Carlyle Blackwell and Gail Kane star in On Dangerous Ground (1917), a spy adventure story set during World War I. This film was based on a novel by Burton Stevenson, scripted by the great Frances Marion, and shot in Ft. Lee, NJ, by director Robert Thornby.
At the brink of WW I, a woman (Gail Kane) desires to escape Germany – along with a secret vial she is to bring into France. A good-looking but innocent young American doctor (Carlyle Blackwell), at school in Berlin, is leaving Germany and has the passport to get himself out of the country. She plans to escape by pretending to be his wife, though they have never even met! She tricks the hotel bellman into thinking they are a real couple, and forges his passport by adding the words “accompanied by wife.” He goes along with it because she seems so helpless!
My copy comes from the Library of Congress, where the film has been preserved. It’s a 5-reel feature film and runs about 60 minutes. It’s it very good shape.
Carlyle Blackwell was a big star in the teens, but only a few of his feature films have survived. Those I’ve seen include The Ocean Waif (1916), The Beloved Blackmailer (198), and The Restless Sex (1920) in which he starred with Marion Davies as a tragic artist who is forced to marry Davies after they are caught together in a hotel room. Why this lush romantic drama directed by Robert Z. Leonard was his last American film is anyone’s guess.
Blackwell moved to England and continued working in films there and in Europe. He was film’s first Bulldog Drummond in 1922 and starred with Betty Blythe in She in 1925. He played against type in The Wrecker in 1929 and starred as Sherlock Holmes in the German production, Der Hund von Baskerville in 1929. He teamed up with Michael Balcon to produce The Lodger in 1927, a little thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ivor Novello.
Gail Kane may not be a familiar name, but she was a highly regarded star of the teens. One of her few surviving films is Via Wireless (1915). She appeared in more than 30 films. She was famous in her day for a collection of scarab beetles, some of which supposedly came from the tombs of Egypt. This rather flinty actress was once described as being a “diamond set in brass.” Her last big headline may have been her arrest for appearing in the Broadway production of The Captive in 1927, a play that was considered indecent.
On Dangerous Ground revolves around an escape from the Germans during World War I. Indeed, the film was part of a collaboration between the film industry and the United States government to use film as a propaganda tool. President Woodrow Wilson had appointed William Brady, president of the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry, to mobilize the industry as part of the war effort. D.W. Griffith was also part of this collaboration. Brady produced this film.
Here’s a link to the Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1079843982/on-dangerous-ground-1917?ref=user_menu
Copyright Ed Lorusso 2018