A MORMON MAID 1917 With original piano score by Stuart Oderman.
A MORMON MAID (1917)
Starring Mae Murray, Frank Borzage, Hobart Bosworth and Noah Beery. Set in 1840s America, this film is an astonishing exercise in intolerance and bad taste. When the Hogue family are attacked by Indians, they are rescued by a group of Mormons. With their cabin burned to the ground, they join the Mormons to live in their Utah settlement - the borders of which are guarded, and the laws enforced, by the "Avenging Angels", four hundred oath-bound fanatics who dress just like the Ku-Klux-Klan.
Everything is just fine for two years but, after that point, things start going down hill.
Somehow resembling, with his remarkable beard, both Abraham Lincoln and the Wolf Man, the evil Mormom leader, Darius Burr, decides to wed the underage Dora Hogue (Murray), making her his fifth wife and child bride. Parental interference is no problem since the Avenging Angels have already killed her father and her mother blew out her own brains when the Mormons forced her husband to take a second wife.
If you're of the Mormon faith and easily offended, do not buy this DVD. Others should keep duct tape handy to prevent jaws from coming into contact with floors. Made from a gorgeous film source, this one is a real hoot!
Original piano score composed and performed by Stuart Oderman.
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The `maid' in question is played by Mae Murray, a popular actress of the silent era and known as "the girl with the bee stung lips" due to her pouted lips, and together with beautiful big eyes and wild hair, she is perfect in the role of a young woman, at first very girlish, but forced to mature quickly when confronted with force and coercion by the Mormons. Her love interest is played by Frank Borzage, who had already played a hundred small roles in silent films by this time, and who continued his career behind the camera, as a director and producer, not long after appearing in A Mormon Maid. The third outstanding character is Noah Beery (Sr), wearing heavy make-up to appear especially sinister as the Mormon leader, Burr, who forces the pretty young Dora (Mae Murray) and her reluctant father into Mormon marriages.
Action and adventure scenes involving Indians and the Mormon pioneers heading out West are very well done, and the imprint of both Lasky and DeMille are evident in the overall high standard of photography, screenplay and drama - the latter strongly inclined towards pantomime, as was common in early, pre-1920 silent films. The quality of the picture is very good indeed, and the accompanying piano score by Stuart Oderman stands out as being above average. The story itself is also very good, as well as unpredictable and surprising, if not even shocking at times. After a family is rescued from an Indian attack by the Mormons, they become obliged to accept their faith after living and prospering in their community, but when the husband/father is told to accept a second wife, things become decidedly nasty. Prominent in this film are the 'Avenging Angels' - dressed in the same garb as the Ku Klux Clan - who played a role in the obscure past, connected with the early history of the Mormon Church, but who were obviously considered to be a main and even frightening aspect of the Mormons when this film was made. Further surprising evidence of the general public's views of the Mormons in the early 1900s can be seen in a 1922 film entitled "Trapped by the Mormons", available on the Grapevine Video label. Whether for historic interest or simply good entertainment, A Mormon Maid fits the bill and manages to stand up very well after almost a century.