been in the pipeline for some years, it is interesting to discover that in 1921, a cinema film of the novel was made by Butcher's Film Services Ltd of Camera House, Farringdon Avenue, London EC4. In the 5,500 feet of film Butcher's made a gallant attempt to transfer George Eliot's last great novel onto the screen but previews seemed somewhat disenchanted with the results. The Kinematograph Weekly of 19 May 1921 reported that 'Although George Eliot is not ideally suited to the screen, the producer of this picture, with a poor scenario, has made a film that possesses high technical value .... George Eliot's novel is, however, too mid-Victorian to make a really notable film; it is, with all its merits, slow and rather tedious. The film tells two stories. As neither is essential to the other, the scenarioist ought to have concentrated on the main story of Daniel Deronda .... There is no real necessity for the love tangle of Mallinger Grandcourt nor the introduction of Ezra, the violinist [!] brother'. Later, the reviewer, perhaps to sugar his bitter pill, goes on to say 'Audiences that are not too discriminating will be pleased with this'. Having patronized his less 'discriminating' audience, he does not go on to say what lovers of George Eliot's novel will make of it.
The scenario and production are by W. C. Rowden, who makes a fair attempt to tell a very complex tale, although inevitably much truncated. It begins with Alcharisi taking her twelveyear- old son, Daniel, to Sir Hugo Mallinger for his safe keeping and education. The story moves on fifteen years and we find Daniel telling Sir Hugo that he has saved the life of Mirah and has left her with his friends in Chelsea. Daniel watching Gwendolen gambling is included, also the episode of her returned necklace, but Daniel does not see her again until her wedding to Grandcourt. Mutual recognition alerts Grandcourt to what he sees as an intrigue between his new wife and the young man.
The search for Mirah's brother, Ezra's death, Deronda's trip to meet his mother, and his discovery that he is a Jew are all featured. While in Venice (perhaps Genoa was not photogenic enough!) he receives an urgent call from Gwendolen who is distracted by her husband's brutal treatment of her. Gwendolen declares her love for Deronda and begs him to take her away. Grandcourt returns to the house to find his suspicions about the two of them apparently confirmed. He draws a pistol from his pocket and fires to kill Deronda but the bullet strikes his wife instead and, rendered temporarily insane by this act, he turns the pistol on himself. Despite this travesty of an ending for Grandcourt and Gwendolen, Rowden allows Daniel to return to Mirah; he asks her to be his wife and she gladly consents.