Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

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The Last Crusade (1922)

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Production Company. British and Colonial Kinematograph Co. Ltd. for Romance of British History series.  Director: George Ridgwell.

Length: 1000 feet.

Cast: Reginald Fox, Cynthia Murtagh, Charles Ashton, Gordon Hopkirk

Source: Complete Index to World Film

Plot synopsis from BFI BFI’s National Film Archive Catalogue: History educational film on the story of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, in Palestine.

This film like The Last King of Wales, was also made by the British Colonial Kinematograph company in 1922, and part of the Romance of History series.  It has been lost.

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March 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

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The Last King of Wales (1922)

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Production Company. British and Colonial Kinematograph Co. Ltd. for Romance of British History series.  Director: George Ridgwell.

Script: Eliot Stannard.

Duration: 16 mins.  Length: 1960 feet.

Cast: Malvina Longfellow (Queen Eleanor), Charles Ashton (Llewellyn), Cynthia Murtagh (Eleanor de Montfort), Reginald Fox (Edward I), Grey Murray (Robert Burnel, King Edward I’s Lord Chancellor).

Source: Complete Index to World Film

Plot Synopsis taken from scope notes supplied by Mary Moylett, National Library of Wales’ National Screen & Sound Archive:

When Edward I returned from the Crusades to ascend the throne of England, he found his kingdom had been left in hopeless disorder by his father, Henry III.

Llewellyn (Charles Ashton), King of Wales, deeply loved Eleanor de Montfort and helped her father, Simon, in his rebellion against Henry III.  This was crushed, Simon de Montfort killed, and Llewellyn reduced to a vassal of the English King.  Eleanor de Montfort (Cynthia Murtagh), who with her mother, has found sanctuary in a French convent.

Her mother, Simon de Montfort’s widow, is reluctant for her daughter to marry Llewellyn while he is the King of England’s vassal!  Llewellyn leads a rebellion against the King but is deserted by his chief followers and surrounded by the English forces. Unaware of this, Eleanor de Montfort sets out by sea for Wales, but is captured and brought to King Edward.  He introduces her to his Queen Eleanor (Malvina Longfellow).  “I leave this damsel in your safe keeping, knowing that you will be like unto a sister to her!”  The Viking Llewellyn learns that Eleanor de Montfort is Edward’s prisoner, so he agrees to pay a huge indemnity, to give up certain lands, and to do homage to Edward at court.  There he is reunited with his Eleanor de Montfort.  The King and queen go out into the garden and meet the young pair.  The King shows Llewellyn the signed indemnity document which is to bring peace.  Llewellyn lifts an arm into the air and declares: “It is by showing mercy that a king makes friends!”  The pairs embrace.

Amazingly, a long lost version of this old film about Prince Llewellyn, the last King of Wales, was discovered in 2007 – just as the National Library of Wales prepared to celebrate its  national screen heritage.  The film was found in a 16-minute 9.5mm version held by a private collector, Patrick Moules, editor of Flickers Magazine, who loaned the film, from which the Library made a 35mm print (a process called ‘blowing up’!) for archiving and screening purposes.

Wales Online article, 17 October 2007 http://www.walesonline.co.uk/expats/nostalgia/2007/10/17/a-feast-of-welsh-cinema-history-91466-19964789/

Most of the information about this film comes from the programme notes made by Dave Berry, formerly of the National Library of Wales, for the screening at The National Screen and Sound Archive’s film festival ‘Fflics’, 25-28 October 2007, and from Mary Moylett, Cataloguer with the Library.

The film is one of twenty to thirty key silent films the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales was been seeking for years.  According to Dave Berry, The Last King of Wales film, made by the British Colonial Films company, had seemingly vanished into oblivion shortly after its release, as part of a Romance of History series in 1922. It focuses on Prince Llewellyn and his wife Eleanor and stars the beautiful actress, American-born Malvina Longfellow, Charles Ashton and Cynthia Murtagh.

The Last King’s director, George Ridgwell, a former writer and actor, was a journeyman mainly active in film in the early 20s.  He made The Four Just Men for the Stoll Film Company, from Edgar Wallace’s novel in 1921 and two 15-episode series of Sherlock Holmes – The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1922) and The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1923), both starring Eille Norwood as Holmes.  Ridgwell also made many thrillers and crime movies, several adaptations from the novels of E Phillips Oppenheim – and another Wallace story The Crimson Circle (1922).

The producer and managing director of British and Colonial, whose fortunes were waning at this time, was Edward Godal, who was with Stoll at one period, and also formed his own company.

Malvina Longfellow, the lead actress, came to Britain in January 1916 to perform in an entertainment programme staged at the Century Theatre, London, for the British-American War Relief.  That same year, she married a British officer who had served in the Dardanelles and made England her home.  Malvina appeared in films from 1917, beginning with a role in The Will of the People. Her many film appearances included key parts in Adam Bede (1918); as Emma, Lady Hamilton in Maurice Elvey’sThe Romance of Lady Hamilton (1919) and in Kenelm Foss’s Lady Hamilton (1919); with Gerald du Maurier and Edmund Gwenn in the controversial Unmarried (1920); Calvary (1920); Moth and Rust (1921); Phroso (1922), The Wandering Jew (1923); The Indian Love Lyrics (1923), and The Celestial City (1929).

