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Several of Buchanan’s works were adapted for the cinema during the early silent period. I came across the following passage from Alexis Weedon’s Victorian Publishing: The Economics of Book Publishing for a Mass Market 1836- 1916 (Ashgate 2003 - p. 152) which gives a brief explanation of how this came about.

     “An opportune change in the copyright law in 1911 extended the right from seven to 50 years after the author’s  death. Ouida’s and Collins’ copyrights - at least those owned by the publishers - became more valuable assets. The evidence in the agreement files suggests Chatto & Windus gradually came to see the film industry as a source of revenue. Originally it was not clear to the firm whether film rights were included in general book copyright or were part of performing rights - many of which they did not own - and they sought legal opinion. One incident aptly illustrates how Chatto & Windus were in a position to take advantage of the burgeoning film industry. On 22 November 1915, B. Nicholls of the M. P. Sales film agency wrote to Chatto & Windus enclosing royalties for a film of Ouida’s Under Two Flags. In what may be one of the earliest film tie-ins, Nicholls suggested the agency send the publishers a list of the bookings so that Chatto ‘could interest the local booksellers throughout the kingdom with one of your cheap editions’ (letter in agreements file). Obviously, opportunities to work with agencies such as M. P. Sales’ were to be seized upon. Nicholls indicated in his letter to Chatto & Windus that the agency was ‘always looking for new material’ and he would be ‘pleased to forward any suggestions you desire to my two American producers’, who, he said, were ‘putting out between them an average of ten subjects weekly’. So Chatto & Windus took the opportunity to recommend a range of their most popular novelists and Nicholls picked out the names of Robert Buchanan, Edward Dyson, Frank Barrett, Dick Donovan, W. Clark Russell, and Thomas Hardy.
     These authors illustrate the type of agreements and extent of the revenue Chatto & Windus received from selling film rights and options. At the time of Nicholls’ letter Buchanan (d. 1901) and Clark Russell (d. 1911) were already dead and the firm made arrangements with their heirs for the division of any monies that might become payable. In the case of Buchanan, British Cinema Productions tied up the film rights to all of his novels in April 1915; Harriet Jay, his collaborator and sister-in-law was the beneficiary and Chatto & Windus divided the proceeds with her. The contract stipulated that British Cinema Productions ‘agree to produce films of at least two of the said works each year from 31st May 1915’ or else the agreement lapsed. It appears they failed to meet the terms as by 1920 further offers were being made for Buchanan’s works, and throughout the 1920s Harriet Jay and Chatto & Windus irregularly received small sums for film royalties.”

All the following films, bar one, were made in England (although Alone in London had an American star in Florence Turner, “The Vitagraph Girl”), and, as far as I know, no copies have survived. The one exception is the Italian La Donna e l’uomo, a restored copy of which was shown in 1996 at the La Rochelle International Film Festival.

The following information has been assembled from various sites (mainly IMDB and the British Film Institute) and newspaper archives:


Produced by Eric Williams Speaking Pictures
Starring Eric Williams as The Count

A curious hybrid of play and film - or an example of a very early talkie.


The Era (1 February, 1913 - p.26)

Eric Williams’ Bioscope Stories.
     A numerous and very appreciative audience assembled at the Majestic Theatre on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Eric Williams gave a special kinema recital matinée, and introduced two entirely new films, besides those of “The surgeon’s child” and “A ballad of splendid silence,” which have been so well received. The new ones were “Fra Giacomo,” by Robert Buchanan, and “Hanging a Picture,” an episode from Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat.” In the former Mr. Eric Williams acts the part of the Count, and in the latter the always amusing Uncle Podger. When we say that he succeeded in both, we pay him an obviously high compliment. The pictures representing “Fra Giacomo,” which was arranged in a prologue and four scenes, were really beautiful specimens of motion photography by the Searchlight Film Co., and the tragic romance was splendidly recited by Mr. Williams, the words synchronising absolutely with the motions of the actors on the screen. Uncle Podger hanging a picture was received with a roar from start to finish, and the whole entertainment afforded the greatest delight to all who were present. A word of praise is due to Mr. Wertheimer, who arranged and conducted the orchestral illustrative music.



The Era (19 February, 1913 - p.5)

     The popular reciter, Mr. Eric Williams, has scored a big success with his illustrated bioscope stories. On the two visits we paid last week to the magnificent picture palace in Tottenham Court-road he gave the stirring recitation “Fra Giacomo,” and an excerpt from J. K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat,” entitled “Hanging a Picture.” The films alone were worth a visit—clear and suggestive of every point in the stories—and Mr. Williams’ distinct enunciation held the audience as though the pictures were speaking for themselves.



