The Idol Dancer

The Idol Dancer is a 1920 American silent South Seas drama film produced and directed by D. W. Griffith. It stars Richard Barthelmess and Clarine Seymour in her final film role. Seymour was a young actress Griffith was grooming for stardom. She died of pneumonia shortly after emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage on April 24, 1920, less than a month after the film premiered.[1][2]

The Idol Dancer
Lobby card
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Produced byD. W. Griffith
Written byStanner E. V. Taylor
Based on"Blood of the Covenants"
by Gordon Ray Young
StarringRichard Barthelmess
Clarine Seymour
CinematographyPaul H. Allen
G. W. Bitzer
Edited byJames Smith
Distributed byFirst National Pictures
Release date
  • March 21, 1920 (1920-03-21)
Running time
104 min.
92 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

The film is based on the story "Blood of the Covenants" by Gordon Ray Young. The scenario was written by Stanner E. V. Taylor.[3]


Mary (Seymour) is the daughter of a French man and a Javanese mother and enjoys dancing. She has two lovers, one being a beachcomber (Barthelmess) who was tossed off a passing ship for failing to work and desires only to drink gin. The other is a sickly young American (Hale) who has come to the island in hope of regaining his health and is staying with his missionary uncle (MacQuarrie) and his wife (Bruce). Natives from a neighboring island attack. The beachcomber reforms and Mary comes to love him.[4]



Griffith filmed exteriors for The Idol Dancer simultaneously with The Love Flower (1920), in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Nassau, Bahamas in December 1919.[5][6]


A 35mm print of the film is preserved by the Cohen Media Group. 16mm prints of the film are held in private collections.[1]


  1. Progressive Silent Film List: The Idol Dancer at
  2. Vazzana, Eugene Michael (2001). Silent Film Necrology (2 ed.). McFarland. p. 479. ISBN 0-786-41059-0.
  3. Slide, Anthony, ed. (2012). D. W. Griffith: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. XXXII. ISBN 1-617-03298-0.
  4. "The Idol Dancer: Feature Entertains, but Will Not Impress". Motion Picture News. New York City: Motion Picture News, Inc. 21 (15): 3169. Apr 3, 1920. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  5. Wagenknecht, Edward (2014). The Movies in the Age of Innocence (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 1-476-61764-3.
  6. (Slide, 2012 & p.XX)
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