Black Orchids (1917)

64 mins | Melodrama | 1 January 1917

Full page view
HISTORY

According to the 9 September 1916 Motion Picture News, director Rex Ingram would be starring Cleo Madison in The Crystal, which entailed the telling of a story within a story, "in which a coquette brings ruin to herself, and death to practically all of her friends." The name of the picture's internal story was "The Black Orchids."
       Two months later, the 17 November 1916 Variety reported that the film, retitled Flowers of Doom, would be Bluebird's Christmas week movie, although the studio was considering a name change to Black Orchids. Three weeks later, the 9 December 1917 Moving Picture World updated the schedule, noting that Black Orchids would be playing "New Year's week." This was the second straight film on which Ingram and cameraman Duke Hayward worked with Cleo Madison and Wedgewood Nowell, following The Chalice of Sorrow (see entry). Madison portrayed two characters in Black Orchids.
       Although contemporary reviews said that the film was based on an old French story or novel, no evidence of a source other than Rex Ingram's scenario has been found. Perhaps one of Edgar Allan Poe's buried alive stories was an inspiration. Modern sources give Ingram sole credit for the story. Modern sources also list Jean Hersholt in a small, unnamed role.
       The 29 December 1916 Variety accused the film of violating "literary ethics" when the wounded marquis "locks the woman in a dungeon, then kills the lover and drags his body to the cell to keep her company. Here are presented a series of scenes that for fine, artistic horror ...

More Less

According to the 9 September 1916 Motion Picture News, director Rex Ingram would be starring Cleo Madison in The Crystal, which entailed the telling of a story within a story, "in which a coquette brings ruin to herself, and death to practically all of her friends." The name of the picture's internal story was "The Black Orchids."
       Two months later, the 17 November 1916 Variety reported that the film, retitled Flowers of Doom, would be Bluebird's Christmas week movie, although the studio was considering a name change to Black Orchids. Three weeks later, the 9 December 1917 Moving Picture World updated the schedule, noting that Black Orchids would be playing "New Year's week." This was the second straight film on which Ingram and cameraman Duke Hayward worked with Cleo Madison and Wedgewood Nowell, following The Chalice of Sorrow (see entry). Madison portrayed two characters in Black Orchids.
       Although contemporary reviews said that the film was based on an old French story or novel, no evidence of a source other than Rex Ingram's scenario has been found. Perhaps one of Edgar Allan Poe's buried alive stories was an inspiration. Modern sources give Ingram sole credit for the story. Modern sources also list Jean Hersholt in a small, unnamed role.
       The 29 December 1916 Variety accused the film of violating "literary ethics" when the wounded marquis "locks the woman in a dungeon, then kills the lover and drags his body to the cell to keep her company. Here are presented a series of scenes that for fine, artistic horror have seldom been outdone, in which the woman is shown gradually going mad." However, Variety reviewed the film a second time in the 10 January 1917 edition, and this time no mention was made of "Zoraida" being sealed in a vault with her lover's soon-to-be -ripening corpse. Since another early review also mentioned this macabre ending, it appears that Bluebird modified the ending so that Zoraida and "Ivan" were trapped together, because that's how other reviews presented it. Wid's also noted, "The introduction of a hunchback and a chimpanzee employed by the vampire in her plotting, gave an added touch of gruesome distinction to this offering."
       Ingram remade Black Orchids five years later for Metro Pictures under the title Trifling Women (1922, see entry), starring Barbara LaMarr and Ramon Navarro. He purchased the rights to Black Orchids because he wanted to produce it the way it "should have been made in the first place." The only returning performers in this remake were John George, whose Arab character had a different name, and Joe Martin, an organutan that often portrayed chimpanzees, who retained his character's name of Hatim-Tai.
       The National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) included this film on its list of Lost U.S. Silent Feature Films as of February 2021.

Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Columbia Record [Columbia, SC]
30 Dec 1916
p. 14
Exhibitors Trade Review
30 Dec 1916
p. 276
Motion Picture News
9 Sep 1916
p. 1550
Motion Picture News
23 Dec 1916
p. 4051
Motion Picture News
30 Dec 1916
p. 4200, 4233
Motion Picture News
6 Jan 1917
p. 115
Motography
25 Nov 1916
p. 1190
Motography
3 Feb 1917
p. 268
Moving Picture World
9 Dec 1916
p. 1519
Moving Picture World
30 Dec 1916
p. 1985
Moving Picture World
6 Jan 1917
p. 98, 136
Moving Picture World
20 Jan 1917
p. 421
NYDM
30 Dec 1916
p. 16
Photoplay
1 Mar 1917
p. 120
Richmond Item [Richmond, IN]
14 Jan 1917
p. 9
Salina Daily Union [Salina, KS]
9 Jan 1917
p. 2
Variety
17 Nov 1917
p. 22
Variety
29 Dec 1916
p. 22
Variety
10 Jan 1917
p. 33
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Flowers of Doom
The Crystal
Release Date:
1 January 1917
Premiere Information:
Columbia, SC, opening: 2 January 1917; Salina, KS, opening: 12 January 1917; Richmond, IN, opening: 16 January 1917
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Bluebird Photoplays, Inc.
22 December 1916
LP9799
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
64
Length(in feet):
5,000
Length(in reels):
5
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Marie, the foolish daughter of novelist Emile De Severac, is engaged to famous artist George Renoir, a friend of her father's. Because Marie is very flirtatious with other men during her vacation from her convent school, Emile hopes to change her behavior by telling her the plot of his unpublished novel, Black Orchids, in which Zoraida, a crystal-gazing fortune teller and "vampire," seduces many men. Sebastian De Maupin, whose son Ivan is Zoraida's current lover, desires her for himself, and thus arranges for Ivan to go to war in order to get him out of the way. When Zoraida then dallies with the handsome Marquis De Chantal, De Maupin becomes so enraged that he tries to poison his rival, but is himself killed when Zoraida exchanges the lethal cup. After Ivan returns from battle, he and Zoraida renew their affair, thus precipitating a duel between himself and Marquis De Chantal, which ends when Ivan seemingly slays his rival. Ivan and Zoraida then go to a castle which De Chantal has bequeathed to her, but De Chantal, though fatally wounded, lives long enough to follow them to the castle and seal the lovers into an airless death chamber before collapsing at the threshold. After Emile completes his story, Marie is remorseful about her own fickle behavior and resolves to curtail her frivolous ...

More Less

Marie, the foolish daughter of novelist Emile De Severac, is engaged to famous artist George Renoir, a friend of her father's. Because Marie is very flirtatious with other men during her vacation from her convent school, Emile hopes to change her behavior by telling her the plot of his unpublished novel, Black Orchids, in which Zoraida, a crystal-gazing fortune teller and "vampire," seduces many men. Sebastian De Maupin, whose son Ivan is Zoraida's current lover, desires her for himself, and thus arranges for Ivan to go to war in order to get him out of the way. When Zoraida then dallies with the handsome Marquis De Chantal, De Maupin becomes so enraged that he tries to poison his rival, but is himself killed when Zoraida exchanges the lethal cup. After Ivan returns from battle, he and Zoraida renew their affair, thus precipitating a duel between himself and Marquis De Chantal, which ends when Ivan seemingly slays his rival. Ivan and Zoraida then go to a castle which De Chantal has bequeathed to her, but De Chantal, though fatally wounded, lives long enough to follow them to the castle and seal the lovers into an airless death chamber before collapsing at the threshold. After Emile completes his story, Marie is remorseful about her own fickle behavior and resolves to curtail her frivolous nature.

Less

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

TOP SEARCHES

The Fog

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michael Thielvoldt, an independent scholar. ... >>

A League of Their Own

The film is bookended by scenes in which an aged “Dottie Hinson” attends the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s (AAGPBL) induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, ... >>

Hoosiers

An epilogue depicts a young boy shooting baskets in the “Hickory High School” gymnasium under a photograph of the 1952 State Championship team, accompanied by dialogue from “Coach Norman ... >>

King Kong

The working titles of this film were The Eighth Wonder, The Beast and Kong. In the opening credits, the cast list is ... >>

The Godfather

The film's opening title card reads: "Mario Puzo's The Godfather." While the first strains of a trumpet solo of Nino Rota's "Godfather" theme are heard on ... >>

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.