Movie 10min

The Scarlet Letter (1908)

Not rated.

Director Sidney Olcott
Country United States
Language English
Adultery Based on Novel Black and White Children Colonialism Drama Forbidden Love Historical Drama Hypocrisy Immigration Morality Pilgrim Priest Puritanism Remorse Short Silent Film

“The Scarlet Letter” is a story of early Puritan days in New England. Hester, a beautiful young Englishwoman, is sent to America by her husband, with a promise that he will follow on the next ship. But he fails to keep his promise and Hester does not hear from him in years. In the meantime she is befriended by a young Puritan minister. Friendship ripens into love and Hester, thinking her husband dead, loves the handsome young clergyman with her whole heart. But when the baby is born the minister, fearing the wrath of the Pilgrim Fathers, denied it and Hester is condemned to wear the Scarlet Letter and to stand in the Pillory. And it is only after several years of Hester’s shame and ignominy that the little child finally reaches the father’s heart. Then comes the great scene. The minister on a fete day ascends the pillory, places himself where Hester had been placed, and publicly proclaims his sin.

Source: Views and Film Index, March 14, 1908

9 Scenes
From "The Moving Picture World", March 28, 1908
Hester Leaves England.
A little strip of wooded snore is shown, white sand, water and back of all the trees. It is a bright, sunshiny day. Two small boats lay waiting. Into these clamber men and women and children. They are dressed in the quaint costumes of the Puritan days and shabbily, bearing many bundles. They are aboard to go far and settle a new country and there are many fond and tearful farewells. When the boats are about filled, a man comes solemnly down the shore, his hands behind his back and his gray head bowed. He is tall and powerful of build but past forty. There is no sympathy or sentiment in his face, nothing save studious self-composure and calm. A man a woman could not love for long. He stops at the shore line and turns back when a young girl greets him. It is the maid Hester. She is all bundled for a long journey and carries many packages. It is obvious she is going to America, to a new land. Her husband sends her on ahead. He will follow. They embrace and the older man pats the child-wife on the head. Makes her swear, standing on the sunlit shore, fidelity. He points out across the waters. She must go. Then he signifies that he will join her as soon as it is possible. Hester climbs in the boat. The husband stands with chin in band watching, his broad shoulders squared unsympathetically against the blue sky while around him, weeping mothers, brothers and fathers watch the last waving kerchiefs from the small boats.
In America — The Minister.
The ship has reached America. The strangers in a strange land clamber ashore. The last to come off the boat is slender, delicate Hester, with her many bundles. The others pass on. She rests wearily upon a boulder, allowing her bundles to drop at her side on the stones. A young man walks past, reading a book. He is handsome, but a ministerial personage wearing the garb of his kind; the beloved minister of the colony. He sees the forlorn little figure, lays aside his book and approaches. Offers to carry her bundles for her, a part of them. She blushingly consents.
Two Tears Later — No News From Her Husband.
Here we have pines, rocks, dells and the wilderness of untrammeled nature. Through the maze of the trees walk the young minister and Hester. The girl is changed for the better. Her garb is in exact conformance with the Puritan attire. She is beautiful, winsome, unaffected. The young minister stops occasionally to pick flowers. They stop at a hammock, grass covered. In the dell, and the minister avows his love for her. The girl shakes her head sadly and looks as in a dream into the distant green of the trees. No word has come of her husband. Yet she loves the minister. Her refusal disappoints the minister. He leaves and Hester, left alone, sobs in her gown and kissing the garland he made for her.
The Minister's Wooing.
Now the scene shown is the rear garden of a quaint little stone cabin in the wilderness. An old woman sits at a spinning wheel in the sunshine. Hester reclines near her with a basket of sewing. She shows her handiwork to the old woman, who compliments it highly. She is known to be the most expert with the needle of them all. The old woman goes in the house. The young minister appears. He comes back to woo again. Hester drops her sewing as he passionately declares his affection for her. She gives in. They kiss and be embraces her. Side by side they wander from the cottage, his arm about her waist, her head upon his shoulder.
Hester's Baby — A Year Later.