The Era (19 April, 1913 - p.28)


Mr. Eric Williams’ Bioscope Stories.
     Mr. Eric Williams has just completed a six months’ continuous engagement with Messrs. A. Rosenthal and Walter Hyman, and during that period has appeared at all the principal theatres controlled by Cinema House, Ltd., and the Electric Theatres (1908), Ltd., under the management of Mr. W. M. Borradaile. His most notable successes have been achieved at Cinema House, Oxford-street; the Majestic, Tottenham Court-road; and at Camden Town, Norwich, Birmingham, Bristol, and Brighton, to several of which he has paid return visits. At Easter he was appearing at the Walpole Theatre, Ealing, and during the week there was a record attendance of nearly 40,000. Gaumonts, Ltd., are now engaged in producing several new and important recitation films for Mr. Eric Williams.


[From the Middlesbrough Daily Gazette (9 June, 1914 - p.2).]


[From the Middlesbrough Daily Gazette (9 June, 1914 - p.4).]


[From the Aberdeen Evening Express (13 December, 1918 - p.6).]



Directed by Wilfred Noy
Produced by Clarendon
Length: 1000 feet.


[Advert for Clarendon Speaking Pictures from The Era (8 October, 1913 - p.32).]


The Era (3 December, 1913 - p.29)


Speaking Pictures.
     The latest thing in cinematography is the “speaking pictures” which are being introduced by the Clarendon Press, Limited. They consist of the exhibition of a film depicting some well-known poem or monologue, while the piece is recited by an unseen speaker. Thus the attention of the audience is not divided between the artist and the picture. They hear the words spoken with the beautiful tones of the human voice unmarred by any mechanical contrivance, and they see the picture to which the words apply. As a consequence they obtain the full dramatic effect and force of the poem and the picture. The result is very thrilling and impressive, especially as the synchronisation is carefully attended to by a special contrivance.



The Manchester Courier (9 December, 1913 - p.6)


                                                                                                                                             Monday Night.
. . .

Films, Poetic and Historic.
     Another development in cinematography was witnessed to-day. So far spectacular and other pictures have been seen without words, but the Clarendon Film Company have gone a step further. They have produced speaking pictures, and the demonstration that was given to the members of the Poetry Society shows what can be accomplished in interpreting the language of the poets. The result was pleasing in the extreme. Three poems were “produced” on the screen, and at the same time were feelingly interpreted by the human voice. “Coming Home,” by Alfred Berlyn, is especially suitable to this artistic treatment, and when Tennyson’s popular poem, “The Gardener’s Daughter,” was given unaccompanied the advantage of the new development became most apparent.



The Arbroath Herald (20 March, 1914 - p.5)


[From the North-Eastern Daily Gazette (15 June, 1914 - p.2).]


Cheltenham Looker-On (27 June, 1914 - p.6)


     The latest innovation in cinematography has attracted even more numerous audiences than usual to this popular house. Exclusive rights for the town had been secured by the enterprising management for these speaking pictures, and we have been enabled to see a poem and at the same time hear it recited by the human voice. Phil Blood’s Leap is visualised in this way and may be seen to-day. The recitation is perfectly synchronised with the picture, and marks a distinct advance in the “movie” world. Golfers were deeply interested in the demonstration by J. A. Taylor, five times open champion. Protea and the infernal automobile is full of sensations, and is a story which enthrals the imagination from start to finish.
     Excellent pictures have been secured for the ensuing week. For the first three days Paul Wegener figures in Black Nizzen, a thrilling story of love and adventure. A particularly interesting picture will be shown during the latter part of the week dealing with the Jacobite Rebellion. It is entitled Clancarty, and the chief parts will be taken by Charles Rock and Lillian Logan. No one should miss the opportunity of seeing these first-class pictures.



Hastings & St. Leonards Observer (4 July, 1914 - p.2)


     The heat wave notwithstanding, coolness and comfort can be obtained at the Royal Cinema de Luxe.
     The management, by a thorough system of ventilation, and by the presentation of fans to ladies of the audience, do all they can to make the place of entertainment quite the opposite to the hot and dazzling street outside. The latest films are provided, and go to make up a thoroughly enjoyable programme. The chief item of interest for this week is the re-appearance of the Clarendon speaking pictures. In this case the story is told by a gifted artist as the picture moves across the screen, it being arranged that the synchronisation shall be perfect. It gives a greatly-added interest to the picture, which, for the first three nights of this week, was the famous and thrilling poem of Robert Buchanan’s, entitled, “Phil Blood’s Leap.”



