The Godless Girl

The Godless Girl (1928) is a drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, shown for years as his last completely silent film.

The Godless Girl
title card
Directed byCecil B. DeMille
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Written byBeulah Marie Dix
Jeanie MacPherson
StarringLina Basquette
CinematographyJ. Peverell Marley
Edited byAnne Bauchens
Distributed byPathé Exchange
Release date
  • August 1928 (1928-08) (silent version)
  • March 31, 1929 (1929-03-31) (sound version)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
English intertitles


This drama features a romance between two different teenagers: a young atheist girl, Judith Craig, and the male head of a Christian youth organization, Bob Hathaway. The two leaders and their groups attack each other, starting a riot that kills a young girl. Followed by a goofy boy, Bozo, the three are thrown into a juvenile prison with a cruel head guard and bad living conditions. The film maker makes a point of talking about the truth of prison cruelty in the middle of the movie.

Bob, who is in love with Judy, eventually rescues her and takes shelter in an old farm where Judy, breath-taken by the romance and beauty of the forest, realizes there must be a God. They are found and taken back to prison and held in solitary confinement until a fire breaks out. Mame is Judy's new friend who is trying to get her out before she burns. But the rest of the prison girls escape. Bob, who is trusting in God to help them, finally rescues Judy with the help of Mame and Bozo; they also rescue the cruel head guard who pleads for his life and, as he is dying, sets them free for their kind act and rescue. At the very end, Bozo and Mame seem to end up together while Bob and Judy and their rekindled faith ride off together as the movie ends.


Production background

The UCLA Film and Television Archive later restored the film's sound version, in which dialogue scenes were added to the final reel, a film that was one of DeMille's first part-sound efforts. Actor Fritz Feld filmed the sound sequences without DeMille's supervision since DeMille had already broken his contract with Pathé, and signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[1]

The title character is based on Queen Silver, a child prodigy and socialist orator who was accused of leaving atheist pamphlets in student lockers at Hollywood High School in 1927.[2] The lead actress, Lina Basquette, named her autobiography, Lina: DeMille's Godless Girl, after the film.


The film was very popular in the U.S.S.R. and in Germany. The film’s popularity in the Soviet Union is believed in part to be due to the fact that the USSR’s film censors edited out the main character’s conversion to Christianity near the end of the movie.[3] It was a box office disaster in the US. When released in August 1928 in its silent film version, it was not a success. DeMille attributed the film’s failure to its already outmoded position in the transition from silent to sound cinema. Nor did it recover more than two-third of its production costs when released in a so-called "goat gland" version with the addition of a final talkie reel in 1929.

Preservation status

In 2007, a version was released by Photoplay Productions and George Eastman House, in association with the Cecil B. DeMille Foundation and Film4, restored from deMille's own nitrate print, with a new music score by Carl Davis.

Inspiration for the film

The film was inspired by a real-life incident at Hollywood High School when a student Queen Silver started an atheist society.[4]


  1. The Crank Film Series, UCLA, film notes Archived February 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Queen Silver: The Godless Girl by Wendy McElroy, Prometheus Books
  3. Ben Mankiewicz in Turner Classic Movies discussion of the film
  4. The Godless Girl: Introduction to the 1928 classic by Cecil B. DeMille
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