"The Charlatan" (1929)

A Universal Picture
Directed by George Melford
Released April 29, 1929
The source was a play of the same name by Ernest
Pascal and Leonard Praskins. It was made in two versions, a part-talkie and a silent version which is the only version available.

Cast included Holmes Herbert, Margaret Livingston, Rockliffe Fellowes, Philo McCullough, Anita Garvin, Crauford Kent, Rose Tapley, Fred Mackaye, and Dorothy Gould.


In this melodrama Peter Dwight (Holmes Herbert), a circus clown, is deserted by his wife, Florence (Margaret Livingston), who runs off with wealthy Richard Talbot taking their little daughter with her. Fifteen years pass, and Florence and a friend visit a Hindu seer who happens to be the husband she deserted years ago. When Dwight tells Florence details of her life that no one is aware of, she is amazed at his powers. She meets the Hindu seer again at a party where he is the entertainment. His daughter is also at the affair, and Dwight finds out that Florence is planning to leave Richard Talbot for another man that night. Florence is killed in Dwight's magical cabinet, and Dwight becomes the logical suspect.

It received a favorable review:
Photoplay, April 1929, " Murder mystery done with nice, light touch, especially by Holmes Herbert."

The Players

I always associated Anita Garvin with Laurel and Hardy, and I was surprised to see her in "The Charlatan." She began her career on the stage in musicals and toured with vaudeville groups. Garvin began her film career with the Al Christie studios afterwards moving to Hal Roach where she made many comedies with Laurel and Hardy. At one time or another she appeared with Zazu Pitts, Thelma Todd, and Charley Chase, but her greatest success was with Laurel and Hardy. She appeared in one of Mabel Normand's last comedies,
"Raggedy Rose" and can be seen in numerous two-reelers. She made just a few silent feature films, "The Charlatan" is the only one of her feature films available.

Margaret Livingston, was a vivacious leading lady and vamp for over 15 years during the silent era and early talkies. She appeared in her first feature film in 1916 and is best known as the big city vamp in "Sunrise." She told portly, famous band leader Paul Whiteman that if he would lose weight, she would marry him. He lost over a hundred pounds, and she did become his wife. They later collaborated on a humorous book about his dieting called Whiteman's Burden. She appeared in over 50 features during the silent era and
can only be seen in a few such as "Sunrise" and "Through The Breakers." In 1928 Louise Brooks had finished filming "The Canary Murder Case" and went to Europe to film "Pandora's Box." While she was away, Paramount decided to add talking sequences to "The Canary Murder Case." When Miss Brooks returned from Europe, she ignored the studio's call to re-shoot some scenes, and a replacement was sought not only for the voice recording, but to stand in for Louise Brooks during retakes. An assistant director later recalled, "We were in a very difficult position. We needed hervery badly. Finally they said they'd give her a bonus of $10,000, but she refused it.... So we started to look for a girl her size who had that kind of almost blue-black hair, or whose hair could be cut that way. They looked around for quite a few days and finally found
Margaret Livingston, who looked a little like her, and we shot over her shoulder. "

Rose Tapley, made her stage debut in 1900, and in 1905 she joined the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. About 1908 she joined Vitagraph and appeared in a comedy series called "The Jarr Family." Her best role was in the famous Vitagraph film "Vanity Fair" in 1911. She appeared with many of the early stars including, Wallace Reid in 1912 and remained with Vitagraph until 1917. She only appeared in about 20 silent feature films. Two of the most famous films she appeared in are "The Pony Express" and "It."

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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