English, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 18 (1987)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


To Kathleen Adams t discussion of George Eliot film adaptations (Review, 1977), I would Iike to add two interesting items omitted and a few comments. Other than that piece and a few brief remarks about George Eliot theatrical adaptations in a column in the London Illustrated News (Mar. 5, 1927), nothing has been written about Eliot on stage and screen. The subject deserves more treatment.

The silent era of filmmaking in America coincided with a period in American culture when English "classics lt possessed a certain cachet that made them good properties for an entertainment industry with aspirations to something grander, more cultural. Not coincidentally, nearly all the Eliot adaptations done were silents, among them two items omitted from the earlier article, fiIm adaptations of SiIas Marner and The Mils on the Floss.

Readers of The New York Clipper on December 4, 1915 saw a large, two column, half page ad which read:

Mutual Film Corporation Announces

A Masterpiece Extraordinary

The Mill on the Floss

A Stupendous Film Dramatization of George Eliot's Famous Novel

featuring the Popular Star Mignon Anderson

This Mutual release of a Thanhauser film, a long five reel film, opened December 16 and was reviewed two days later in The Moving Picture World. Much of the review is taken up by an account of who plays what role, and the reviewer was impressed by the acting. Apparently the film was faithful to the book, to the spirit of Maggie1s independence, the compelling sense of tragedy, and to at least its more noteworthy scenes. Mentioned, for example, are Maggie's rebellious haircutting and her pushing Lucy into the mud. Also worthy of note at an age when films began moving off the backlots and onto location was the flood scene, so " vividly realistic" as to suggest its having been staged on the scene of some flood disaster". American fascination with English classics is evident in the fact that this American MiII preceded the English version by fully twenty-five years.