Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

The Head of the Family (1922)

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Production Company: Artistic FilmsDirector: HAYNES, Manning. Producer: REDMAN, George. Script: HAYWARD, Lydia. Author of the Original Work: JACOBS, W.W.

Duration: 90 min. Format: 35mm Film. Length: 5500 Feet. Viewing copy on VHS: Contact BFI National Film Archive’s Research Viewing Service.

Cast: Johnny Butt (Mr Green); Daisy England (Mrs Green); Charles Ashton (Robert Letts); Cynthia Murtagh (Betty Foster); A. Carlow Grand (The Captain); Moore Marriott (Mate)

Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide:

Johnny Butt plays a bullying oaf who makes life miserable for his new wife, Mrs Green (Daisy England). He threatens to sell some of long-lost son’s furniture.  To get even, the bride hires a rowdy sailor, Robert Letts (Charles Ashton) to pose as her son. Letts stands up for Mrs Green and her daughter, Betty Foster (Cynthia Murtagh) and stops the sale of the furniture.  Finally meeting his match, the husband mends his ways in a hurry, while the sailor finds romance with Betty. The supporting cast of The Head of the Family includes Moore Marriott, who achieved worldwide fame in the 1930s as toothless old Harbottle in the Will Hay comedies.

The film was screened at the 15th British Silent Film Festival held in Cambridge on 20th April 2012.  It was the third collaboration between Lydia Hayward and H. Manning Haynes and based on a story adapted from one of W.W. Jacobs’ charming coastal novels.  According to the Festival’s film notes for The Head of the Family, this pleasing film exploits the “subtlety of Jacobs’ dialogue, the soft humour and warmth of phrase, and his ability to develop character from just a few inquisitive lines.  The ambition and ability of Lydia Hayward, then, in adapting Jacobs’ work into silent cinema should not be undervalued.” Filming took place in Whitstable, Kent.

STILL 8: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

STILL 8: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

Little is known about Cynthia Murtagh who appeared in many of Charles’ early films between 1922 and 1924.  She has similar features to the famous American silent film star, Mary Pickford, when she was young.  However, Cynthia’s film career did not last as long as Pickford’s, since her last film was made in 1929: The Last Post, in which she is credited as Cynthia Murtagh Haynes.  It is possible she found romance with the director, Manning Haynes, and married him.

STILL 9: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

STILL 9: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

Johnny Butt appeared in 89 films, those that he appeared with Charles include:, A Will and A Way (1922), Constable’s Move (1922), Head of the family (1922), The Monkey’s Paw (1923), and Lawyer Quince (1924).  The earliest film Johnny Butt appeared in, Hoaxing the Professor, in which he was credited, was released in 1906.  He made a couple of talking pictures, however, his last film (A sister to assist ‘er) was made the year he died in 1930.

STILL 10: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

STILL 10: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922)

Moore Marriott, who played the Mate, is best known for playing irascible, old codgers while still in his early 40s. He is best-remembered for his work as doddering, toothless Jeremiah Harbottle in Will Hay comedies such as Oh, Mr. Porter (1938) and Ask a Policeman (1939). He starred in silent films well before the start of the First World War with his screen debut in 1908 in Dick Turpin. His last screen role was as Uncle Pensternon in The History of Mr Polly (1949). In his long film career he had appeared in over 300 British films.  His stage background ensured that he made the successful transition to sound films from 1930s.  Moore Marriott died in December 1949 aged sixty-four.

STILL 12: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922) WITH MOORE MARRIOTT (THE MATE) AND CHARLES ASHTON

STILL 12: HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1922) WITH MOORE MARRIOTT (THE MATE) AND CHARLES ASHTON

Written by anneramsden

March 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

2 Responses

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  1. hi, I believe this film has a possibly uncredited appearance by my Great-Grandfather George ‘grogie’ Blackman, as the character of ‘Mark Sanders’. Do you know any more about this? I’d love to obtain a copy of the film, or more stills, if you have them.
    many thanks
    Kate

    Kate Charles

    July 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

    • Dear Kate
      The British Film Institute has a VHS copy of the original film, which you can view on their premises by contacting the Research Viewing Service. There is a small charge of about £6 per film. You could ask if they will do a copy for you but I don’t know what the answer will be. I don’t have any more stills for Head of the Family other than the ones you see on the site. Again, the BFI has a stills collection which may hold more stills of the film. Nigel Arthur, Curator, was my contact, but best to use the enquiry email service on the BFI website to ask if there are stills available. – http://www.bfi.org.uk/help/contact/form/52
      As for the cast list, this came from the BFI and there was no mention of your great grandfather. Good luck with your research.
      Regards

      Anne

      anneramsden

      July 31, 2011 at 8:14 pm


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