Thursday, October 15, 2015

Advertisement for 1924 silent-movie version of Peter Pan

Last week's opening of (critically panned) Pan marked the latest in a long line of film adaptations of J.M. Barrie's 1904 stage play.

The first film treatment was Paramount Picture's 1924 silent movie Peter Pan. And, a while back, I came across a neat old advertisement for that version at the oft-mentioned antique/junk store in York New Salem. The long-surviving ephemera, the front of which is pictured above, is five inches wide and features a top flap that folds upward to reveal the full advertising copy.

The movie, which was originally released on December 29, 1924, was set for a three-day run in early January 1925 at the Grand Theatre in Norfolk, Nebraska1 (of all places).

Admission was 10 cents for children and 40 cents for adults. (The equivalent of $1.37 and $5.48 today, so, yes, movies have gotten disproportionately more expensive, compared to inflation, over the decades.)

Here's an excerpt from the advertisement describing this silent movie, which was 105 minutes long and has a 7.4 (out of 10) rating in
"At last this most charming of all classics of literature has reached the screen in a wonderful picture that will delight everybody from eight to eighty. Betty Bronson, whom Barrie himself chose for the part and declared the sweetest girl in the world, is 'Peter.' ... It's the screen event of the season. Don't miss it!"

Bronson (1906-1971) also starred in the 1925 silent version of Ben-Hur. During her career, she worked alongside Al Jolson, Jack Benny and Gene Autry, among others. Her final role was a small, uncredited part in the 1971 Evel Knievel biopic, starring George Hamilton.

Other key individuals involved in 1924's Peter Pan were director Herbert Brenon2, Ernest Torrence (Captain Hook), and pioneering Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong (Tiger Lily).

Peter Pan received a positive review from The New York Times' Mordaunt Hall when it opened. An excerpt:
"Obviously inspired by his discussions with Sir James Barrie, Mr. Brenon has fashioned a brilliant and entrancing production of this fantasy, one which is a great credit to the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and also to the whole motion picture industry. It is not a movie, but a pictorial masterpiece which we venture to say will meet the approval of the author. While he has introduced some ideas which were not possible on the stage, Mr. Brenon has not strayed from the theme of the whimsical story."
Modern reviewers also praise the movie, which is available on DVD. You can check out the IMDb reviewers here.

As for Norfolk's Grand Theatre, it's still around. It opened in in 1921, underwent several name and ownership changes, and closed as a movie theater in 2002.

But it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 2013, and is now owned by the Norfolk Community Theatre, which hopes to restore and perform in the building.

Finally, here's the back of the Peter Pan advertisement...

Related post
A trip to New York City to see "Cleopatra" at the Rivoli

1. Norfolk, Nebraska, is the birthplace of Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, who had a fabulous name and, more fabulously, is the uncredited vocalist on the classic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
2. Brenon's 125 directing credits include 1912's The Clown's Triumph, the 1926 version of The Great Gatsby, and the 1928 Lon Chaney film Laugh, Clown, Laugh.


  1. Thurl Ravenscroft was also the original voice of Tony the Tiger....and he was Grrrrrrrrreat!!!!

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