Movie 9min

The Prodigal Son (1909)

Original title: L'enfant prodigue

+ 4 images
Director Georges Berr
Country France
Language French
(Original) L'enfant prodigue
(Alternative) Le Fils Prodigue
(Film d'Art) Pathé Frères
(France, 1909) Pathé Frères
(USA, 1909) Pathé Frères
(US Import) Pathé Frères
Based on the Bible Biblical Drama Black and White Drama Father-Son Relationship Forgiveness Grace Parable Parable of the Prodigal Son Pig Reconciliation Redemption Repentance Short Silent Film Vision

A father has two sons, the older one serious and hard-working, the younger one spendthrift and pleasure-seeking. The latter rejects his father's authority and leaves home. It is not long before he wastes all his fortune and falls into poverty. He repents and decides to return home. Despite his older son's resentment, the father welcomes back the lost sheep.

Source: IMDb

A beautifully colored production illustrating the scriptural story which is familiar to all students and readers of the Bible. Mr. Lavedan, who prepared the drama of the "Duke of Guise," which was called by many competent critics one of the best motion picture dramas ever offered to the public, prepared this one also. And he has done his work well. It follows the original very closely, with the exception that it shows the brothers in a quarrel at the opening, which seems to be the determining influence in the boy's decision to go away. The scenes are reproduced with fidelity to the original story, the description being followed closely in most instances, only here and there a deviation being necessary to increase the dramatic effect. It is needless to go over the story itself. It is assumed that everyone who sees the picture knows what that story i«, and in the telling of it through the medium of the silent drama the Pathes have rendered a distinct service to teachers of Bible truth and lovers of the beautiful in literature and art. The scenes are faithful reproductions of the Biblical scenes and undoubtedly give a true impression of the home life and surroundings of a gentleman of wealth at that time. The young man's experiences follow closely the narrative, hence it is not difficult to understand them. The effect is wonderfully realistic and the story is emphasized and brought home to those who see it in a way hitherto impossible. Sunday schools would do well to use this film in their instruction. It would impart a sense of reality to it which could not be secured in any other manner.

Source: The Moving Picture World, November 20, 1909

The prodigal son, the character of one of the most touching parables of the Gospel, after having lived in debauchery and dissipated all his fortune, returns to the fold where his father, moved with compassion in the face of his misery and forgetting his past grievances, welcomes with open arms the found son.

5 Scenes
The father divides his property between his two sons.
(Le père partage ses biens entre ses deux fils.)
The young man spends his wealth on parties. Ballet.
(Le jeune homme dépense son bien en fêtes. Ballet.)
Driven by misery, he disputes his food with the swine; he sees in a dream his unfortunate parents watching for his return.
(Poussé par la misère, il dispute sa nourriture aux pourceaux ; il aperçoit en rêve ses malheureux parents guettant son retour.)
The return of the prodigal son. The father, happy to find his child, orders festivities in his honor.
(Le retour de l’enfant prodigue. Le père, heureux de retrouver son enfant commande des réjouissances en son honneur.)
The veal feast. Reconciliation of the two brothers.
(Le festin du veau. Réconciliation des deux frères.)
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Jean Dehelly - The Prodigal Son
René Alexandre - The Older Son
Henry Sylvain - The Father
Henri Lavedan - Writer
Georges Berr - Director
Jusseaume et Floury - Production Design (Set Decoration)
Best of the older versions

From the versions of "The Prodigal Son" before 1910, there are quite a few, although not many survive, this seems to be one of the best ones. It tells the story from the bible pretty close and includes the whole story as imagined. The acting is good and because this story is famous it is easy to see what the actors try to tell us. Of course, one can think of many ways this story could be even better, but within the framework of cinema in 1909 this seems pretty well done. Pathe Freres did great work in showing some of the biblical stories on the screen.