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A Society Sensation
Also known as The Little Duchess in the United Kingdom
(1918) American
B&W : Five reels
Directed by Paul Powell

Cast: Carmel Myers [Sydney Parmelee], M. Rodolpho De Valentina (Rudolph Valentino) [Richard Bradley], Alfred Allen [Captain Parmelee, Sydney’s father], Lydia Yeamans Titus [Mrs. Jones], Fred Kelsey [Jim Cox], ZaSu Pitts [Mary], Harold Goodwin [Tommy Parmelee, Sydney’s brother], [?] ? [Mrs. Bradley], [?] ? [Mrs. Parmelee, Sydney’s mother]

Bluebird Photoplays, Incorporated, production; distributed by Bluebird Photoplays, Incorporated, through The Universal Film Manufacturing Company, Incorporated. / Scenario by Hope Loring and Paul Powell, from the short story “The Borrowed Duchess” by Perley Poore Sheehan. Cinematography by E.G. Ullman. / © 11 September 1918 by Bluebird Photoplays, Incorporated [LP12863]. Released 23 September 1918. / Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format. / This film was Valentino’s first as a featured player; Carmel Myers had pressured Powell and the studio to give Valentino the role. The film was edited to two reels and rereleased in the USA by Universal Pictures Corporation [A Universal De Luxe Special] in 1924. Some character names were changed in the 1924 rerelease: Margaret Fairfax and the Duchess of Deerford for Sydney Parmelee, Captain Harry Hannibal Fairfax for Captain Parmelee.


Synopsis: Synopsis available in Hirschhorn-Universal p. 28.

Reviews: [unindentified publication, 12 October 1918, page ?] “A SOCIETY SENSATION” / Bluebird Subject Features Carmel Myers in Story of Contrasts. / Reviewed by Robert C. McElravy / This five-reel offering, “A Society Sensation,” was adapted by Hope Loring and Paul Powell from a story written by Perley Poore Sheehan. It contains numerous elements of universal appeal, and will hold the interest even though it contains no great novelty or suspense. The production is well cast, featuring Carmel Myers as the vivacious heroine, and she is assisted by M. Rudolpho De Valentina, Lydia Yeamans Titus, Alfred Allen, Fred Kelsey, Zasu Pitts and Harold Goodwin. / The opening scenes at once catch the interest, the locale being a fishing village on the Southern California coast. Capt. Parmelee, an old fisherman, believes that he is of noble birth, and that he should really be a member of the House of Lords. His pretty daughter, Sydney, does not take much stock in this belief, but the story eventually makes its way into the papers, and they get considerable notoriety as a result. The family receives a visit from a crooked lawyer and a certain Mrs. Jones, who has been trying to break into San Francisco society. The latter thinks she can use Sydney to good advantage, and induces her to go to the city with her. / The contrast of social conditions is brought out in an enjoyable way. In fact the whole first part of the production is above the average, but ut does not quite hold up to the pace set at the beginning. The story is nevertheless a clean, pleasant sort of a tale, and, though there is no particular question about how it is going to turn out, there are some interesting twists in the general situation from time to time. The beach scenes and other settings are attractively pictured.

Survival status: Print exists in the Library of Moving Images film collection (two-reel 1924 rerelease version) [35mm positive (incomplete)].

Current rights holder: Public domain.

Keywords: Fights (Fist) - Fishermen - Jealousy - Letters - Newspapers - Nobility (Alleged) - Rescues - Society - Swimming (Cramps) - USA: California: San Francisco - Water: Beaches, Oceans - Weapons: Guns (Shotguns) - Yachts

Listing updated: 7 November 2012.

References: Film credits, film viewing : Edmonds-BigU pp. 99, 100; Hirschhorn-Universal pp. 13, 28 : Website-AFI.

Home video: DVD.

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