White Tiger (1923 film)

White Tiger is a 1923 American crime film directed by Tod Browning starring Priscilla Dean and featuring Wallace Beery in a supporting role.[1][2][3]

White Tiger
White Tiger (1923 film). Universal studios, publicity still. Tod Browning, director.jpg
White Tiger film still
Directed byTod Browning
Written byTod Browning
Charles Kenyon
StarringPriscilla Dean
Matt Moore
Wallace Beery
CinematographyWilliam Fildew
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 17, 1923 (1923-12-17)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)



White Tiger (1923): The Turkish-clad chess automaton. Priscilla Dean (standing, right)

In White Tiger, Browning, a former magician, provides an exposé of the “mystifying mechanics” of the famous chess-playing automaton widely exhibited in late 18th and early 19th century Europe and America.[4] The automaton fashioned to represent a Turkish chess master was an often convincing—though entirely fraudulent—representation of artificial intelligence: the device was actually operated by a human chess expert concealed within the cabinet below the chess board.[5] Browning, a great admirer of Edgar Allan Poe, combined Poe’s famous 1836 essay on the hoax with the author’s fascination with tales of mystery and the macabre.[6][7]

The protagonists in White Tiger use the “baffling” device to gain entrance to a wealthy estate and execute a jewel heist.[8] In exposing the fraud, Browning violates a precept of the magician’s code of ethics; to never reveal the mechanics of an illusion.[9]


  1. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: White Tiger". Silent Era. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  2. ^ The Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Catalog: White Tiger Retrieved November 3, 2014
  3. ^ The AFI Catalog of Feature Films: White Tiger Retrieved November 3, 2014
    Sobchack, 2006 p. 24: “The White Tiger is essentially a remake of Outside the Law (1920).”
  4. ^ Solomon, 2006 p. 50-51: “...prior to his career as a director, Browning was a magician...a 1914 movie fan magazine described him...as a sideshow artist...” And p. 51: “A number of Browning films of the 1920s contain striking reproductions of theatrical- or quasi-theatrical- illusions that are staged not only for spectators within the films, but for contemporaneous viewers of the films themselves.”
  5. ^ Solomon, 2006 p. 55: Scenes from White Tiger provide “correspondences with Poe’s published expose (accent) Maelzel’s [automaton] chess-player.”
  6. ^ Solomon, 2006 p. 56: “During his career as a director Browning was compared to Poe [by Joan Dickey in Motion Picture Magazine, March 1928, See footnotes]...In a studio biographical survey in the late 1930s Browning listed Poe as his ‘favorite classical author’”
  7. ^ Eaker, 2016 : “In 1836, Poe wrote an expose of the touring “Mechanical Chess Player” Automaton. In the expose Poe revealed that inside this mechanical chess player was a concealed, quite human operator. Poe’s article was the seed for Browning’s film…”
  8. ^ Solomon, 2006 p. 51: “In White Tiger (1923) it is the false chess-playing automaton which the protagonists use to gain entrance to-and burgle-high society homes.”
  9. ^ Solomon, 2006 p. 52: “...Browning’s films explicitly violate the magician’s professional code, which stipulates that stage illusions [remain] concealed to the spectator...Browning did not hesitate to expose the methods of magic tricks on screen.”
    Eaker, 2016: “After a jewelry heist in a mansion, utilizing the Mechanical Chess Player, the trio hole up at a claustrophobic cabin in the mountains. The final quarter of the film casts a Poe-like eye on imagined (and real) enemies.”


External linksEdit