Black Oxen

Black Oxen is a 1923 American fantasy / romantic drama silent film starring Corinne Griffith, Conway Tearle, and Clara Bow. Directed by Frank Lloyd, the film is based on the controversial and best-selling 1923 novel of the same name by Gertrude Atherton.[1]

Black Oxen
Directed byFrank Lloyd
Written byFrank Lloyd
Mary O'Hara
Based onBlack Oxen
by Gertrude Atherton
Produced byFrank Lloyd
StarringCorinne Griffith
Conway Tearle
Clara Bow
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byEdward M. Roskam
Distributed byAssociated First National Pictures
Release date
  • December 29, 1923 (1923-12-29)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
Black Oxen

Described as "subtle science fiction", the film takes its title from William Butler Yeats: "The years like great Black Oxen tread the world."[1] It was produced by Frank Lloyd Productions and distributed by First National Pictures. A special Photoplay Edition of the novel was published by A. L. Burt Company, New York, illustrated with four stills from the film.[2]


Lee Clavering (Tearle), a playwright in New York, falls in love with an Austrian countess, Madame Zatianny (Griffith). Janet Oglethorpe (Bow), an animated and precocious flapper, is also in love with Lee but he hasn't noticed yet. Unbeknownst to Lee, Madame Zatianny is actually 58 years old, and has retained her youth through a rejuvenating glandular treatment and X-ray surgery. Lee's plans to marry Madame Zatianny are thwarted when one of her former admirers reveals her embarrassing secret and, in the end, Lee discovers happiness with Janet.


Clara Bow as Janet Oglethorpe, the flapper in Black Oxen, holding a copy of Flaming Youth. With Kate Lester and Tom Ricketts


In 1923 motion picture industry magazine promotions,[3][4] Corinne Griffith was used to advertise the movie because she was a known star considered one of the most beautiful actresses in cinema. Publications also used the W. B. Yeats couplet, "The years like Great Black Oxen tread the world // And God the herdsman goads them on behind." That is quoted on the title page of the novel in its first edition[5] and at the opening of the film.


The George Eastman House retains a print of the film which is incomplete, comprising the first seven reels, but not the eighth. In 2010, it undertook restoration of the 35mm print, funded by The National Film Preservation Fund. The Gosfilmofond Russian State Archive also holds an incomplete copy, consisting of all reels with the exception of Reel 2. The New York Public Library has a 16mm print available in three film reels.[6] A 60-minute version mastered by eBay retailer Buyers’ Gallery Video is available on DVD. No complete version of the film is currently commercially available [7]

Black Oxen is one of about ten out of 58 films starring Corinne Griffith that are available for viewing.[8]


  1. ^ a b Woodward, Kathleen (1999). Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations. Indiana University Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-253-11384-9.
  2. ^ See Project Gutenberg Ebook #25542, far below.
  3. ^ Screenland, inc. “Screenland.” Screenland, Oct. 1923.
  4. ^ Brewster Publications, inc. “Motion Picture Magazine.” Motion Picture Magazine, Aug. 1923, pp. 76–76.
  5. ^ Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn, 1857-1948. Black Oxen. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1923.
    Title page (4th printing, February 1923). Viewed at HathiTrust Digital Library. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  6. ^ Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn; Dawson, Melanie (January 1, 2012). "Black oxen". Broadview Press – via Library Catalog.
  7. ^ "Silent Era : Home Video Reviews".
  8. ^ Tim, Lussier (2004). "Corrine Griffin: The Divine Lady". Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved April 28, 2013.

External linksEdit