Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

A Will and a Way (1922)

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Production Company: Artistic FilmsDirector: Manning Haynes.  Script: Lydia Hayward. Photography: Frank Grainger

Duration: 39 min.  Format: 35 mm.  Viewing copy at the BFI National Film Archive’s Research Viewing Service.

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Ernest Hendrie (Foxy Green); Johnny Butt (Joe Chambers) ; Charles Ashton (George Smith); Cynthia Murtagh (Flora Pottle); Pollie Emery (Widow Pottle); Walter Winchlow (the Lawyer); Ada Palmer (Eliza Collins); John Braithwaite (“Henery” Walker); Agnes Brantford (Mrs Walker); Peggy Beans (Jenny Pottle); Maisie Beans (Lertie Pottle); Helen Edwins (Cast Member)

Plot Synopsis from BFI’s National Film Archive Catalogue

The story of an elderly bachelor’s attempts to avoid the conditions of his uncle’s will that he should marry the first woman who proposes to him. Rl.1. The story is told in flashback by a man sitting outside the pub in Claybury Village. Foxy Green was the meanest man in Claybury and determined not to marry and share his money and his uncle’s estate with any woman. His uncle died and stipulated in his will that Foxy could only have his money if he married the first woman to propose to him. The village gossips spread this news among the widows and spinsters, while Foxy barricades himself in his house against the invasion of eligible ladies (990ft).

Rl.2. George Smith, Foxy’s cowman, helps Foxy to repel the attempts of the women to see Foxy and propose to him. George is in love with the Widow Pottle’s daughter, Flora, and daydreams of being married to her. In addition to the wiles of the women, Foxy has to withstand the practical jokes of the men of the village (1790ft).

Rl.3. The strain on his mind affects Foxy and he dreams that he is pursued by crowds of women, he, wearing his nightshirt and unable to run fast enough to escape. In desperation, he sends George to Flora to ask her to marry Foxy. Flora refuses in spite of her mother’s advice (2672ft).

Rl.4. George continues to do Foxy’s courting for him and Flora continues to refuse these second-hand advances. Eventually Flora gives way to her mother and says she will marry Foxy. Foxy arranges a party for the engagement, but when the moment comes, Flora remains true to George and her widowed mother seizes the opportunity to propose to Foxy and he has no choice but to reluctantly become her second husband (3558ft). NOTE. Footage in Kinematograph year book 1924 p.110 is 4100ft.

The film was screened at the 15th British Silent Film Festival held in Cambridge on 19th April 2012 along with another charming Haynes films, Boatswain’s Mate (1924).

Five of H. Manning Haynes first six films were based on the stories of W.W. Jacobs, all of which were adapted for the screen by Lydia Hayward.  A Will and A Way was taken from the Claybury stories published in Light Freights (1901).  Released in March 1922, the film received a warm review from the Kinematograh Weekly (2 March 1922, p. 49).  “The interest never flags; actors, bub-titles, photography and story all blend together into a harmonious whole and make an outstanding success.” The review goes on to say “Its simplicity is one of its greatest assets and Manning Haynes is to be congratulated on the way he has interpreted Jacobs to terms of the screen while keeping perfectly in tune with the author’s writings.”  “Frank Granger has made a success [of the photography] and it is to be heartily congratulated, especially as the entire picture was taken in the winter, when, according to our wiseacres, good photography is impossible in this country.”

Set in the fictional village of Claybury, filming actually took place in Loughton, near Epping Forest, Essex, where Charles Ashton lived.

STILL 20: A WILL AND A WAY (1922) WITH THE TWO SWEETHEARTS: FLORA POTTLE (CYNTHIA MURTAGH) AND GEORGE SMITH (CHARLES ASHTON)?STILL 20: A WILL AND A WAY (1922) WITH THE TWO SWEETHEARTS: FLORA POTTLE (CYNTHIA MURTAGH) AND GEORGE SMITH (CHARLES ASHTON)

STILL 20: A WILL AND A WAY (1922) WITH THE TWO SWEETHEARTS: FLORA POTTLE (CYNTHIA MURTAGH) AND GEORGE SMITH (CHARLES ASHTON)

Ernest Hendrie (Foxy Green) was well known on the stage and this was his first and last film.

The still below is the scene where George (Charles Ashton) has to persuade Flora Pottle (Cynthia Murtagh) to propose to his boss, Foxy Green.  Widow Pottle (Polly Emery) and her two children (Peggie and Maisie Beans) are present.

STILL21: A WILL AND A WAY (1922)

STILL 22: A WILL AND A WAY (1922)

STILL 22: A WILL AND A WAY (1922)

Above is the scene where Flora Pottle rejects Foxy Green’s marriage proposal to be with George, and her mother, Widow Pottle, proposes to Foxy Green.

Written by anneramsden

March 9, 2010 at 3:58 pm

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