The Judgment Of Solomon (1909)
|J. Stuart Blackton
(Alternative) Solomon's Judgment
A young mother and her little child are sleeping peacefully as another woman enters the apartment, carrying her child which is dead. After satisfying herself that the woman is sleeping soundly the visitor substitutes her child for the one sleeping on the bed, then departs. The sleeping woman finally awakes, observes that the child beside her is unnaturally quiet, investigates, finds that it is not her child and also that it is dead. The mother, after the first spell of grief, cries out for help and among those who respond is the woman with the stolen child. The real mother accuses the other of stealing her living child and substituting her own which was dead. This, the woman denies, exclaiming "thou liest, it's my son that lives." To this the real mother replies, "Then let’s go to the wise King Solomon and let him decide." This seems to find favor with all assembled, including the accused woman, and they proceed at once to the palace of the King. The soldiers on guard stop the women and demand to know their errand, which upon being found satisfactory, all are admitted. The women salute the King and the two directly interested argue for the possession of the child. Solomon listens, becomes impatient at last and, turning to his executioner, exclaims, "Take your sword and cut the living child in two halves and give one-half to each of these women." The false mother appears to be satisfied, while the other kneels at the feet of the executioner, who holds the infant aloft ready to strike, saying: "I beg of you, my lord, slay him not, but let her have the child, only don’t kill." The King decides that only a true mother would shield her child at such a cost and points to her, saying: "Hold, this woman is the true mother. Don’t kill."
Source: The Film Index - 1909
Released in a split reel with "Jephthah's Daughter; A Biblical Tragedy"
When a company essays to reproduce a scene from Biblical history which has become familiar through long continued description it requires actors with the highest possible conception of the actor's art and a comprehension of the impressions which have been made upon the minds of the people by these dramatic stories. In reproducing this reputed act of Solomon the Vitagraph Company undertook a very difficult task which was executed satisfactorily. It is the old familiar story of the judgment between the two claimants of the live child. The entire story is tense with dramatic interest, and, in the main, the actors have maintained this interest throughout the piece. The principal character, the real mother of the live child, is acted with fidelity and a comprehension of what a mother would do under such circumstances. Every motion, every facial expression is in accord with the character and deserves the highest praise. The other characters are good, but inasmuch as they are accessories, even Solomon himself being included in this description, they do not require separate criticism. To say that they perform their parts with sufficient fidelity to the story to make it clear expresses their part in the drama. The staging, which includes the costuming and the arrangement of palaces and accessories, is apparently in accord with the accepted understanding of what was used at that time. The entire picture is toned brown, which, in places, degenerates into plain gloom. This does not, however, mar the picture. On the contrary it supplies an element of mystery which adds to its attractiveness and increases the artistic effect. Brown lends itself admirably to this picture, but it would scarcely be advisable in others where a stronger light is required. The lighting is reasonably soft and even and shows evidence of careful study to secure the most artistic and pleasing effects. It is a pity that the picture cannot run longer. One day is inadequate for such an excellent piece of work.
Source: Moving Picture world - 1909
Instead of being overly ambitious and making a short movie about all of Solomon's deeds, Vitagraph made a wise choice in focusing on one event - the judgment between the two women and the surviving child. It matches perfectly into the timeframe. The fragments that survive seem to contain most of the movie although jump cut, so that not the whole of the scenes are preserved, it still gives us the general idea of the quality - and it seems excellent. These kinds of movies from old are the real gems!