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HISTORY

The Will O' the Wisp was shot at the Balboa studios in Long Beach, CA, and in the surrounding area during a flood disaster, which was written into the scenario. Writing for the 9 May 1914 Motion Picture News, reviewer Danson Mitchell stated, "In the latter part of the picture some excellent rain effects are obtained. Real flood scenes, taken in California, form an important basis for certain portions of the drama. This is realistically portrayed." Hanford C. Judson elaborated in the 4 Jul 1914 Moving Picture World: "One doesn't often see pictures with a flooded country for a background, for waters of devastation carrying away bridges and dwellings are fortunately—for real people—not common. Southern California was visited by rushing floods early this spring, and the Balboa producer saw his chance for a sensational and quite extraordinary climax. As a result, we have this picture." The flood scenes, he wrote, "are not only pictures of real conditions when a country over-flowed, but they are convincing as a part of this story, and we have no doubt at all that the old miserly father is in real danger since he is locked in the cabin at the already overflowed banks of the rising stream. [Henry] King's rowing to the rescue of the old man seems really dangerous, and the reconciliation makes a good climax." A later article in the 28 Nov 1914 Moving Picture World specifically located the flood scenes "in the river lowlands near the northwest limits of the city [Long Beach], at a time when the country there was inundated by a river flood." Other scenes were filmed at Balboa's ...

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The Will O' the Wisp was shot at the Balboa studios in Long Beach, CA, and in the surrounding area during a flood disaster, which was written into the scenario. Writing for the 9 May 1914 Motion Picture News, reviewer Danson Mitchell stated, "In the latter part of the picture some excellent rain effects are obtained. Real flood scenes, taken in California, form an important basis for certain portions of the drama. This is realistically portrayed." Hanford C. Judson elaborated in the 4 Jul 1914 Moving Picture World: "One doesn't often see pictures with a flooded country for a background, for waters of devastation carrying away bridges and dwellings are fortunately—for real people—not common. Southern California was visited by rushing floods early this spring, and the Balboa producer saw his chance for a sensational and quite extraordinary climax. As a result, we have this picture." The flood scenes, he wrote, "are not only pictures of real conditions when a country over-flowed, but they are convincing as a part of this story, and we have no doubt at all that the old miserly father is in real danger since he is locked in the cabin at the already overflowed banks of the rising stream. [Henry] King's rowing to the rescue of the old man seems really dangerous, and the reconciliation makes a good climax." A later article in the 28 Nov 1914 Moving Picture World specifically located the flood scenes "in the river lowlands near the northwest limits of the city [Long Beach], at a time when the country there was inundated by a river flood." Other scenes were filmed at Balboa's Long Beach studios.
       According to the 19 Sep 1914 Motion Picture News, "Robert Brotherton, superintendent of the Balboa Feature Film Company laboratory, has produced decided novelty in tinting for triple exposure scenes...each exposure being a distinct color. This brings it out much stronger and makes far more contrast between the different exposures."
       Long Beach, CA, residents broke attendance records when Will O' the Wisp was screened at the city's Columbia Theatre over three nights, the 21 Nov 1914 Motion Picture News reported. "Each evening the police department sent four men to the theatre to protect the Pike—the amusement street at the beach resort—from being blocked by crowds."
       A 28 Nov 1914 Moving Picture World article stated that the film was loosely inspired by the Steele MacKaye melodrama, Hazel Kirke (New York, 4 Feb 1880), though the plot of Will O' the Wisp had only a passing resemblance to that of the play, which was later the basis for a 1916 Wharton, Inc. film production, Hazel Kirke, starring Pearl White (see entry).
       Kay-Bee Pictures made a two-reel movie called The Will O' the Wisp in 1913, but it bore no relation to this film.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Motion Picture News
9 May 1914
p. 44.
Motion Picture News
11 Jul 1914
p. 66.
Motion Picture News
19 Sep 1914
p. 59.
Motion Picture News
21 Nov 1914
p. 61.
Motography
25 Jul 1914
p. 143.
Moving Picture World
4 Jul 1914
p. 77.
Moving Picture World
18 Jul 1914
p. 484.
Moving Picture World
28 Nov 1914
p. 1249.
Moving Picture World
27 May 1916
p. 1494.
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1914
Production Date:

Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
4,000
Length(in reels):
4
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Julia Rider breaks her engagement to wealthy novelist Larry Thorn after Larry participates in a duel with Baron Von Keller, one of his rivals for her affection. Fed up with women and polite society, Larry goes to the wilderness to take up the life of a hermit. He changes his clothes with a tramp, then builds a hut in a river bottom. There he meets the beautiful but nearly feral Hazel, a blind old man's daughter known as Will o' the Wisp, who was raised without a mother. He decides to write a novel about her. Meanwhile, Allen, a wealthy farmer, buys Hazel from her father, telling him that he intends to marry her, but Hazel flees into the night and gets stuck in quicksand. Her cries awaken Larry, who saves her from death and offers to take her home, but when she explains why she ran away, he instead takes her for safekeeping to a widow on a farm. In time, the widow brings out Hazel's better qualities and dresses her in better clothes, so that when Larry later stops by, he barely recognizes her. As he continues writing his novel, he finds himself falling in love with her. One night, a heavy rain falls and creates a flood in the country. Allen, still smarting from paying for Hazel and not getting his gold when she fled, sees his chance to get revenge on her blind father. He goes to the flooded farm and offers to lead the old miser to safety, but when he grabs his treasure box from its hiding place, Allen wrestles it away, locks him in a room to die, and rows away with ...

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Julia Rider breaks her engagement to wealthy novelist Larry Thorn after Larry participates in a duel with Baron Von Keller, one of his rivals for her affection. Fed up with women and polite society, Larry goes to the wilderness to take up the life of a hermit. He changes his clothes with a tramp, then builds a hut in a river bottom. There he meets the beautiful but nearly feral Hazel, a blind old man's daughter known as Will o' the Wisp, who was raised without a mother. He decides to write a novel about her. Meanwhile, Allen, a wealthy farmer, buys Hazel from her father, telling him that he intends to marry her, but Hazel flees into the night and gets stuck in quicksand. Her cries awaken Larry, who saves her from death and offers to take her home, but when she explains why she ran away, he instead takes her for safekeeping to a widow on a farm. In time, the widow brings out Hazel's better qualities and dresses her in better clothes, so that when Larry later stops by, he barely recognizes her. As he continues writing his novel, he finds himself falling in love with her. One night, a heavy rain falls and creates a flood in the country. Allen, still smarting from paying for Hazel and not getting his gold when she fled, sees his chance to get revenge on her blind father. He goes to the flooded farm and offers to lead the old miser to safety, but when he grabs his treasure box from its hiding place, Allen wrestles it away, locks him in a room to die, and rows away with the fortune, but Allen is in turn swept into a whirlpool and swallowed up. Hazel hurries to Larry and enlists him to save her father. They find the house being washed away in the torrent, but the old blind man has escaped to the roof, where Larry rescues him. Larry marries Hazel and hires a specialist to restore the old man's sight. His novel, inspired by Hazel, becomes a big success, and he takes Hazel to a ball given in his honor where, in a beautiful gown, she becomes the social favorite of the season.

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GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Action


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.