Coventry Evening Telegraph (14 July, 1914 - p.4)


     Despite the sultry weather prevailing, many patrons were in attendance at the Crown Picture Theatre, Gosford Street, on Monday evening, when, in addition to the usual high-class programme of films, another of the popular Clarendon speaking pictures was submitted. The film, which will be shown at each performance during the week is entitled, “Phil Blood’s Leap.” During the exhibition of the picture Mr. Frederick Lytton, the elocutionist, who has already grown popular with the Crown audiences, delighted his hearers with the story of the film, which is of a stirring character. The deep dramatic voice of Mr. Lytton and the expression with which he recites during the exciting incidents add to the effectiveness of the picture, and well merit the applause received at the conclusion. “Excelsior” or “The Triumph of Progress” is a spectacular four-part production, which will be shown during the first part of the week. The film depicts the struggle between “Progress” and “Inactivity” in which the “Light” of Civilisation overcomes the “Darkness” of Ignorance and leads the way to the discoveries and gigantic works of our century. Two comics which cause amusement are “Oh! What a Day,” and “Wifey’s Christmas Present,” while Gaumont’s Graphic contains some attractive items. “Tragedy at the Pepper Box Inn,” a three-part drama, should prove a great attraction on Thursday.



Directed by Larry Trimble
Produced by Turner Film Company
Florence Turner Nan Meadows
Henry Edwards John Biddlecombe
Edward Lingard Redcliffe
James Lindsay Chick
Amy Lorraine Mrs. Burnaby
Format: 35 mm. Length: 5 reels / 4525 feet.
BFI synopsis: “A crook tries to make a thief of his boss's son and ties a flower girl to gate of canal lock.”


[From the cover of Pictures and the Picturegoer (10 July, 1915).]


Pictures and the Picturegoer (24 July, 1915)

     ALONE IN LONDON.— You must see Florence Turner in the film version of this great Adelphi success. Old-fashioned melodrama, with its breathless and impossible situations, does not as a rule lend itself to screen production; but Larry Trimble has handled this one in a manner which will interest and hold the attention of all picturegoers. We recently published a fine portrait of Miss Turner as Nan, the flower-seller, one of the scenes in the play.
                                                                                               Turner Drama (Ideal Film Co.) (August 9).


[From The Burnley News (25 September, 1915 - p.1).]


[From The Scotsman (28 October, 1915).]


Edinburgh Evening News (2 November, 1915 - p.4)

     A good all-round programme is presented at the Coliseum this week, a great attraction to cinema-lovers being the appearance of Miss Florence Turner in “Alone in London.” The film, which is intensely interesting, is in four parts and adapted from the play by Robert Buchanan. The third instalment of the “Exploits of Elaine” is shown under the title of “The Vanishing Jewels,” while a good selection of comedy is presented. “Swell Mobsmen” will be the principal picture for Thursday and the remainder of the week.



Angus Evening Telegraph (7 March, 1916 - p.5)


     The patrons of this theatre are usually well provided for, and this week a splendid programme is submitted.
     The chief picture, “Alone in London,” is a four-part one, featuring that well-known cinema actress, Florence Turner. The picture deals mainly with a young country girl’s hardships after she marries a scoundrel, and, just as she is about to be drowned in a canal by her unworthy husband, her country lover whom she refused to marry comes to the rescue in the nick of time and saves her from a cruel death.
     Other pictures are “Ambrose’s Nasty Temper,” a screaming Keystone comedy, “The Pride of Her Life,” and “The Topical Budget,” which ends a very enjoyable programme.


[More information in the Alone in London section.]



Directed by Percy Nash
Script by Brian Daly and John East
Produced by Neptune Film Company
Gregory Scott Cuthbert Cuthbertson
Joan Ritz Constance Barton
Douglas Payne James Redtruth
Daisy Cordell Paula Redtruth
Douglas Cox Sergeant-Major Milligan
Brian Daly Stage Manager
Biddy de Burgh Cuthbert
Jack Denton Tommy Wicklow
John East Professor Ginnifer
Agnes Paulton Lavinia Ginnifer
Stella St. Audrie Mrs. Wicklow
Frank Tennant Richard Featherstone
Cecil Morton York Sir William Barton


Pictures and the Picturegoer (8 May, 1915)

Better than the Play.
The Trumpet Call, the famous drama by George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, which has successfully toured the principal theatres of England, Ireland, and Scotland for years, has now been completed as a film by the Neptune Company. It is actually better than the play, as it affords many opportunities of pictorially describing scenes with greater effect than they were by word of mouth in the stage version.



