The Toll of the Sea (1922, Color, Silent):
Chinese maiden Lotus Flower (Anna May Wong) rescues shipwrecked Allen Carver when he washes ashore more dead than alive. Although reminded of the old proverb that the sea extracts twice the pain as whatever amount of joy it provides, she falls in love with the handsome American and eventually marries him. Allen, longing for his own kind, eventually abandons Lotus Flower and returns to the States - unaware that she is pregnant with his child. This loose adaptation of Puccini's classic opera, Madame Butterfly
, was the first Technicolor feature film shot in Hollywood. The soft pastel hues perfectly complement Frances Marion's dreamily poetic scenario. The seascapes, settings and costumes take full advantage of Technicolor's then-limited palette of colors, and future star Anna May Wong - only 17 when Toll of the Sea
was made - is positively radiant in her first leading role.
Shifting Sands (1918, B&W, Silent):Struggling artist Marcia Grey (Gloria Swanson) is falsely accused of theft by lecherous Henry Holt and sent to prison. Upon being released Marcia briefly considers suicide, but her unhappy life is transformed after meeting and falling in love with wealthy philanthropist John Stanford, whom she eventually marries. Years later, the villainous Holt - having assumed another identity - attempts to blackmail her into furthering one of his criminal schemes. Originally released in 1918 as a wartime melodrama in which the hero was a Secret Service agent and the villain a German spy, Shifting Sands was reissued several years later - after Gloria Swanson's ascendancy to super-stardom - reedited and retitled to remove the World War I angle. It is the reissue version that is presented on this disc. Under Albert Parker's expert direction, Swanson gives a subtle, restrained performance: she was clearly ready for grooming by master filmmaker Cecil B. De Mille, who made her a top box-office attraction the following year in Don't Change Your Husband and Male and Female.