The Whispering Chorus (1918)

Article 4309 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-12-2013
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Featuring Raymond Hatton, Kathlyn Williams, Edythe Chapman
Country: USA
What it is: Drama

A clerk guilty of embezzlement at his place of employment ends up faking his own murder in order to clear himself. Unfortunately, he is believed to be guilty of his own murder and finds himself on the run from the law.

Let’s deal with the fantastic content first. The Walt Lee guide from which I culled this title for my project says the fantastic content consists of the way this movie handles the metaphor of having voices in your head leading you on into temptation; the movie does this by having those voices personified by individual heads that speak to the main character. As fantastic content, I must admit that it is somewhat marginal, but the movie has a couple of other fantastic touches as well; one character has premonitions at one point, and a ghost appears at the end of the movie (albeit one that is only seen by the audience).

As for the movie itself, I was actually quite impressed by the first twenty minutes of the movie; its illustration of a basically decent man who is trying to cope the best he can with the troubles in his life makes for a compelling cinematic portrait that is quite moving, because you end up really caring about the character. Had the movie remained in this vein, it would have made for a great drama. However, once the main character conveniently finds a dead body that he can use to fake his own death, the movie begins to crumble under the weight of its plot contrivances and its overly manipulative story. Still, DeMille proves to be a creative enough director (who even has touches of brilliance at times) that he manages to keep the movie interesting even when the story threatens to become laughable. I can only wonder what the movie might have been like if it had managed to maintain the power of its first twenty minutes.


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