Dorothy Phillips was a star in the silent era, but one who, like so many actors and actresses who flourished on the silent screen, did not fare well in the transition to talkies.
Newspaper ad for "Man-Woman-Marriage" (St. Louis Argus, May 20, 1921)
One of her most important roles was the lead in the silent movie "Man-Woman-Marriage," filmed in 1920 and first released in the U.S. in 1921. Shot in part on the Iverson Movie Ranch, "Man-Woman-Marriage" was a big deal at the time, according to promotional material for the film.
EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam: The current home of "Man-Woman-Marriage"?
The movie illustrates some of the challenges inherent in documenting film production during the silent era. I've never seen "Man-Woman-Marriage," nor has anyone involved in location research. It isn't exactly considered "lost," but getting ahold of a copy would be tricky, to put it mildly. My research indicates that one copy of the movie is known to have survived and is a part of the extensive archive of the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands.
Surviving and lost American silent feature films, by year (Library of Congress, 2013)
Many readers may already be aware that most of the movies produced during the silent era have been lost or destroyed. In a 2013 report by the Library of Congress, it was estimated that 75% of the silent feature films produced in the U.S. — depicted by the red bars in the above graph — have been lost.
"Man-Woman-Marriage" — Garden of the Gods, Iverson Movie Ranch
(image from "Quiet on the Set!" by Robert G. Sherman)
But still photos have been in circulation for years depicting a large-scale battle sequence filmed near Garden of the Gods for "Man-Woman-Marriage." With these photos to whet our appetites, Iverson researchers have long salivated over the prospect of one day getting a look at the actual movie. Knowing that a copy of it may have survived at least means there's hope — never mind the logistical challenges of extracting a copy from Amsterdam.
Among the most widely circulated photos from the "Man-Woman-Marriage" shoot are the two photos above, provided by the Iverson family years ago to Robert Sherman for his book "Quiet on the Set!" The remarkable behind-the-scenes shot above contains a number of interesting details, which I will point out below. I strongly recommend clicking on these photos to view them in a larger format.
previous blog post about Window of the Gods by clicking here.
1921 Magazine ad for "Man-Woman-Marriage" from Photoplay
The shoot is misidentified in Sherman's book as being for a movie he calls "The Amazonians." No such movie exists, and an old ad for "Man-Woman-Marriage" leaves no doubt that the shoot depicted in the Sherman book is a part of filming for "Man-Woman-Marriage." I first became aware of this ad thanks to film historian Jerry England and his stunning collection of old promo stills, movie ads and other vital documents.
Lobby card for "Man-Woman-Marriage": huge cast assembled for battle scene
A centerpiece of "Man-Woman-Marriage," according to the old promotional material, is a battle sequence featuring an army of female warriors — the same large-scale sequence filmed at Iverson.
Lobby card for "Man-Woman-Marriage" (Jerry England collection)
A second lobby card for "Man-Woman-Marriage" again raves about the battle and touts its female-centric theme. The photos in the above two lobby cards show the same pillars from opposite directions, with the first looking toward the south and Garden of the Gods while this second lobby card turns the camera around and looks north toward Cactus Hill.
I want to send out a thank-you to Ben Burtt, and not just for the amazing photos he unearthed that you see in this blog post. Ben is a pioneer among Iverson researchers and was one of my biggest inspirations when I was discovering my own passion for the movie ranch. Whether we realize it or not, we've all been enriched by his love for the Iverson Movie Ranch.
This post is part of what's planned as a comprehensive series of blog entries exploring silent movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch. We have previously reported on a few of the Iverson silent films, and you can read those posts by clicking on the following links:
• Click here to see some terrific behind-the-scenes photos from the 1925 silent feature "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ," provided by Jill Bergstrom, the granddaughter of the great Iverson cinematographer George B. Meehan Jr., who was part of the camera crew on "Ben-Hur."
• This blog post talks a little bit about the 1928 feature "Noah's Ark" and its director, Michael Curtiz, who also directed "Casablanca" and who brought crews to the Iverson Movie Ranch on a number of occasions.
• Buster Keaton's comedy feature "Three Ages" may be the best-known of the silent-era Iverson shoots, and this post from August 2014 explores a rarely discussed set for the movie: Buster's caveman character's "armory," built high atop Rock Island in the Iverson Gorge.