This time Hester, with gray hood over bead, and bearing an infant closely wrapped in her arms, hurries in affright from the open cabin door. She is followed by the old woman in shrewish fashion, strikes her with a stick and drives her from the hut. The real characteristics of the woman are clearly defined, a vixen. She is still striking the girl when neighbors pass and see. Among them is the minister. His head is bowed but he does nothing more than to nod at the girl. She shrinks from him. The people fall aside as he enters the yard and warns the vixen to stop the lash. Hester flees with her babe in arms. The old crone shakes hand at minister and enters her hat.
The stone steps of the Governor's house are pictured. Many people throng about the steps leading down from the big oak door. At this juncture let me quote a word from the legitimate story: "A throng of bearded men, in sad colored garments, and gray steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered and studded with iron spikes. The door of the jail being flung open from within, there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the town beadle, with a sword by his side, and his staff of office in his band. Stretching forth the official staff in his left hand, he laid his right upon the shoulder of a young woman, whom he thus drew forward, until, on the threshold of the prison door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity. A great roar goes up from the assembled Puritans. They hiss and scoff and foremost, in the lead, is the Old Crone with witch proclivities. Hester carries her babe on her arm. On her dress is embroidered an immense letter A. Hester's whole bearing is of proud disdain. She takes note of none of the imprecations and insults hurled at her by the crowd. A tragic little procession starts. First goes the stern beadle, clearing the way through the crowd of leering people, then Hester and her babe, with the crowd closing in as they go on.
The Pillory.
(As description of the setting for next scene, I again quote from the book, for its language is far more comprehensive than I could hope to make mine): "Came to a sort of scaffold at the western extremity of the Market Place. It stood nearly beneath the eaves of Boston's earliest church. It was, in short, the platform of the Pillory, and above it rose the framework of that instrument of discipline, so fashioned as to confine the human head, in its tight grasp. She ascended a flight of wooden steps and was thus displayed to the surrounding multitude, at about the height of a man's shoulders above the street." Hester, with her babe, stands before all on the platform. The Scarlet Letter gleams for all to see. One of the crop turns to the young minister and bids him pray for the erring one, the gruesome turn of fate. He tries to avoid it but they insist. Speaking for her and all to bear, he bids her tell the name of the man who wronged her; points into the crowd, at himself, everywhere, then stands wiping his brow in the agony of suspense. The girl deliberates, shakes her head. She will not; no, no. She herself will shoulder the wrong. She loves the young minister too much to tell the crowd it is he who speaks to them.
The Minister's Child.
A cottage in the forest. Hester appears, leading her little daughter, grown now to be a girl of three or four years. Woman still wears the Scarlet Letter. Hester seats herself on a bench in front of a hut. Child clambers near, points to the red A, questioning what it means. Mother strokes curly head and bursts into tears. Child comforts her. Little child gets her mother's sewing. Hester enters house. Child playing alone; little girl. Young minister passes, spies the cottage, draws nearer. Little child crawls in his lap and minister breaks down. Weeps, Hester appears unseen at door of hut; sees him weeping. No, it is not for her to claim him. She softly, sadly shuts the door. While they thus wait, these two, the minister and the child, around a corner appear the witch and the husband. Witch points to the very obvious scene. Man nods his head and they go their way.
Hester's Vindication.
The same view as before of the scaffold and platform in the marketplace, only now alive with a holiday fete. People merry. Hester, her child and the minister come upon the scene. Minister impressed by the sight of the spot where Hester, years before, faced the insults of the crowd. He rushes weakly, blindly up the stairs to the platform, with all eyes upon him. A hush comes over the multitude. Hester runs after him to drag him back, the child at her side, sinks to his knees with arms around them. The minister, determined, shouts out his own guilt to all, and, snatching at his breast, tears aside the garment, showing a livid A burnt upon the flesh. Points to his and to the one she bears. Her husband, dashing upstairs, tries to separate them, but the young minister drops dead upon the platform. Hester falls over his body in agony of grief, with child held back by the awed father.
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Ruth Roland -
Jack Conway -
Gene Gauntier - Hester Prynne
R. Mansfield -
Nathaniel Hawthorne - Author (Novel)
Gene Gauntier - Writer (Other)
Sidney Olcott - Director