How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the ‘New York Herald’ Personal Columns (1904)
Director: Edwin S. Porter
Considering the year in which it was made, the snappily titled How a French Nobleman Got a Wfie Through the ‘New York Herald’ Personal Columns is quite a clever comedy, but as it was made over a century ago it doesn’t stand up too well by today’s standards. In fact, Buster Keaton took the basic idea and expanded and improved upon it twenty years later in Seven Chances. The film opens with the French nobleman reading the newspaper advert he has placed for a bride with some smugness. It’s quite a well-staged shot with the nobleman standing in front of a mirror so that we see him from two angles. Later, he meets not one but ten prospective brides outside Grant’s Tomb and understandably does a runner only for all of them to give chase.
So far so good, but this is where things start to unravel. In 1904 there was no such thing as an editor and directors had no idea about pacing or timing. So what we now get is a series of four or five scenes in which we see the increasingly dishevelled nobleman running over some obstacle and then we see the first woman giving chase. And then we see the second. And then we see the third. And then we see the fourth. And then – well you get the idea. After a few minutes this grows incredibly tedious which is a shame because the basic idea is a good one…
(Reviewed 25th June 2009)