The Red Kimono
The Red Kimono (spelled as "The Red Kimona" in the opening credits) is a 1925 American silent drama film about prostitution produced by Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid) and starring Priscilla Bonner. This is the debut film of Director Walter Lang.
|The Red Kimono|
|Directed by||Walter Lang|
Dorothy Davenport (uncredited)
|Written by||Adela Rogers St. Johns (story)|
Dorothy Arzner (adaptation)
Malcolm Stuart Boylan (intertitles)
|Produced by||Dorothy Davenport (as Mrs. Wallace Reid)|
Tyrone Power, Sr.
Mrs. Wallace Reid Productions
|Distributed by||Vital Exchanges Incorporated|
|Language||Silent (English intertitles)|
The title comes from a red-colored dress shown through the film, meant to symbolize the main character's occupation as a "scarlet woman" (a prostitute).
A woman, Gabrielle Darley, shoots a man, Howard Blaine, in the back as he is buying a wedding ring, then asks pardon and expresses love to his corpse as she waits for arrest. In her jail cell, she is supported by a kind matron. At her trial, she is asked to explain how she came to shoot Blaine, and she narrates her story. Blaine courted her and claimed he would marry her, and she left her unloving family to go with him to New Orleans. There, Blaine did not marry her but only took her to a house in a sleazy neighbourhood; in a bedroom there, a mirror vision of herself in bridal attire gave way to a vision of herself in a red dress (strikingly hand-coloured in the film), indicating that she knew she was entering on a life of prostitution. She gave in for love of Blaine, and spent several miserable years servicing men he sent in to her, spurred on by little love notes from him.
The mocking prosecutor suggests that she shot Blaine out of jealousy because he was going to marry another woman, and she acknowledges this and points out that he was buying the ring with money she earned for him. Women in the courtroom cry. Despite the prosecutor's finger-wagging and the judge's frivolous boredom, the all-male jury deems her not guilty.
Gabrielle tells the kind matron that she would now like to redeem herself by working to help people, and drops her brilliant red dress on the floor as a sign that she will never go back to that work. Beverly Fontaine, a society matron fond of getting publicity by taking up reformed criminals, invites her to come live at her house. There, she meets the nice chauffeur Terrance O'Day, but is put on display at parties for Beverly's friends and tormented by tactless questions about her prostitution work. Terrance takes her on a sweet, wholesome date to an amusement park, and she realizes that there is a good kind of man she has never encountered before.
Beverly gets tired of her and goes on a trip, with Terrance driving her, leaving Gabrielle a letter to the superintendent of a local hospital about training as a nurse. The superintendent, however, recognizes her and throws her out. She is unable to get work, losing her job as a maid when she gets upset at seeing her defense attorney's wife wearing her ring she had to give him as her fee. Starving and desperate, she telegraphs to Clara, a supportive friend in the New Orleans brothel, to send her the train fare to return there and take up her old profession. Clara does.
The telegraph operator is a friend of Terrance's, and goes to Beverly Fontaine's house to tell him of this just as she and Terrance return from her trip. Terrance throws up his job and commandeers Beverly's car to drive to the train station to stop Gabrielle, but is five minutes too late. He gets on the next train, and, in New Orleans, takes a taxi to the address on the telegram. Meanwhile, Gabrielle, hesitating on the doorstep of the brothel, is attacked by a brute, and is hit by a car as she runs from him. Terrance sees the accident, but does not realize it is she. Hearing from Clara that she has not shown up yet, he hangs around the street looking for her for days.
Gabrielle is recovering in the hospital when she overhears staff people saying that, because the U.S. has just entered World War I and the flu pandemic has started, they are in desperate need of additional nurses and helpers. She offers herself, and is hired. She is scrubbing the hospital floor when Terrance enters in uniform, having enlisted and serving as an ambulance driver. They are reunited, and he asks her to marry him before he goes overseas. She declares her love but postpones their marriage till he comes back and she has worked longer and become worthy of a happy life with him.
A woman who has been keeping an album of clippings about Gabrielle, who seems to be Beverly's maid, tells us that this happy life was attained for these two. But Gabrielle is only one of many women in this terrible situation, she says, and it is up to all women to help their unfortunate sisters.
- Priscilla Bonner as Gabrielle Darley
- Nellie Bly Baker as Clara Johnson, Gabrielle's neighbor
- Carl Miller as Howard Blaine
- Mary Carr as Prison Matron
- Virginia Pearson as Mrs. Beverly Fontaine
- Tyrone Power, Sr. as Gabrielle's father
- Sheldon Lewis as District Attorney
- Theodore von Eltz as Terrance O'Day or, Freddy Fred the Chauffeur
- Emily Fitzroy as The Housekeeper
- George Siegmann as Mr. Mack, A Client
- Dot Farley as Inquisitive Woman
- Max Asher as H.E. Reid, a Jeweler
- Dorothy Davenport as Woman narrating the story (unbilled)
- Ellinor Vanderveer as Woman with Defense Attorney's Wife
- Lottie Williams as Crying Woman in rag clothes in Courtroom
The film is notable today for being one of the few independent productions produced and written by women. This is the third of Davenport's "social conscience" releases, preceded by Human Wreckage (1923) on the topic of drug addiction (released five months after Wallace Reid's death from morphine), and Broken Laws (1924) about excessive mother-love.
The film is based on a real case of prostitution that took place in New Orleans in 1917. This film, billing itself as a true story, used the real name of the woman played by Priscilla Bonner who as a consequence sued producer Dorothy Davenport and won. The case, Melvin v Reid has been cited recently in the emerging "right to be forgotten" cases around the world as an early example of one's right to leave a past one wishes to forget. In the ruling of the California Appellate Court (Melvin v. Reid, 112 Cal.App. 285, 297 P. 91 (1931)) the Court stated, "any person living a life of rectitude has that right to happiness which includes a freedom from unnecessary attacks on his character, social standing or reputation."
As with Davenport's earlier Human Wreckage in 1924, this film was banned in the United Kingdom by the British Board of Film Censors in 1926. In the 1920s, the film was also banned in the city of Chicago.
- Progressive Silent Film List: The Red Kimono at silentera.com
- Friedman, Lawrence Meir (2007). "The Red Kimono [sic]: The Saga of Gabriel Darley Melvin". Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy. Stanford University Press. pp. 217–225. ISBN 978-0-8047-5739-3.
- "Melvin v. Reid, 112 Cal.App. 285 : Casetext Search + Citator". Casetext: Smarter Legal Research. casetext.com. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- The Red Kimono at the silentera.com database
- "The Red Kimono (1925)". UC Berkeley Library. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Black, Gregory (1994). Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies. p. 35. ISBN 9780521565929. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artist Collection at The Library of Congress by the American Film Institute, c. 1978
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