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HISTORY

On 1 Sep 1920, Wid’s Daily announced that British stage actor George Arliss would star in The Devil, based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1907 play, for Andrew J. Callaghan Productions, Inc. The picture marked Arliss’s screen debut, and that of his wife, Florence Arliss, who is credited as “Mrs. George Arliss.” The Devil also represented Andrew J. Callaghan’s first project as an independent producer, according to a 4 Dec 1920 Exhibitors Herald brief, which credited Callaghan, a longtime exhibitor, with building the California Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, CA. Callaghan reportedly lobbied for Arliss, who had performed in The Devil; a Comedy in Three Acts, the English-language adapation of Molnár’s play, at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in 1908. Callaghan was quoted as saying, “It took a long and convincing argument to make Mr. Arliss believe that the artistry of his great work should be preserved on the screen.”
       An item in the 24 Sep 1920 Wid’s Daily reported that Arliss’s co-star, Sylvia Breamer, was en route to New York, where production was set to begin. One month later, the 30 Oct 1920 issue of Moving Picture World confirmed that principal photography had been underway for a month at a film studio in Fort Lee, NJ, and would continue five or six more weeks. The conclusion of filming was announced in the 11 Nov 1920 Wid’s Daily and 13 Nov 1920 Moving Picture World.        Settings were said to include “a magnificent old-world ballroom” and “a reproduction of the Paris Art Salon.” Sculptor Frederick E. Triebel, a member of the ... More Less

