Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

Reveille (1924)

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Production Company: Welsh, Pearson and Company.  Director: George PearsonProducer’s Assistant: Robert Cullen.  Script: George Pearson.  Camera Work: Percival Strong.  Camera Assistant: Bernard Knowles.  Effects: Charles Penley.  Art Director: Leslie Dawson, Harry Jonas.

Release date: June 1924

Genre: Drama | War

Cast:  Betty Balfour (Mick (a Flapper)); Frank Stanmore (Whelks (Everybody’s Chum)); Sydney Fairbrother (Amelia (a big-hearted spinster)); Stewart Rome (Nutty (Fred’s soldier pal)); Guy Phillips (Fred (Mick’s soldier brother); Charles Ashton (Sam (a simple soldier); Donald Stuart (Ted (his soldier brother))

Ralph Forbes (The Kid (the youngest brother)); Henrietta Watson (Mother (of the three soldier sons)); Buena Bent (Sophia (her younger spinster sister)); Simeon Stuart (The Colonel (a soldier & a gentleman)); Walter Tennyson (The Captain (the same)); Gertrude Sterroll (The Colonel’s Mother (a lady)); Gladys Harvey (The Colonel’s Wife); Prudence Ponsonby (The Colonel’s Daughter); Irene Tomlinson (The Colonel’s Youngest Daughter);

Plot Synopsis from BFI’s National Film Archive Catalogue:

A story of the hectic, forced gaiety of the year 1918, and the disillusion which comes to many at the end of the War.

The AllMovie Guide reviewer, Hans J. Wollstein, goes on to say:

“British screen comedienne Betty Balfour took a breather from her popular Squibs comedies to star in this slice-of-life melodrama opposite matinee-idol Stewart Rome. Reveille told a rather diffuse story of how World War I had affected a group of dissimilar people. Producer-director-writer George Pearson was more proud of this film than any of his other works, describing it as depicting the “victory of courage.” Betty Balfour’s immense popularity with British moviegoers ensured Reveille‘s success at the box-office.”

Reveille, a meditation on the injustices of peacetime and ordinary people’s spirit of survival, was premiered in front of the Prince of Wales in 1924. During the showing of the Reveille film, musicians were instructed to stop playing during the two-minutes silence to mark the Armistice.

George Pearson, the director, made several pictures about Squibs, the flower girl and her adventures starring Betty Balfour. One notable features of the film (to Americans, at least) is the girl’s enjoyment of a pint now and again: keep in mind that these were the days of Prohibition, and women were not generally allowed to drink.

Despite the film being lost, a short clip was featured in “Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood” (1995) directed by Kevin Brownlow and Dan Carter, a documentary mini-series about the rise and fall of the European silent film industry (1895-1933).

The BFI’s Special Collections hold a lengthy synopsis by Pearson, which builds a picture of the film:

‘Reveille’ is a picture of heroism and of heroic bathos, of the hysteria and abandon of war, and of the failure of peace; through which runs the threads of a poignant story of the victory of courage. It is the story of ‘Nutty’, who enters Armageddon a working man, but a thinker and idealist; convinced that he is fighting on the side of rioughtousness in a crusade to end war; and who – after the war – passes bitterly into the valley of Disillusion and Hate. It is the story of ‘Whelks’, the cockney ex-soldier, late humourist of his regiment, penniless and helpless, beloved by all; whose unvarying reply to the wild gibes of ‘Nutty’ is that ‘the answer is a lemon.’ It is the story of ‘Mick’, the heroic little fairy flapper, who, when ‘Nutty’ is spouting Revolution, faces him with the furious challenge, ‘Coward! Rotten Coward! The boys won the War… You are going back on them!’ It is the story of these and of many other humble folk who have their counterparts around us, to-day, in this city – in every city – among those who fought and among those who, by the smile that hid breaking hearts, brought courage to those who fought. And the film is called ‘Reveille.’…”

There are a few publicity stills in the BFI’s Stills collection and the film appears in the BFI’s Most Wanted list.

Written by anneramsden

March 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm

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