The Past of Mary Holmes

The Past of Mary Holmes is a 1933 American pre-Code drama film, directed by Harlan Thompson and Slavko Vorkapich, and released by RKO. The film is a remake of the silent film The Goose Woman (1925), which is based on a short story by Rex Beach, partly based on the Hall-Mills murder case.[1]

The Past of Mary Holmes
Eric Linden-Jean Arthur in The Past of Mary Holmes.jpg
Eric Linden and Jean Arthur in The Past of Mary Holmes
Directed bySlavko Vorkapich
Harlan Thompson
Written byStory:
Rex Beach
Eddie Doherty
Marion Dix
Produced byGordon Kay
CinematographyCharles Rosher
Edited byCharles L. Kimball
Music byHerman Stein
Distributed byRKO Pictures
Release date
January 20, 1933
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States


Mary Holmes (MacKellar), once a famous opera star known as Maria di Nardi, now lives in a run-down shanty and suffers from alcoholism. Known for her eccentric behavior, Mary breeds geese, and is thus known in her neighborhood as 'The Goose Woman'. She blames her grown son Geoffrey (Linden) for the deterioration of her voice, and does everything to destroy his life.

When Geoffrey, who works as a commercial artist, announces to her that he will marry Joan Hoyt (Arthur), an actress, she becomes torn with jealousy and threatens to reveal to Joan that he is an illegitimate birth. Not allowing his mother the satisfaction of destroying his life, Geoffrey decides to break the news to Joan himself. Joan, who has just ended an affair with a womanizing theatre backer, G. K. Ethridge (Clement), calmly accepts his news and tells him that she wants to proceed their wedding plans. Geoffrey then breaks ties with his mother and heads out to Chicago, on an assignment.

Meanwhile, Jacob Riggs (Simpson), a doorman at the Ethridge theatre, shoots and kills his boss on the evening when he is awaiting his final rendezvous with Joan, due to his constant affairs with innocent women. Mary, who lives next to the place where the crime is committed, sees opportunity in getting recognition and fame as Maria di Nardi, after hearing the gunshots. She fabricates a sensational story for the press and media, unaware that her story implicates Geoffrey as a prime suspect.

Following a drunken testimony by Mary, Geoffrey is indicted on circumstantial evidence by a grand jury. Despite denying the testimony when she realizes what she is doing to Geoffrey, he is found guilty and sent to jail, awaiting the death penalty. Overcome with grief, Mary uses Joan's help to convince Jacob to turn himself in for the crime. After successfully revealing him as the murderer, Geoffrey is freed from jail and can finally mary Joan. Mary burns down her shanty as a symbolic gesture to leave behind her past, in order to join Geoffrey and her daughter-in-law in a joyful future.



Based on the short story of the same name, the film was initially in production under the title The Goose Woman.[2] Initially, screenwriter Samuel Ornitz was to adapt the story with Marion Dix, but Eddie Doherty later took over.[2]

Produced on a low budget, the film was released as a double feature in cinemas along with The Big Cage (1933).


  1. ^ "Silent Era : Progressive Silent Film List".
  2. ^ a b "Notes for The Past of Mary Holmes (1933)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2012-11-16.

External linksEdit