Henry K. Miller
Tuesday 23 May
Trade Show of The Wonderful Story, the the first-made film from the Graham Cutts–Herbert Wilcox duo, at the Alhambra.
Based on a story by I. A. R. Wylie, The Wonderful Story was shot quicky and on a low budget at Teddington in late 1921. It had a cast of four including Lillian Hall-Davis, later to appear in Hitchcock’s The Ring and The Farmer’s Wife.
The film won critical plaudits: Wilcox recalls in his autobiography that he was able to launch his next projects before it flopped at the box office. The most telling response in relation to the British film industry came from Motion Picture Studio, whose editorial column compared the low-budget Cutts and Wilcox approach, credited with ‘the best British film this year’, with that of the Stoll Film Company.
Stoll, which had gone into film production a few years earlier, was the closest Britain had to a Hollywood combine, turning out films by the week from its studio in Cricklewood. ‘Stoll is to England much what Famous-Lasky is to America’, C. A. Lejeune had written in March. It is highly likely that Alma Reville had worked for the company before joining Poole Street, as assistant to Maurice Elvey, who the studio’s main director at its inception. But for Motion Picture Studio, Stoll’s output was ‘a credit neither to Cricklewood nor British exhibitors’ – a remarkably negative comment coming from within the trade.
By the end of the year Stoll was attempting to adopt the elusive model of ‘fewer and bigger’, but never achieved success on this basis either. Rachael Low, the principal historian of British cinema, depicts Cutts and Wilcox as harbingers of a new generation, aiming for international success in a way that had eluded Stoll; as the Motion Picture Studio editorial shows, however, this is a role into which they were cast at the time.