Hypocrites (1915)

49 mins | Allegory, Drama | 20 January 1915

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HISTORY

This film is alternately known as The Hypocrites. It begins with a passage from Robert Browning's poem, "The Pope": "What does the world, told a truth, but lie the more." The four principals—Courtenay Foote, Myrtle Stedman, Herbert Standing, and Adele Farrington—are presented as both their contemporary characters and their allegorical characters.
       Writer-director Lois Weber credited painter Adolphe Faugeron’s La Vérité, or The Truth, as her inspiration for Hypocrites. Interviewed in the 3 Apr 1915 Los Angeles Herald, she said, “From the day that I saw the reproduction of Faugeron’s painting, The Naked Truth [sic], I regretted my inability to teach on the screen the lesson I saw in his painting….Every obstacle we had been taught to avoid in pictures confronted me in the execution of this idea—the introduction of religious subjects, the different and many times double exposures requiring experimentation that would cost time and money, the necessity for an enormous cast, and last but not least, the introduction of the figure of ‘Truth’ in the only guise I could consider if I were to be as honest as Faugeron. Added to which was the fact that we had no permanent studio and were liable to move at any time. As a matter of fact, we did move three times during the making of the picture.” What completed the project was Weber’s casual introduction to seventeen-year-old Margaret Edwards, who possessed an “exceptional education and physical and mental training.” Edwards’ “upbringing” and “purity of mind and unconsciousness of self made her appearance as ‘Truth’ so natural a thing, that her part in the work was the last thing ...

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This film is alternately known as The Hypocrites. It begins with a passage from Robert Browning's poem, "The Pope": "What does the world, told a truth, but lie the more." The four principals—Courtenay Foote, Myrtle Stedman, Herbert Standing, and Adele Farrington—are presented as both their contemporary characters and their allegorical characters.
       Writer-director Lois Weber credited painter Adolphe Faugeron’s La Vérité, or The Truth, as her inspiration for Hypocrites. Interviewed in the 3 Apr 1915 Los Angeles Herald, she said, “From the day that I saw the reproduction of Faugeron’s painting, The Naked Truth [sic], I regretted my inability to teach on the screen the lesson I saw in his painting….Every obstacle we had been taught to avoid in pictures confronted me in the execution of this idea—the introduction of religious subjects, the different and many times double exposures requiring experimentation that would cost time and money, the necessity for an enormous cast, and last but not least, the introduction of the figure of ‘Truth’ in the only guise I could consider if I were to be as honest as Faugeron. Added to which was the fact that we had no permanent studio and were liable to move at any time. As a matter of fact, we did move three times during the making of the picture.” What completed the project was Weber’s casual introduction to seventeen-year-old Margaret Edwards, who possessed an “exceptional education and physical and mental training.” Edwards’ “upbringing” and “purity of mind and unconsciousness of self made her appearance as ‘Truth’ so natural a thing, that her part in the work was the last thing I expected would meet with criticism. We were all so imbued with the spirit of the play that the atmosphere during its entire construction was most reverent and uplifting. As ‘Truth’ was always a visionary figure (since Truth is spiritual), she was photographed alone, with no one present but myself to direct her [and the cameraman], and it shall always be a pleasure for me to remember how earnestly she strove to impersonate the lofty and symbolic character for which I had cast her.” Edwards is always seen as a wraith, created by double exposure.
       The 26 Sep 1914 Motion Picture News noted that Weber and Phillips Smalley, her then husband and frequent collaborator, had completed the filming of Hypocrites, set to be five reels in length. In his Moving Picture World review, Hanford C. Judson also called it a "five-reel picture."
       Items in the 10 Oct 1914 and 17 Oct 1914 issues of Motion Picture News cited a 19 Oct 1914 release date. The 10 Oct 1914 Motion Picture News review of the film stated, “The photography in this feature is really wonderful, showing what the expert camera man can do. Not content with double and triple exposure, George W. Hill has produced even sextuple exposure to make this picture more marvelous. In fact, the photography is of such merit that it has been brought favorably to the attention of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, Pa.” The 7 Nov 1914 Variety noted that when the unclothed actress walked toward the camera, “a shadowy trick…does not permit of the nude figure too long in sight at any time.” Cameraman Dal Clawson reportedly invented visual techniques used in the "Truth" scenes, which were filmed by George W. Hill.
       As suggested by early reviews of the picture, Weber may have re-edited Hypocrites before it was released two months later. It officially opened on 20 Jan 1915 at the Longacre Theater in New York City. According to the 6 Feb 1915 Motography review of the opening, “It was rumored that if you did not see this Bosworth film on the night of its first showing, you might not have an opportunity thereafter, as [notorious anti-vice activist and former U.S. Postal Inspector] Anthony Comstock was to be one of the evening’s guests and after that—who knows? Mr. Comstock was one of the guests, but the film is still showing and will continue to do so until New York and commuters from Jersey will all have come and seen.” The 13 Feb 1915 Moving Picture World noted that the Longacre run of Hypocrites “created more comment and aroused more enthusiastic press notes than almost any other motion picture yet shown in New York.” After considerable attention by the press and local censorship boards, the nude scene was deemed acceptable in most parts of the country.
       Hypocrites was re-issued in 1916. A forty-nine-minute copy of the film from the American Film Institute Collection in the Library of Congress is extant and widely available.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Herald Express
3 Apr 1915
---
Motion Picture News
26 Sep 1914
p. 36
Motion Picture News
3 Oct 1914
p. 45
Motion Picture News
10 Oct 1914
p. 45
Motion Picture News
17 Oct 1914
p. 8
Motion Picture News
24 Oct 1914
p. 51
Motion Picture News
23 Jan 1915
p. 32
Motion Picture News
6 Feb 1915
p. 28
Motion Picture News
10 Apr 1915
p. 46
Motography
24 Oct 1914
p. 578
Motography
30 Jan 1915
p. 168
Motography
6 Feb 1915
p. 204
Motography
11 Sep 1915
p. 512
Motography
25 Dec 1915
p. 100
Moving Picture World
23 Jan 1915
p. 498
Moving Picture World
6 Feb 1915
p. 832
Moving Picture World
13 Feb 1915
p. 998
Moving Picture World
20 Feb 1915
p. 1156
Moving Picture World
10 Jul 1915
pp. 186-187
New York Times
21 Aug 1916
p. 9
NYDM
14 Apr 1915
p. 24
NYDM
1 Jul 1916
p. 26
Variety
24 Oct 1914
p. 7
Variety
7 Nov 1914
p. 23
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Hypocrite
The Hypocrites
The Naked Truth
Release Date:
20 January 1915
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 Jan 1915 at the Longacre Theatre
Production Date:
completed Sep 1914
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Bosworth, Inc.
30 September 1914
LU3460
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
49
Length(in reels):
4
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Gabriel, a pastor, denounces hypocrisy from the pulpit, thus incurring the enmity of his restless modern congregation and one of the church elders, who tells three other older man he wants the pastor's resignation. After the congregation files out, Gabriel picks up a newspaper he saw two young choir singers surreptitiously looking at, and his eyes fall upon a reproduction of “The Truth,” a popular allegorical painting by Adolphe Faugeron depicting truth in the image of a naked woman holding up a mirror in a grotto, as people flee from her in terror. Underneath is the headline: "Why the Truth Has Startled Wicked Paris," along with two passages from John Milton, one being, "Hypocrisy the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone," and the other, "Truth indeed came into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when He ascended, and His Apostles after Him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds." Gabriel then falls asleep and dreams that, as an ascetic in a medieval monastery, he begins a difficult uphill path to righteousness, fasting and praying as he sculpts a statue of Truth. Though Gabriel believes he is alone, another monk is spying upon his labors, but is blinded by the light. During the course of his dream, many of the hypocritical images of society are revealed. When Gabriel’s statue of Truth is unveiled for the monks and local villagers at a festival, only a young female choir singer (clothed as a nun ...

