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HISTORY

The film begins with the following title-card introduction: “Behind three great ranges of mountains lay the pastoral valley of Greenstream. There the Kinemons had long made their home as tenants on the rich farm of John Galt.” There was some variance between credits in the DVD viewed by AFI Catalog and the list of actors in several contemporary reviews. For example, “John Galt” and “Iska Hatburn” were listed in the 10 Dec 1921 Motion Picture News as “Senator Gault” and “Iscah Hatburn.”
       The original adaptation was started by D. W. Griffith and was partially used in the final scenario after Richard Barthelmess, a former Griffith contract player, bought the rights for $7,500. Copyright records list Ralph Yearsley, an Australian actor, as “Ralph Bausfield.”
       The Oct 1921 Picture-Play announced that actor Richard Barthelmess was producing Tol’able David with his own independent company, although he was not listed as a producer in credits. He and director Henry King, a fellow uncredited producer, filmed in “the Virginia mountains” using the same locations as “the ones actually described in [Joseph Hergesheimer’s] story.” The 21 Oct 1921 Motion Picture Magazine described the location as being “in the West Virginia mountains.” However, Henry King, who lived long enough to attend the screenings of Tol’Able David at film festivals in the 1960s and 1970s, often stated that they shot the movie in Crab Bottom, VA, now called Blue Grass, a Potomac River village not far from where he grew up near the Virginia-West Virginia state line. The 30 Jul 1921 Moving Picture World noted that the production used the cabin ... More Less

The film begins with the following title-card introduction: “Behind three great ranges of mountains lay the pastoral valley of Greenstream. There the Kinemons had long made their home as tenants on the rich farm of John Galt.” There was some variance between credits in the DVD viewed by AFI Catalog and the list of actors in several contemporary reviews. For example, “John Galt” and “Iska Hatburn” were listed in the 10 Dec 1921 Motion Picture News as “Senator Gault” and “Iscah Hatburn.”
       The original adaptation was started by D. W. Griffith and was partially used in the final scenario after Richard Barthelmess, a former Griffith contract player, bought the rights for $7,500. Copyright records list Ralph Yearsley, an Australian actor, as “Ralph Bausfield.”
       The Oct 1921 Picture-Play announced that actor Richard Barthelmess was producing Tol’able David with his own independent company, although he was not listed as a producer in credits. He and director Henry King, a fellow uncredited producer, filmed in “the Virginia mountains” using the same locations as “the ones actually described in [Joseph Hergesheimer’s] story.” The 21 Oct 1921 Motion Picture Magazine described the location as being “in the West Virginia mountains.” However, Henry King, who lived long enough to attend the screenings of Tol’Able David at film festivals in the 1960s and 1970s, often stated that they shot the movie in Crab Bottom, VA, now called Blue Grass, a Potomac River village not far from where he grew up near the Virginia-West Virginia state line. The 30 Jul 1921 Moving Picture World noted that the production used the cabin in which Confederate guerrilla leader John S. Mosby took refuge during the Civil War. Barthelmess told the Jan 1922 Picture-Play: “We were there [in Virginia] for six weeks straight, about forty miles from a railroad, in the locality where Hergesheimer laid the story. Many of the natives had never seen a railroad train, and few of them knew what a motion picture was.” He added that the production hired many locals as extras, including “the mayor, the justice of the peace, the sheriff.”
       Hergesheimer’s original short story did not have a young female character, so either King or scenario writer Edmund Goulding added “Esther Hatburn” to the script “to supply romance,” according to the review in the 10 Dec 1921 Motion Picture News. King hinted to the 9 Jul 1921 Exhibitors Herald that he signed veteran actress Gladys Hulette, who looked much younger than her twenty-five years, to solve “a most difficult problem” of delineating a new character, which required “fine interpretation.”
       The 3 Dec 1921 Motion Picture News noted that Tol’able David was given a screening for Associated First National Pictures franchise holders at New York City’s Hotel Astor on 15 Nov 1921. It premiered in Indianapolis, IN, in early Dec 1921, according to an advertising display in the 10 Dec 1921 Motion Picture News, although the film’s official release date was three weeks earlier, on 21 Nov 1921.
       The film garnered glowing reviews and was one of the year’s most successful box office draws. The 26 Nov 1921 Exhibitors Herald called Tol'able David “a notable photoplay achievement,” and the FD’s Film Year Book 1922-1923 named it one of “The Ten Best” pictures of the year.
       Tol’able David was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2007. The film was restored by Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation, with support from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), digitally remastered, and presented “in the visually correct speed of 20 frames per second,” according to Image Entertainment, which released it in 1997.
       Columbia Pictures released a sound adaptation of Tol'able David in 1930, directed by John G. Blystone and starring Richard Cromwell and Noah Beery (see entry). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
9 Jul 1921
p. 39.
Exhibitors Herald
26 Nov 1921
p. 49.
Film Daily
20 Nov 1921
p. 2.
Film Year Book
1922-1923
p. 349.
Motion Picture Magazine
21 Oct 1921
p. 74.
Motion Picture News
3 Dec 1921
p. 2953.
Motion Picture News
10 Dec 1921
p. 3100, 3044.
Moving Picture World
30 Jul 1921
p. 492.
Moving Picture World
5 Dec 1921
p. 589.
New York Times
2 Jan 1922
p. 20.
Picture-Play
Oct 1921
p. 12.
Picture-Play
Jan 1922
p. 29.
The Photodramatist
Apr 1922
p. 32.
Variety
6 Jan 1922
p. 42.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Charles H. Duell, President, presents
A First National Attraction
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Screen adpt by
Screen adpt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
FILM EDITOR
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Tol'able David," by Joseph Hergesheimer, which originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and was later included in his collection, The Happy Life (New York, 1919).
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 November 1921
Premiere Information:
Indianapolis, iN, premiere: early Dec 1921
Copyright Claimant:
Inspiration Pictures
Copyright Date:
14 December 1921
Copyright Number:
LP17357
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
94
Length(in feet):
7,118
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Far back in the mountains of Appalachia, on the Virginia-West Virginia border, the Kinemon family lives in harmony with nature in Greenstream Valley. Despite failing health, Hunter Kinemon tends the humble tenant farm, which is owned by general store proprietor and postmaster John Galt. Mrs. Kinemon takes care of the household chores. Their elder son, Allen, who lives at the farmhouse with his pregnant wife, Rose, works for Galt, driving the “hack” that carries government mail and passengers between Greenstream and nearby villages. Their younger boy, David, wants to drive the hack whenever Allen is otherwise engaged, but Allen insists the responsibility is too great for a youth who is only “tol’able,” or tolerable, as a man. In the morning, as David swims in a stream, his dog, Rocket, grabs his trousers and runs to the next farm, where Grandpa Hatburn and granddaughter Esther live. David runs into Esther, a girl roughly his age, and is embarrassed until he retrieves his pants. Meanwhile, Esther’s cousins, Iska Hatburn and his sons Luke and Little “Buzzard,” escape from jail in West Virginia, outrun a posse to the Virginia state line, and invite themselves into the Hatburn home to “lay low.” Both Hatburn sons appear feeble-minded, and Luke enjoys hurting small animals. He also shows an unhealthy interest in cousin Esther. One day, as David and Rocket walk by the house, the dog chases the Hatburn cat and is threatened by Luke. Days later, Rocket jumps aboard Allen’s hack and, seeing the cat, chases it onto the Hatburn property. Luke kills the dog with a shovel, and when Allen threatens to return with the sheriff, Luke hits him in the head with ... +


