The Dream Lady is a 1918 silent film directed by Elsie Jane Wilson. It stars Carmel Myers as Rosamond Gilbert, Thomas Holding as John Squire, Kathleen Emerson as Sydney Brown, Harry von Meter as James Mattison, Philo McCullough as Jerrold, and Elizabeth Janes as Allie. The film follows Rosamond Gilbert, a young woman whose uncle has recently left her with an inheritance, allowing her to pursue her dreams. Throughout the course of the movie, we see Rosamond explore her newfound freedom and her pursuit to find love.
The plot and themes of the movie were the first thing that engaged me. The protagonist, Rosamond, is surprisingly progressive for a film produced in 1918. She’s quite independent and seeks to chase her dreams and live her perfect life. In contrast however, there are a lot of interesting and somewhat funny moments from a 2019 perspective in regards to the actions and behavior of different characters. For example, one main sub-story within The Dream Lady is how Rosamond helps another young woman, Sydney Brown, become a man by dressing her up in men’s clothing. After receiving help from Rosamond, Sydney gives Rosamond a kiss and departs. While this is happening, John Squire, a man who is romantically interested in Rosamond, oversees this and becomes jealous, saying, “What?! You allow yourself to be kissed by a gentleman you hardly know? A proper young lady does not accept such expressions of gratitude. I bid you farewell!” This struck me as being pretty funny and was somewhat foreign to me due to the culture I’ve been raised in.
I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of editing and cuts that took place throughout the film. There was constant cutting to different angles and there were many different shots to show reactions or emotions. This had to have taken countless hours of filming different individual angles to get all of the shots in the film, and it probably took even longer to cut all of the small shots together on physical film. I don’t have any experience in film, so I don’t know how hard it was to put cut and put together film, but if it’s anything like how difficult and tedious it was for early audio engineers to cut together different layers and takes on tape, then I am amazed at the work that went into this film.
Finally, despite not originally being a part of the original film, I really enjoyed the score created for the Netflix release of this film. The lone piano ebbs and flows with the actions of the movie and fits the mood and timing of certain events absolutely impeccably. There were many subtle, timed musical cues and shifts that emphasized smaller events, coloring the movie with a wonderful palette of different emotions. For example, despite being only a few seconds long, there was a moment when the character Allie was introduced that really stuck with me. Rosamond had just moved into her new cabin and was unpacking her things, when all of the sudden, she noticed her window open. The music shifted to a somewhat ominous tone for about 2 to 3 seconds, then right as a young girl’s head popped out of the window, the music became playful and innocent. These subtle but intentional musical moments improved my general enjoyment of the movie immensely.
Despite knowing nearly nothing about this old silent film going in, I found The Dream Lady to be surprisingly enjoyable watch. It was fascinating seeing all of the old outfits and behavior of the characters and the amount of work that went into the overall production of the film. Everything from the sets to the editing really surprised me for a film over a hundred years old.
Bluebird Photoplays, 1918, https://www.netflix.com/title/81030762.
“The Dream Lady.” IMDb, IMDb.com, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0009026/.