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Gabriel, a pastor, denounces hypocrisy from the pulpit, thus incurring the enmity of his restless modern congregation and one of the church elders, who tells three other older man he wants the pastor's resignation. After the congregation files out, Gabriel picks up a newspaper he saw two young choir singers surreptitiously looking at, and his eyes fall upon a reproduction of “The Truth,” a popular allegorical painting by Adolphe Faugeron depicting truth in the image of a naked woman holding up a mirror in a grotto, as people flee from her in terror. Underneath is the headline: "Why the Truth Has Startled Wicked Paris," along with two passages from John Milton, one being, "Hypocrisy the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone," and the other, "Truth indeed came into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when He ascended, and His Apostles after Him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds." Gabriel then falls asleep and dreams that, as an ascetic in a medieval monastery, he begins a difficult uphill path to righteousness, fasting and praying as he sculpts a statue of Truth. Though Gabriel believes he is alone, another monk is spying upon his labors, but is blinded by the light. During the course of his dream, many of the hypocritical images of society are revealed. When Gabriel’s statue of Truth is unveiled for the monks and local villagers at a festival, only a young female choir singer (clothed as a nun in this period of the film), a fallen woman, and a child are capable of gazing at the Truth; the rest, led by the angry abbot, rush forward and murder him. Gabriel, followed by the naked Truth holding a mirror, watches a campaigning politician, then sees him taking crafty, and later observes a society gathering, which devolves into gambling, drinking, and adultery, and finally a man proposing to a young heiress, but only interested in her money. Finally, Truth holds her mirror up to Gabriel himself, allowing him to see his true self. Gabriel follows her through a set of gates. At that moment, he is found dead in his church after the dream, and only the fallen woman and the choir singer mourn. The next day, the town’s newspaper reveals the parishioners’ shock at finding a newspaper—a sacrilege on the Sabbath—in their dead minister’s lap.

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GENRE
Genres:


Subject
Subject (Major):

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.