Far back in the mountains of Appalachia, on the Virginia-West Virginia border, the Kinemon family lives in harmony with nature in Greenstream Valley. Despite failing health, Hunter Kinemon tends the humble tenant farm, which is owned by general store proprietor and postmaster John Galt. Mrs. Kinemon takes care of the household chores. Their elder son, Allen, who lives at the farmhouse with his pregnant wife, Rose, works for Galt, driving the “hack” that carries government mail and passengers between Greenstream and nearby villages. Their younger boy, David, wants to drive the hack whenever Allen is otherwise engaged, but Allen insists the responsibility is too great for a youth who is only “tol’able,” or tolerable, as a man. In the morning, as David swims in a stream, his dog, Rocket, grabs his trousers and runs to the next farm, where Grandpa Hatburn and granddaughter Esther live. David runs into Esther, a girl roughly his age, and is embarrassed until he retrieves his pants. Meanwhile, Esther’s cousins, Iska Hatburn and his sons Luke and Little “Buzzard,” escape from jail in West Virginia, outrun a posse to the Virginia state line, and invite themselves into the Hatburn home to “lay low.” Both Hatburn sons appear feeble-minded, and Luke enjoys hurting small animals. He also shows an unhealthy interest in cousin Esther. One day, as David and Rocket walk by the house, the dog chases the Hatburn cat and is threatened by Luke. Days later, Rocket jumps aboard Allen’s hack and, seeing the cat, chases it onto the Hatburn property. Luke kills the dog with a shovel, and when Allen threatens to return with the sheriff, Luke hits him in the head with a rock, crippling him. As Hunter Kinemon takes his mounted gun from the wall to seek revenge, he dies from a stroke. Mrs. Kinemon begs David not to go after the Hatburns with his father’s gun, because he is now the only man of the house. The Kinemons move to a small residence in town, and David accepts a delivery job at Galt’s general store. When Esther tries to renew her friendship with David, he blames the Hatburns for his family’s misfortune. During a school dance, however, David stands outside a window, watching Esther waltz with another boy. He dances with himself, until Esther slips away from the party and encounters him outside. With a few shy kisses, they fall in love. The next day, a new hack driver arrives to work inebriated, and David is Galt’s only available replacement. David triumphantly takes the reins of the horse-drawn wagon. After dropping off passengers at the next village and picking up a bag of mail, he heads back to Greenstream. Near the Hatburn house, Luke stands in the road glaring at him, but David rides on. However, the mailbag falls off the wagon, and Luke carries it to the Hatburn house. Discovering the bag is gone, David retraces his steps and realizes he must either face the Hatburns without a gun or return to town in disgrace. Bravely, he confronts the Hatburns just as Esther, fearing Luke’s advances, escapes out the back door. As Luke chases her, Esther falls and is knocked unconscious. Inside the house, David shoots Iska and Buzzard Hatburn with the elder Hatburn’s gun. Meanwhile, at the Greenstream general store, David’s mother and other townspeople await the mail. Esther’s father is also there, having come to tell the sheriff that his cousins are out of control. At the Hatburn farm, Luke and David fight to the death, while Esther, having awakened, runs into town and informs the crowd that her cousins killed David. Fed up with the Hatburns, townspeople decide to take the law into their own hands. David, despite his wounds, kills Luke and guides the horses into town with the mail. He is welcomed as a hero, and Esther proclaims her love. +

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

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