A special presentation of The Last King of Wales took place on the final day of the first Welsh Classics Film Festival on 28th October 2007 at the National Screen and Sound Archive’s public cinema, the Drwm .  Only single frames were shown as it had yet to be transferred to another format and officially preserved.  The film is available for viewing by booking through the National Library of Wales.

The film was also screened the following year, in October 2008, at the Pordenone 2008 silent film festival held near Venice.

STILL 14: STILL FROM THE LONG LOST FILM “THE LAST KING OF WALES”(1922)

STILL 14: STILL FROM THE LONG LOST FILM “THE LAST KING OF WALES”(1922)

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March 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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Reginald Fox

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Born 1881 (London) died 03/05/1943

Filmography (BFI National Film Archive)

Father in The COMPULSORY HUSBAND (1930)

Burton Gregg in LITTLE MISS LONDON (1929)

Capt. Mainwaring in The AMERICAN PRISONER (1929)

Alec Cameron in TROUBLESOME WIVES (1928)

Cast member in Robinson Crusoe (1927)

Mark Fernandez, a tin miner in PALAVER: A ROMANCE OF NORTHERN NIGERIA (1926)

Gordon Bennett in LIVINGSTONE (1925)

Pat Dwyer in NETS OF DESTINY (1924)

Captain Dick Shannon in The DIAMOND MAN (1924)

William Yule in OLD MAN IN THE CORNER: The KENSINGTON MYSTERY (1924)

Tom Redworth in DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS (1922)

Daniel Deronda in DANIEL DERONDA (1921)

Rainham in GRAND GUIGNOL: The NURSE (1921)

Cast Member in The FLAME (1920)

Cast Member in The IRON STAIR (1920)

Terence O’Connor in FATHER O’FLYNN (1919)

Gordon Bray in The MAN WHO BOUGHT LONDON (1916)

Films with Charles Ashton

The Last King of Wales (1922)

The Last Crusade (1922)

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April 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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Gordon Hopkirk

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Born 1883/1884

Gordon Hopkirk’s first silent film was Earnest MalTravers in 1920.  In 1922, he made 11 films in a single year, which included The Last Crusade by George Ridgwell with Charles Ashton, Cynthia Murtagh and Reginald Fox in the cast.  He went on to make several more silent films in the 1920s.

Gordon moved to Thailand in 1956 and became a Buddhist. Family history at http://www.hopkirk.org/hopkirk/Page12233111.html

Films with Charles Ashton

The Last Crusade (1922)

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April 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm

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Kate Gurney

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A stage actress in the late 1800s, Kate Gurney appeared in a number of silent films from 1919 until 1928.  She also worked as co- Scriptwriter with Frances E. Grant on the 1921film, The Sword of Fate [co-sc]. Source: Women Silent Filmmakers, Luke McKernan http://www.lukemckernan.com/britishsilentwomen_v2.pdf

In 1922, she appeared in The Flight of the King by George Ridgwell for British Colonial Kinematograph company, which had also made The Last King of Wales and The Last Crusade in the same year.

Films with Charles Ashton

Sam’s Boy (1922)

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April 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm

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George Ridgwell

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(1867-1935)

Director (51), Scriptwriter (11), Production (3), Cast (2)

George Ridgwell started his film career as an actor in 1914 and went on to direct and write for films from 1914 until 1929.  He directed these two short history education films: The Last Crusade and The Last King of Wales (1922).  The latter is held by the National Library of Wales: National Screen and Sound Archive and available on DVD for viewing – bookings to be made through the Library.  George was a prolific film maker and made a total of 23 films plus these two films in just one year – 1922, and then 16 more films in 1923.  His last film was made in 1929, Lily of Killarney, and then he returned to acting in 1933 starring in two films, Channel Crossing and The Crime at Blossoms with Moore Marriott.  In 1921, he directed a mystery film starring Milton Rosmer: the Amazing Partnership.  In 1924, he filmed The Eleventh Hour, some of the scenes were shot on location at Point Lobos State Park California, and starred Charles Jones, Shirley Mason for Stoll Productions.

