Manslaughter (1922 film)

Last updated

Manslaughter novel cover Cecil DeMille images.jpg
early edition of Alice Duer Miller's novel with images from DeMille's film on cover.
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Jeanie MacPherson
Based onManslaughter (1921 novel)
by Alice Duer Miller
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Jesse L. Lasky
Starring Leatrice Joy
Thomas Meighan
Lois Wilson
Cinematography L. Guy Wilky
Alvin Wyckoff
Edited by Anne Bauchens
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • September 24, 1922 (1922-09-24)
Running time
100 minutes
(10 reels; 9,061 feet)
CountryUnited States
Languages Silent
English intertitles
Budget$385,000 [1]
The famous orgy scene from the film. Manslaughter-1922.jpg
The famous orgy scene from the film.

Manslaughter is a 1922 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Thomas Meighan, Leatrice Joy, and Lois Wilson. It was scripted by Jeanie MacPherson adapted from the novel of the same name by Alice Duer Miller. Art direction and costumes for the film were done by Paul Iribe. [2]


The film portrays its main character, Lydia Thorne, as a thrill-seeking, self-entitled, and wild woman who does not have a reputation of thinking before acting. She acts selfishly by dancing with other men in the presence of her husband and not providing help to her maid who is in dire straits due to her son's health. She is eventually taken to court after she crashes into a motorcycle cop during a high-speed chase. She is then prosecuted by her husband, Daniel O'Bannon, a lawyer, and is imprisoned for manslaughter. After her sentence, Lydia comes out of jail to find her husband has become an alcoholic.

As part of Lydia's wild life, the film was one of the first to depict an orgy, as well as other acts considered debaucherous in upper-class society. [3] Manslaughter is generally cited as being the first American feature film to show an erotic kiss between two members of the same sex. [4]

The novel was adapted again by Paramount in 1930 and 1931 in French. [2]


A wild, wealthy woman (Joy) is brought to heel by a sermonizing district attorney after she accidentally hits and kills a motorcycle cop.



Manslaughter (full film)
Poster advertisement for the film. Manslaughter lobby card 2.jpg
Poster advertisement for the film.
Manslaughter lobby card in 1922 with scene of the party Manslaughter lobby card (cropped).jpg
Manslaughter lobby card in 1922 with scene of the party
Manslaughter lobby card in 1922 Manslaughter lobby card 3 (cropped).jpg
Manslaughter lobby card in 1922

The production of this film was completed during a time when films were taking on tremendous set processes and crews. Film shooting processing was becoming more complex, involving actors and actresses, producers, set developers, screenwriters, camera-crew and lighting, and numerously more parts. It was a film created using continuity filming which involves continuing a screen from different points of view. [5]

According to Leatrice Joy, the filming of the car chase scene was extremely nerve-wracking because she herself had to drive the car, which had been fitted with a platform to support two cameramen and the director, plus equipment. Their safety depended entirely upon her skills as a motorist. [6] Joy did most of her own driving, though in some shots the car was driven by stunt double Leo Nomis. [7] During the shooting of a prison sequence, Joy burned her hand accidentally with soup in a prop cauldron; assistant director Cullen Tate had neglected to inform her that the soup was scalding hot. [6]

Stuntman Leo Noomis broke his pelvis and six of his ribs during a stunt that required him to crash a motorcycle into a car. [8]


Manslaughter is thought of by historians as one of De Mille's lesser efforts as a director. Historian Kevin Brownlow notes that Joy and Wilson "both give far better performances than the film deserves." [9] "It is hard to believe that such a crude and unsubtle film could come from a veteran like De Mille," said a 1963 Theodore Huff Society program note for the film, "harder still to believe that this came from the same year that Orphans of the Storm , Down to the Sea in Ships , and Foolish Wives . The amateurish and crudely faked chase scenes that start the film are of less technical slickness than Sennett had been getting ten years earlier. Manslaughter is exactly the kind of picture that the unknowing regard as typical of the silent film - overwrought, pantomimically acted, written in the manner of a Victorian melodrama, the kind of film that invites laughter at it rather than with it." [9]

In this scene, Lydia causes the vehicle accident by stopping and the cop runs into her car with his motorcycle. Manslaughter (1922) - 3.jpg
In this scene, Lydia causes the vehicle accident by stopping and the cop runs into her car with his motorcycle.

When a print was screened by William K. Everson for Joy's daughter's birthday, the star of the film attended and saw it for the first time in forty years. According to Kevin Brownlow, "Miss Joy thought it hilarious." [9]


Complete prints of Manslaughter are held by:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Gilbert (actor)</span> American actor and film director (1897–1936)

John Gilbert was an American actor, screenwriter and director. He rose to fame during the silent era and became a popular leading man known as "The Great Lover". His breakthrough came in 1925 with his starring roles in The Merry Widow and The Big Parade. At the height of his career, Gilbert rivaled Rudolph Valentino as a box office draw.

<i>Hollywood</i> (British TV series) 1980 documentary series

Hollywood is a British television documentary miniseries produced by Thames Television and originally broadcast on ITV in 1980. Written and directed by film historians Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, it explored the establishment and development of the Hollywood studios and their cultural impact during the silent film era of the 1910s and '20s. At the 1981 BAFTA TV Awards, the series won for Best Original Television Music and was nominated for Best Factual Series, Best Film Editing and Best Graphics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leatrice Joy</span> American actress (1893–1985)

Leatrice Joy was an American actress most prolific during the silent film era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julia Faye</span> American actress

Julia Faye Maloney, known professionally as Julia Faye, was an American actress of silent and sound films. She was known for her appearances in more than 30 Cecil B. DeMille productions. Her various roles ranged from maids and ingénues to vamps and queens.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jacqueline Logan</span> American actress

Jacqueline Medura Logan was an American actress and silent film star. Logan was a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1922.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Meighan</span> American actor

Thomas Meighan was an American actor of silent films and early talkies. He played several leading-man roles opposite popular actresses of the day, including Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson. At one point he commanded $10,000 per week.