Pictures and the Picturegoer (14 August, 1915)

     THE TRUMPET CALL.—If you want to see the best in melodrama, make a note to enjoy, when it arrives, this photo-drama by George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan. Filmed by the Neptune Film Company, it is one of the “tit-bits” of the year. British in sentiment, in treatment, and in the spirit it breathes. We hope to publish the story next week.
                                                                                         —Gaumont Film Hire, four reels (Sept. 13).



The August 21st issue of Pictures and the Picturegoer included a three-page feature on The Trumpet Call, which is available below:

trumpetcallpicp1thmb trumpetcallpicp2thmb trumpetcallpicp3thmb

[From the Dover Express (17 September, 1915 - p.4).]


Coventry Evening Telegraph (21 September, 1915 - p.4)


     “The Trumpet Call,” a four-part drama by Neptune, is the chief item on the bill at the Globe Theatre for the first part of the week. Filmed after the drama by G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, it is being shown by arrangement with the Gaumont Film Hire Service. Many thrilling episodes are included, whilst there is also a touch  of humour about it. As the title suggests, there is some military items included. It is an entirely British production, and should not fail to please all who see it. “The Three Roses,” an absorbing drama, is also shown, and shows how a girl marries against her father’s wish, and is banished by him for ever. However, circumstances force him to seek refuge with her as years roll by, and a happy reunion is witnessed. “Fair, Fat and Saucy” is a screaming comic, and was much appreciated on Monday, as was the latest war and general news, which is depicted on the Gaumont’s Graphic.


[From The Hull Daily Mail (29 September, 1915 - p.3).]


Western Daily Press (23 March, 1916 - p.5)

     The screening of “The Trumpet Call” at the family picture house of Zetland Road is particularly noteworthy. It is a photo-drama, thoroughly British in sentiment and treatment. It is by Geo. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, a guarantee of its sterling quality. This exclusive will be accompanied by the 11th instalment of the grand serial, “The Broken Coin,” the 19th episode of the new “Exploits of Elaine,” &c.


[From The Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press (27 May, 1916 - p.2).]



Directed by
Sidney Morgan
Script by Austin Fryers
Produced by Famous Authors
Eille Norwood Dr. O'Kama
Violet Graham Isobel Arlington
Anna Mather Madame Obnowsky
Frederick de Lara Earl of Wansborough
Ernest A. Dagnall Colonel Arlington
R. van Courtland Lord Dewsbury
Format: 35 mm. Length: 5 reels / 4363 feet.
BFI synopsis: “A fake occultist, reformed by a colonel’s daughter, saves an earl from his ex-partner.”


[From The Hull Daily Mail (24 April, 1916 - p.3).]


[From The Hull Daily Mail (25 April, 1916 - p.2).]


Derby Daily Telegraph (20 May, 1916 - p.4)


     On Monday next and two following days arrangements have been made for the exhibition of a thrilling and sensational four-part exclusive “The Apache Dancer’s Sacrifice.” The story is well told, and is thrilling from start to finish. The dancing scenes are remarkable works of art. For the latter part of the week another star attraction will be found in a production of Sir Herbert Tree’s famous play “The Charlatan,” introducing a magnificent West End caste, including Violet Graham. The play is too well known to require any introduction, and it has lost nothing in the hands of the film producers.


[From the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate, and Cheriton Herald (26 May, 1917 - p.4).]


The Taunton Courier (6 June, 1917 - p.4)

     EXCHANGE ELECTRIC THEATRE.—“The Bride of the Nancy Lee,” a fine two-reel drama, featuring Myrtle Gonzales will be shown on Monday next. It is a tale of the sea and includes a mutiny on board ships, and a terrific storm portrayed with life fidelity. An interesting full list will be shown in addition. On Thursday a stupendous film production will be screened, entitled “The Charlatan.” It is Sir Herbert Tree’s dramatization of the novel by Robert Buchanan and is full of beautiful scenes in India and in England. This film will provide a rich treat for lovers of perfection in pictures. Another excellent exclusive to be shown on Thursday is entitled “Italy’s Glorious Army,” which will deal with the tremendous efforts, but little realised in England, made by our gallant Allies.