On 1 Sep 1920, Wid’s Daily announced that British stage actor George Arliss would star in The Devil, based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1907 play, for Andrew J. Callaghan Productions, Inc. The picture marked Arliss’s screen debut, and that of his wife, Florence Arliss, who is credited as “Mrs. George Arliss.” The Devil also represented Andrew J. Callaghan’s first project as an independent producer, according to a 4 Dec 1920 Exhibitors Herald brief, which credited Callaghan, a longtime exhibitor, with building the California Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, CA. Callaghan reportedly lobbied for Arliss, who had performed in The Devil; a Comedy in Three Acts, the English-language adapation of Molnár’s play, at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in 1908. Callaghan was quoted as saying, “It took a long and convincing argument to make Mr. Arliss believe that the artistry of his great work should be preserved on the screen.”
       An item in the 24 Sep 1920 Wid’s Daily reported that Arliss’s co-star, Sylvia Breamer, was en route to New York, where production was set to begin. One month later, the 30 Oct 1920 issue of Moving Picture World confirmed that principal photography had been underway for a month at a film studio in Fort Lee, NJ, and would continue five or six more weeks. The conclusion of filming was announced in the 11 Nov 1920 Wid’s Daily and 13 Nov 1920 Moving Picture World.        Settings were said to include “a magnificent old-world ballroom” and “a reproduction of the Paris Art Salon.” Sculptor Frederick E. Triebel, a member of the Royal Academy, provided art work for free, according to Moving Picture World.
       Cutting and titling was expected to be finished by Dec 1920. George Arliss sat in on the assembling of the picture, as stated in a 20 Nov 1920 Motion Picture News brief. Arliss had reportedly bonded with director James Young on set. Producer Harry Leonhardt claimed to have foreseen the special relationship, and stated, “We arranged that they should share the limousine to the studio in the mornings; and in that semi-privacy…a strong and abiding friendship” was formed. Arliss also gained the esteem of director of photography Harry A. Fischbeck, who was quoted in a 5 Feb 1921 Motion Picture News item, stating that the first-time film star “realized, fully the importance of good photography and acted upon every suggestion. He made a camera-man feel like a most important personage.” Fischbeck also noted the difficulty of the shoot, specifically the constraints of shooting many interior scenes on “a four-walls-and-ceiling set.”
       A 16 Jan 1921 premiere was set to take place at the Mark Strand Theatre in New York City, as announced in the 27 Dec 1920 Wid’s Daily, to be followed by a general release on 6 Feb 1921. According to the 25 Dec 1920 Motion Picture News, Pathé Exchange, Inc. was planning a “sensational” exploitation campaign to promote the release. An item in the 15 Jan 1921 Motion Picture News noted the company’s use of an innovative “electric light flashing sign box” three feet in length and two feet high. The box, to be placed in theater lobbies or in store windows, showed the figure of Arliss as a “Satanic figure,” lit by alternating red, green, and yellow lights, simultaneously animating Arliss’s figure and drawing the attention of passersby. A newspaper advertising campaign began one week before the premiere.
       The film was a critical and commercial success, according to items in the 5 Feb 1921, 12 Feb 1921, and 19 Feb 1921 Motion Picture News, and set a record for Pathé for the highest “bookings in advance of release.” After successful pre-release runs at the Strand theaters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Albany, NY; Shea’s Hippodrome in Buffalo, NY; and the Rialto Theatre in Lawrence, MA, the Mastbaum circuit of Pennsylvania and Gordon circuit of New England signed on to release the film.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
6 Nov 1920.
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Exhibitors Herald
4 Dec 1920.
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Motion Picture News
20 Nov 1920.
---
Motion Picture News
25 Dec 1920.
---
Motion Picture News
1 Jan 1921.
---
Motion Picture News
15 Jan 1921.
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Motion Picture News
5 Feb 1921.
---
Motion Picture News
12 Feb 1921.
---
Motion Picture News
19 Feb 1921.
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Moving Picture World
30 Oct 1920.
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Moving Picture World
13 Nov 1920.
---
Moving Picture World
1 Jan 1921.
---
Moving Picture World
29 Jan 1921.
---
Wid's Daily
1 Sep 1920.
---
Wid's Daily
24 Sep 1920.
---
Wid's Daily
11 Nov 1920.
---
Wid's Daily
27 Dec 1920.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Architect & tech
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Az ördög, vigjáték három felvonásban by Ferenc Molnár (Budapest, 1907
adapted by Oliver Herford as The Devil
a Comedy in Three Acts [New York, 1908]).
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 February 1921
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 16 January 1921
Production Date:
September or early October--November 1920
Copyright Claimant:
Associated Exhibitors, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 December 1920
Copyright Number:
LU15953
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
5,682
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Dr. Muller, a friend to all, finds pleasure in turning the goodness in people to evil ends. He meets Marie Matin and her fiancée, Georges Roben, while viewing a new painting, "The Martyr--Truth Crucified by Evil." Marie declares that the picture was wrong--evil could never triumph over truth--and though Muller says he agrees with her, he plots to prove otherwise. To this end, he entangles Marie with artist Paul de Veaux, Georges's best friend, causing the latter's model, Mimi, to become jealous. Georges, believing that he is standing between Paul and Marie, releases Marie from her engagement. Marie finds Paul with Mimi and turns back to Georges, whom she marries. This does not discourage Muller, who but for Marie's purity almost succeeds in his evil designs. As a last resort, Muller lures Marie to his apartment. There she prays for help; a vision of a shining cross appears; and Muller is consumed in flames. Marie and Georges are happily ... +


Dr. Muller, a friend to all, finds pleasure in turning the goodness in people to evil ends. He meets Marie Matin and her fiancée, Georges Roben, while viewing a new painting, "The Martyr--Truth Crucified by Evil." Marie declares that the picture was wrong--evil could never triumph over truth--and though Muller says he agrees with her, he plots to prove otherwise. To this end, he entangles Marie with artist Paul de Veaux, Georges's best friend, causing the latter's model, Mimi, to become jealous. Georges, believing that he is standing between Paul and Marie, releases Marie from her engagement. Marie finds Paul with Mimi and turns back to Georges, whom she marries. This does not discourage Muller, who but for Marie's purity almost succeeds in his evil designs. As a last resort, Muller lures Marie to his apartment. There she prays for help; a vision of a shining cross appears; and Muller is consumed in flames. Marie and Georges are happily reunited. +

GENRE
Genre:


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.