<i>Manslaughter</i> (1930 film) 1930 film

Manslaughter is a 1930 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Abbott, and starring Claudette Colbert and Fredric March. An original print of the film is saved in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. This film is a sound remake of Cecil B. DeMille's 1922 silent classic Manslaughter. Paramount also released a French-language version of this 1930 film as The Indictment, directed by Dimitri Buchowetzki.

<i>Saturday Night</i> (1922 film) 1922 film

Saturday Night is a 1922 American silent romantic comedy film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Leatrice Joy, Conrad Nagel, and Edith Roberts. It was Leatrice Joy's first film with DeMille.

<i>Triumph</i> (1924 film) 1924 film

Triumph is a 1924 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Leatrice Joy and Rod La Rocque. It was based on a 1924 novel of the same name by May Edginton. The novel had previously been serialized in 1923 by The Saturday Evening Post.

<i>Hollywood</i> (1923 film) 1923 film by James Cruze

Hollywood is a 1923 American silent comedy film directed by James Cruze, co-written by Frank Condon and Thomas J. Geraghty, and released by Paramount Pictures. The film is a lengthier feature follow-up to Paramount's own short film exposé of itself, A Trip to Paramountown from 1922.

<i>A Trip to Paramountown</i> 1922 film

A Trip to Paramountown is a 1922 American short silent documentary film produced by Famous Players–Lasky and released through Paramount Pictures, to celebrate 10 years of Paramount's founding. The film runs about 20 minutes and features many personalities then under contract to Famous Players–Lasky and Paramount.

<i>Minnie</i> (film) 1922 film by Marshall Neilan

Minnie is a 1922 American silent comedy film starring Leatrice Joy and co-directed by Marshall Neilan and Frank Urson. Neilan also wrote and produced the film which was released by Associated First National Pictures. It is not known whether the film currently survives, which suggests that it is a lost film.

<i>Vanity</i> (1927 film) 1927 film

Vanity is a 1927, American silent drama film directed by Donald Crisp and starring Leatrice Joy. The film was written by Douglas Doty, produced by DeMille Pictures Corporation and distributed by Producers Distributing Corporation.

The Clinging Vine is a 1926 American silent comedy film produced by Cecil B. DeMille and Paul Slone and directed by Sloane. It was distributed by DeMille's Producers Distributing Corporation. The film is based on a 1922 Broadway play of the same name by Zelda Sears. The film was a starring vehicle for Leatrice Joy who left Paramount Pictures along with DeMille when he formed his own distributing company PDC.

<i>Eves Leaves</i> 1926 film by Paul Sloane

Eve's Leaves is a 1926 American silent romantic comedy film starring Leatrice Joy and William Boyd. The film was produced and distributed by Cecil B. DeMille and directed by Paul Sloane It is based upon the 1925 play of the same name by Harry Chapman Ford.

<i>The Angel of Broadway</i> 1927 film

The Angel of Broadway is a 1927 American silent drama film produced by Cecil B. DeMille and distributed by Pathé Exchange. It was directed by Lois Weber and starred Leatrice Joy.

<i>The Bachelor Daddy</i> 1922 film by Alfred E. Green

The Bachelor Daddy is a lost 1922 American silent comedy film directed by Alfred E. Green and written by Edward Peple and Olga Printzlau. The film stars Thomas Meighan, Leatrice Joy, Maude Wayne, Adele Farrington, J. Farrell MacDonald, Larry Wheat, and Peaches Jackson. The film was released on April 29, 1922, by Paramount Pictures.

<i>Made for Love</i> (film) 1926 American silent drama film

Made for Love is a 1926 American silent drama film directed by Paul Sloane, produced by Cecil B. DeMille, and starring Leatrice Joy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Emmett King</span> American actor

Emmett Carleton King was an American actor of the stage and screen.

<i>For Alimony Only</i> 1926 film

For Alimony Only is a 1926 American silent drama film directed by William C. deMille and starring Leatrice Joy, Clive Brook, and Lilyan Tashman.


  1. 1 2 "Progressive Silent Film List: Manslaughter". Silent Era. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
  2. 1 2 "Manslaughter". Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  3. "Alice Duer Miller | American author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  4. Robertson, Patrick (1993). The Guinness Book of Movie Facts & Feats (5th ed.). Abbeville Press. p.  63. ISBN   1558596976.
  5. Magliano, Joseph P.; Zacks, Jeffrey M. (November 2011). "The Impact of Continuity Editing in Narrative Film on Event Segmentation". Cognitive Science. 35 (8): 1489–1517. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01202.x. ISSN   0364-0213. PMC   3208769 . PMID   21972849.
  6. 1 2 Brownlow, K.; The parade's gone by...; University of California Press, 1976; p. 185
  7. "Manslaughter (1922) - IMDb" via
  8. Kozlovic, Anton Karl (January 2, 2014). "DeMille and Danger: Seven Heuristic Taxonomic Categories of His Hollywood (Mis)Adventures". European Journal of American Studies. 9 (9–1). doi: 10.4000/ejas.10165 via
  9. 1 2 3 Brownlow, K.; The parade's gone by...; University of California Press, 1976; p. 184
  10. "American Silent Feature Film Database: Manslaughter". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 5, 2024.