Directed by Edwin J. Collins
Script by Eliot Stannard.
Produced by Ideal Film Company
IMDB version:
Langhorn Burton Christiansen
Joyce Carey Priscilla Sefton
Bert Wynne Richard Christiansen
Edith Craig Dame Christiansen
Sybil Arundale Kate Orchardson
Henry Vibart Mr. Sefton
Nelson Ramsey Squire Christiansen
E. Vivian Reynolds John Wesley
BFI version:
Bert Wynne Richard Orchardson
J. Nelson Ramsey Squire Christianson
Jeff Barlow Squire Orchardson
Edith Craig Dame Christianson
Sybil Arundale Kate
Langhorne Burton Christianson
Joyce Carey Priscilla Sefton
Henry Vibart Mr. Sefton
E. Vivian Reynolds John Wesley
Format: 35 mm Film. Length: 6935 feet.
BFI synopsis: “1745: Melodrama of a family feud and the effect on the younger members.”


[From The Yorkshire Evening Post (6 May 1918 - p.3).]


[From the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star (26 September, 1918 - p.1).]


[From The Yorkshire Evening Post (7 October, 1918 - p.3).]


Aberdeen Evening Express (19 October, 1918 - p.4)

The Picture House.

     The feature film at the Picture House, Union Street, for the first half of next week is “God and the Man.” The tense power of the great revivalist, John Wesley, is vividly portrayed in this seven-act film. The scenes are set in the period of George II., and the wonderful powers of the preacher and the earnestness of his followers are powerfully shown. The story by Robert Buchanan makes one of the most wonderfully impressive screens yet played with stern grimness throughout which preaches the evil of hatred and vengeance. Other items on the Picture House programme for the first half of next week include “Patsy’s Luck” (comedy), current events (latest news in pictures.)



MATT (1918)
Directed by A. E. Coleby
Script by Rowland Talbot
Produced by I. B. Davidson & Tiger
Greta MacDonald Matt
A.E. Coleby Charles Brinkley
Ernest A. Douglas Squire Monk
IMDB synopsis: “Devon artist proves a wrecker’s adopted child is an heiress just in time to prevent her unwilling marriage to a crooked squire.”


[From the Western Mail (10 September, 1918 - p.2).]


The Lancashire Evening Post (5 November, 1918 - p.4)

     THE PALLADIUM.—“Matt,” the principal film screened in the early part of the week is an adaptation of Robert Buchanan’s work, which tells a full-blooded story of the old wreckers of Cornwall and Devon. Beside so much that is neurotic in film production as well as in stage plays, it is healthy if conventional in  type, and while the acting is excellent the setting has the picturesqueness that is impossible of reproduction except by photograph, and that is characteristic of the Raffles reels. Of the modern type, strong in contrast is the second subject “The Female of the Species,” which represents a struggle between two women for the soul of a man, a struggle which shows that there is a streak of good even in the base.



Liverpool Echo (3 December, 1918 - p.3)

     The MAJESTIC has Mary Miles Minter in “Peggy Leads the Way,” and it is a most enjoyable photo-play. So, also, is an adaptation of Robert Buchanan’s novel, “Matt.” Chaplin is added.


[From the Derby Daily Telegraph (14 December, 1918 - p.4).]


Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser (29 January, 1919 - p.4)

     EXCHANGE ELECTRIC THEATRE.—The star picture for the first half of this week is a Ruffell’s five reel exclusive, “Matt,” a charming Devonshire idyll, taken from the well-known book by Robert Buchanan. It is a delightfully fresh and unconventional story set amidst the beautiful scenery of sunny Devon, showing glimpses of Babbicombe Bay, Cockington Forge, and Ansty’s Cove. Crammed full of incident, acted with wonderful realism, with exquisite scenery, and views of the rugged Devon coast, the whole, combined with perfect photography, makes this a charming and delightful picture which all should see and enjoy. Other pictures include a two reel “Lonesome Luke” comedy, “Luke the Terrible Tec.” On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the principal film will be “A Coronet of Shame,” a film adaptation from the novel by that popular author, Charles Garvice. An interesting story of love and adventure, this screen version of what is perhaps the most widely read of all this author’s works is admirably portrayed, and follows closely the original plot with its many exciting scenes and dramatic situations, the South African episode being particularly thrilling. Other pictures of interest and comedy will also be shown.



A Robert Buchanan Filmography - continued








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search