Length: 72 min. (6500 ft) (Black and White) / Copyright Date: unknown / Release Dates: 23 November 1916 (Cape Town), 7 December 1916 (Johannesburg) / Language: Silent (English intertitles) / Genre: Drama / Alternative Title: none.
When the now widowed Mrs. Fairburn’s father died, he left his farm to his daughter, with the proviso that the ground should not be dug up to look for diamonds, something that has always frustrated Mrs. Fairburn's brother, Petrus. While she has followed her father’s instructions, Petrus ventures out at night to do some secret prospecting, but is seen by a farm labourer. In the meantime Gloria Fairburn meets and falls in love with Louis Martino, who is employed at a nearby diamond mine. Louis finds out about Petrus’s plot and is determined to stop him. Instead Petrus, in league with the mine manager and a shady lawyer, succeeds in manoeuvring his sister and her family off the farm. Eventually diamonds are found, but Louis points out that as Petrus prospected without the permission of the owners, he cannot claim discoverer’s rights. With the connivance of the mine manager, Louis is framed for illicit diamond buying, but eventually the villains get their just deserts. (Adapted from a summary in Stage and Cinema)
With a running time of more than an hour, Gloria can be regarded as South Africa’s first feature film. Based on the novel Gloria: a Girl of the South African Veld by Charlotte Mansfield (1881-1936), it had a script by Harold M. Shaw, who had arrived in South Africa only a few months previously, and was directed by his fellow-American Lorimer Johnston. The title role was played by Mabel May, the wife of producer I.W. Schlesinger, with Frank Cellier as the hero and M.R. Morand as the villain both borrowed from the Ethel Irving theatre company, which was then performing at the Palladium Theatre in Johannesburg. Mrs. Fairburn was played by Mabel Rushton, the wife of J. Langley Levy, the Editor of the Sunday Times. Julius Royston, Grafton Williams, Dick Cruikshanks, and M.A. Wetherell were all well-established stage actors, while Caroline Frances Cooke was Mrs. Lorimer Johnston. H.J. Hamlin would go on the play Sir Henry Curtis in King Solomon’s Mines (1918) and Allan Quatermain (1919). In England the film was distributed by H. Lisle Lucoque, who would come to South Africa to direct the two H. Rider Haggard films.
Mabel May (Gloria Fairburn), Frank Cellier (Louis Martino), Mabel Rushton (Mrs. Fairburn), M.R. Morand (Petrus Dutoit), Frank Hamlyn (Gloria's crippled little brother), Martha Rowson (Little Johanna), H.J. Hamlin (Snyman, the mine manager), Julius Royston (A. van Cohn, the lawyer), Grafton Williams (McGreedy), Caroline Frances Cooke (Mrs. Hillier), Dick Cruikshanks (Old farmer Dutoit). The actors who took the roles of Mr. Hillier and Corneels, the Fairburns' servant, have not been identified, but an advert in the Rand Daily Mail indicates that M.A. Wetherell, Holger Petersen and Charles Kitts were also featured.
Stage and Cinema, 21 October 1916
Rand Daily Mail, 3 May 1917
Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm
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