The Sea Urchin (1913 film)
The Sea Urchin is a 1913 American silent short romantic drama film directed by Edwin August and starring Jeanie MacPherson and Lon Chaney. The film was the earliest known character role by Lon Chaney and the first screenplay by MacPherson. The story follows a hunchback fisherman, who finds a young girl and raised her into womanhood with the intention of marrying her. A handsome boy soon gains her affections and the hunchback threatens him with a knife. The next day, the boat tips over during an argument and the hunchback saves the girl. As the young lovers reunite, he sees how happy they are together and he takes his leave. The film was released on August 22, 1913 and was played across the United States. The film is presumed lost.
|The Sea Urchin|
|Directed by||Edwin August|
|Written by||Jeanie MacPherson|
|Distributed by||Universal Film Manufacturing Company|
A hunchback fisherman finds a young girl tied to a mast, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and raises her into womanhood with the intention of making her his wife. Ten years pass and the woman, out of gratitude, promises to marry him. The hunchback hires a handsome stranger, the boy. The boy and the girl fall in love, but the girl refuses to marry him. The hunchback sees the two embrace and threatens the boy with a knife. The next day, the three go fishing in the boat and an argument breaks out. During the argument the boat tips over and the girl is washed away. The hunchback and the boy search for her, until the boy becomes exhausted and collapses on the shore. The hunchback finds the girl on a rock and brings her ashore. As the two reunite, he sees how happy they are together and takes his leave.
The film was a Powers Picture Plays directed by Edwin August and distributed by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. The film's production number was 0101. The screen play was written by Jeanie MacPherson who also played the role of The Girl. Simon Louvish, author of Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art, states this uncredited screenplay was the first one to be authored by MacPherson. Louvish also refers to this film as a two-reeler. Lon Chaney and Robert Z. Leonard had previously worked together for the Ferris Hartman Troupe. Three years prior to the release of the film, the two were involved in the production of musical comedies for the Troupe. In 1918, Leonard would later direct his wife, Mae Murry, and Lon Chaney in Danger, Go Slow.
Release and legacy
The film was released on August 22, 1913. The Moving Picture World said the film was a memorable offering that contained vivid scenes along a picturesque coast. In an advertisement in Rushville, Indiana the film as billed as the "story of a Hunchback's Love and Renunciation". The film was also advertised, perhaps alternatively or erroneously, as Sea Urchins. Advertisements for the film included theaters in Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Utah, and New York.
The film is important as the first known character role by Lon Chaney. Martin F. Norden, author of The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies, describes the plot as following the prevailing industry standards of disabled characters, where the figure "nobly" withdraws from the relationship after plotting revenge and then saving his beloved. Norden cites a quote from Chaney, saying this film made Chaney realize that "the screen was more interesting than the stage". The film is now considered lost. It is unknown when the film was lost, but if it was in Universal's vaults it would have been deliberately destroyed along with the remaining copies of Universal's silent era films in 1948.
- Due to the lack of a detailed synopsis for the film in trade publications, several different sources give conflicting accounts of the plot. Michael Blake's book, The Films of Lon Chaney, does not cover the young girl having been initially saved by Barnacle Bill and the promise to marry him comes after almost drowning. Jon Mirsalis's website reflects a more detailed account which is in alignment with contemporary publications, that the hunchback fisherman rescues the child from the sea and raises her up with hope that he will take her as his wife. For this reason, Miralis's plot summary is used and not Michael Blake's.
- Norden's work uses a version of the plot that is likely identical to the one Blake includes in The Films of Lon Chaney. Instead of raising the woman up with the intention to marry, the decision is thrust out and quickly discarded after what would be the second rescue by the hunchback fisherman. For this reason, this aspect of the analysis is not mentioned. The difference does not negatively impact or compromise Norden's analysis.
- Mirsalis, Jon (2008). "The Sea Urchin". Lon Chaney.org. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- "(Advertisement)". The Bonham Daily Favorite (Bonham, Texas). November 1, 1913. p. 1. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Blake, Michael F. (2001). The Films of Lon Chaney. Madison Books. p. 2.
- "Silent Era: The Sea Urchin". Silent Era.com. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- Louvish, Simon (2008). "Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art". Macmillan & Company. p. 88. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- "(Gem Theatre advertisement)". The Daily Republican (Rushville, Indiana). November 4, 1913. p. 5. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Robinson's Dreamland". Olean Times Herald (Olean, New York). December 16, 1913. p. 5. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(Princess Ad)". Oil City Derrick (Oil City, Pennsylvania). September 29, 1913. p. 3. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(Gem advertisement)". The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania). October 3, 1913. p. 1. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(The Palace)". The Eagle (Bryan, Texas). October 7, 1913. p. 2. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Ideal Theatre". Corsicana Daily Sun (Corsicana, Texas). October 21, 1913. p. 10. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(Advertisement)". Fort Scott Daily Tribune and Fort Scott Daily Monitor (Fort Scott, Kansas). October 17, 1913. p. 8. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "At the Victor Theater". Abbeville Progress (Abbeville, Louisiana). October 18, 1913. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(Gem Theater listing)". The Daily Republican (Rushville, Indiana). November 4, 1913. p. 4. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "(Rex Theatre Advertisement)". The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah). September 7, 1913. Retrieved January 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Norden, Martin F. (1994). "The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies". Rutgers University Press. pp. 84–85. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- Ohlheiser, Abby (December 4, 2013). "Most of America's Silent Films Are Lost Forever". The Wire. Retrieved November 4, 2014.