The Courtship of Miles Standish (1923 film)

The Courtship of Miles Standish is a 1923 American silent epic historical romantic drama film about Myles Standish produced by and starring Charles Ray, Enid Bennett, and E. Alyn Warren.[1] Directed by Frederic Sullivan, nephew of the famous composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, and scripted by Albert Ray, the film is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.[2] No known prints of the film exist and it is now presumed lost.[3]

The Courtship of Miles Standish
Courship-of-myles-standish - charles-ray-vintage-photoplay-advert1923.jpg
Contemporary magazine advertisement
Directed byFrederic Sullivan
Written byAlbert Ray
Based onThe Courtship of Miles Standish
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
StarringCharles Ray
Enid Bennett
E. Alyn Warren
CinematographyGeorge Rizard
Charles Ray Producing
Distributed byAssociated Exhibitors
Release date
  • December 30, 1923 (1923-12-30)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
English intertitles

Background and productionEdit

Actor Charles Ray had risen to fame in the mid to late 1910s playing young, wholesome country bumpkins in silent comedy films directed by Thomas H. Ince for Paramount Pictures.[4] By 1920, Ray was earning $11,000 a week (approximately $140,000 today).[5] He left Paramount in 1920 after Adolph Zukor reportedly refused to give him a substantial raise, and formed his own production company, Charles Ray Productions.[4] The company produced several fairly successful comedy films from 1920 to 1922, several of which were written by (and featured assistant direction from) Albert Ray, Charles Ray's first cousin.

However, deciding to separate himself from his previous comedic work, Charles Ray then decided to produce a film that was a departure from his earlier work and would feature him in the role of a romantic leading man.[4][6] Against the advice of producers and friends, Ray chose to make a historical epic costume drama based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 narrative poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.[7]

After failing secure financial backing from a major studio, Ray put up $500,000 of his own money to fund the project.[8] The scenario for the film, taken from Longfellow's poem, was written by Albert Ray, with direction by Frederic Sullivan (although all creative decisions on the film rested entirely with Charles Ray himself).

The film was shot in part at the Charles Ray Studio located on Sunset Boulevard (now known as the KCET Studios) in Los Angeles which Ray purchased shortly after leaving Paramount in 1920.[9] On one of the studio's sound stages, Ray had a 180-ton rocking replica of the Mayflower built that cost a reported $65,000 (approximately $975,000 today).[10][11] Other sequences were shot in Lake Arrowhead, California where Ray had three full sized log cabins built solely for exterior shots.[12] By the end of filming, Ray had spent over $1 million of his own money and the film's budget reportedly rose to a reported $3 million (approximately $45,018,000 today).[13]



Upon its release, The Courtship of Miles Standish received some favorable reviews from critics, but was not well received by audiences.[2][14][15] Frederick James Smith described the film as "merely dull" and that "the acting is not much." Smith wrote, "Ray seems oppressed by the historical significance of John, and he allots himself entirely too much film. Enid Bennett makes Priscilla a simpering and almost insufferable ingenue."[16] The film was a box office failure, losing $1 million and effectively ruining Charles Ray's career.[17] Ray's production company went bankrupt and he was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.[9] For his part, Frederic Sullivan never directed another film.

Ray's career would never rebound from the failure of The Courtship of Miles Standish. He continued acting, but appeared in smaller budget productions, in supporting roles. During the sound era, Ray appeared in bit parts and filed for bankruptcy a second time in 1934.[4] He died of a systemic infection in November 1943.[18][19]


  1. ^ White Munden, Kenneth (1997). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1921–1930. University of California Press. p. 149. ISBN 0-520-20969-9.
  2. ^ a b Snow, Stephen Eddy (2008). Performing the Pilgrims: A Study of Ethnohistorical Role-Playing at Plimoth Plantation. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 20. ISBN 1-60473-181-8.
  3. ^ The Courtship of Miles Standish at SilentEra
  4. ^ a b c d Slide, Anthony (2002). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 325–326. ISBN 0-8131-2249-X.
  5. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Charles Ray". Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  6. ^ Motion Picture, Volume 45. Macfadden-Bartell. 1933. p. 86.
  7. ^ Marion, Frances (1972). Off With Their Heads!: A Serio-Comic Tale Of Hollywood. Macmillan. p. 107.
  8. ^ Beauchamp, Cari (1998). Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood. University of California Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-520-21492-7.
  9. ^ a b Alleman, Richard (2013). Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 169. ISBN 0-8041-3777-3.
  10. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (August 1, 1999). "Film Pioneer Griffith Rode History to Fame". Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  11. ^ Brownlow, Kevin (1979). Hollywood, the pioneers. Knopf. p. 247. ISBN 0-394-50851-3.
  12. ^ Cozad, W. Lee (2002). Those Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Golden Years 1911–1939. p. 95. ISBN 0-9723372-1-0.
  13. ^ Transatlantic, Issues 1-16. Writers' War Board. 1943. p. 37.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Hart, James David (1961). The Popular Book: A History of America's Literary Taste. University of California Press. p. 232.
  15. ^ Nash,, Jay Robert; Connelly, Robert; Ross, Stanley Ralph (1988). Motion Picture Guide Silent Film 1910–1936. 10. Cinebooks. p. 53. ISBN 0-933997-10-8.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  16. ^ Smith, Frederick James (April 1924). "New Screenplays in Review". Screenland. New York: Screenland, Inc. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  17. ^ Karney, Robyn (1984). The Movie Stars Story. Crescent Books. p. 34. ISBN 0-517-43736-8.
  18. ^ "Charles Ray Of Films Dies". Berkeley Daily Gazette. November 23, 1943. p. 1. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  19. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 68. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.

External linksEdit