Nathalie Morris, archivist with the East Anglian Film Archive, wrote her thesis on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes films, a collection of 15 short films based on Conan Doyle’s detective stories and made by Stoll Film Co 1921-23. Starring Eillie Norwood as Sherlock. Maurice Elvey directed the first series, George Ridgwell directed second series of Sherlock Holmes films – taken from Nathalie Morris’ An Eminent British Series: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Stoll Film Company 1921–23 (Journal of British Cinema, 2007, Volume 4, Page 18-36 DOI 10.3366/JBCTV.2007.4.1.18, ISSN 1743-4521, Available Online May 2007.  http://www.eupjournals.com/doi/abs/10.3366/JBCTV.2007.4.1.18 Accessed 1 December 2009

Filmography – Complete Index to World Film http://www.citwf.com/person357135.htm Accessed 1 December 2009

Films with Charles Ashton

Producer of The Last Crusade and The Last King of Wales (1922)

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April 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

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Malvina Longfellow

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(1889 –  1962) Malvina Longfellow as a Spanish Beauty by Bassano
vintage print, February 1918, 8 in. x 6 in. (202 mm x 152 mm). Given by John Culme, 1996. Image held at the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person.php?LinkID=mp54471

Malvian Longfellow was a stage actress appearing in productions in Maryland and Broadway in 1909/1910 before joining an entertainment programme at the Century Theatre for British American War Relief.  By 1916, she was married to a British officer who had served in the Dardanelles.  In 1917, she appeared in her first screen role in The Will of the People. Her many film appearances included: Adam Bede (1918), The Romance of Lady Hamilton (1919), Calvary (1920), Moth and Rust (1921), Phroso (1922), The Last King of Wales (1922), The Last Crusades (1922), The Wandering Jew (1923), The Indian Love Lyrics (1923), and The Celestial City (1929).

Information taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvina_Longfellow

Films with Charles Ashton

Queen Eleanor in The Last King of Wales (1922)

Report in: WalesOnline, 17 Oct 2009 http://www.walesonline.co.uk/expats/nostalgia/2007/10/17/a-feast-of-welsh-cinema-history-91466-19964789/ Accessed 1 December 2009

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April 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

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Cynthia Murtagh

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In addition to the six films Cynthia Murtagh appeared with Charles Ashton, she played leading roles in The Skipper’s Wooing (1922) and The Convert (1923) – both comedies by Manning Haynes and written by Lydia Hayward and W.W.Jacobs; Gems of Literature:Taming of the Shrew (1923) (directed by Edwin J Collins and adapted by Eliot Stannard); Carry On! (1927); The Ware Case (1928) also directed by Manning Haynes and written by George Pleydell (play) and Lydia Hayward.  In 1929 she is credited as Cynthia Murtagh Haynes in The Last Post made by Britannia Films (Internet Movie Database).  It seems she married Manning Haynes, director of many of her silent films, because in 1929 her name changed to Cynthia Murtagh Haynes.  She retired from films after 1929.

STILL 11: BETTY FOSTER (CYNTHIA MURTAGH) AND ROBERT LETTS (CHARLES ASTON) IN HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

Cynthia can be seen above in Head of the Family (1922) with Charles Ashton.  She also appears in the online version of Taming of the Shrew (1923) in the role of Bianca – registered ScreenOnline users only can view the film (libraries, colleges, universities) http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1054406/credits.html

According to the BFI the film Last Post (1929) is lost, but there are a few stills held in their collection.  It was a patriotic war picture set in World War I from the only woman feature film director, Dinah Shurey, working in Britain at the end of the 1920s. http://www.bfi.org.uk/nationalarchive/news/mostwanted/last-post.html

Films with Charles Ashton

Betty Foster in Head of the Family (1922)

Flora Pottle in A Will and A Way (1922)

Cast member in The Last Crusade (1922)

Eleanor de Montfort in The Last King of Wales (1922)

Celia Rose in Lawyer Quince (1924)

The girl in Jail Birds (1923)

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March 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

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Filmography of Charles Ashton (1920-1929)

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  1. Pillars of Society (1920)         Dick Alward
  2. Monty Works the Wires (1921)           The Brother-in-Law
  3. Head of the family (1922)
  4. The Last King of Wales (1922)
  5. The Last Crusade (1922)
  6. Sam’s Boy (1922)       Harry Green
  7. A Will and a Way (1922)         George Smith
  8. The Monkey’s Paw (1923)     Herbert White
  9. The Constable’s Move (1923)            PC Evans
  10. Lawyer Quince (1924)            Ned Quince
  11. Jail Birds (1924)          The Man
  12. Claude Duval (1924)   Tom Crisp
  13. Reveille (1924)            Sam
  14. We Women (1925)     Bart Simmons
  15. The Woman Juror (1926)       Casey
  16. Cash on Delivery (1926)         PC Jack
  17. Spiritualism Exposed (1926)   Mr Cathcart
  18. Smashing Through (1928)      Westlake
  19. Maria Marten (1928)   Sam Giles
  20. Sweeney Todd (1928)            Mark Ingestre
  21. Kitty (1929)     Cast member
  22. The American Prisoner (1929)           Carberry

Of the twenty-two films starring Charles Ashton, several have survived and most are held in the British Film Institute’s National Film Archive.

Despite the highly flammable nitrate stock of which these films were made, six films are viewable in 35 mm format or transferred to VHS or DVD-R formats and can be viewed for a small fee at the BFI in Stephen Street, London.   These films are: Kitty (1929), We Women (1925 ), The Monkey’s Paw (1923), A Will and A Way (1922), Head of the Family (1922) and Sam’s Boy (1922). The American Prisoner (1929) is held in its original nitrate stock and is, therefore, not available for viewing by the public.

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February 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

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