The Vampire of the Desert, Happy Anniversary! Premiered Friday, May 16, 1913

Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 18, 1913

Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 18, 1913

 

The scenario for, The Vampire of the Desert, was adapted from, The Vampire (penned in 1897), a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

the-vampire

 

 

Kipling’s poem was in turn, stirred to life by the work of his cousin (Kipling’s aunt’s son) Phillip Burne-Jones, in the painting, The Vampire (finished earlier in 1897).

images

 

The Vampire by Kipling then was used as fodder for the book, A Fool There Was, by Porter Emerson Browne in 1909; dedicated to actor Robert Hilliard.

028967

 

Spring saw the Broadway premiere of, A Fool There Was, the theatrical version of Browne’s book, starring good friend Robert Hilliard, along with William Courtleigh and Katherine Kaelred;[1] the production was staged at the Liberty theatre.

New York Tribune, New York, New York, March 24, 1909

New York Tribune, New York, New York, March 24, 1909

 

A Fool There Was, had some of its originality-thunder stolen by the opening of, The Vampire (unrelated to Burne-Jones’, Kipling’s or Browne’s works), in the middle of January, 1909, at the Hackett Theatre; yet, reviews for, The Vampire were mediocre at best and the box-office the same, making, Fool, the eventual winner of the, Vampire-Great White Way, sweepstakes of 1909.

New York Tribune, New York, New York, January 19, 1909

New York Tribune, New York, New York, January 19, 1909

 

Vaudeville got into the act with The Vampire, a skit written (a sketch in, At the Waldorf, a production staged at, Keith & Proctor Theater, in March of 1909) and performed by Walter Shannon, obviously not a drama but a musical-comedy; Variety directly accused Shannon of taking advantage of Mr. Kipling’s foreign residence to abscond with the title.[2]

New York Times, New York, New York, March 16, 1909

New York Times, New York, New York, March 16, 1909

 

The same accusation of plagiarism could be made against the aforementioned, Hackett Theatre version of, The Vampire, penned by Edgar Allan Woolf and George Sylvester Viereck, although it was a psychological drama, with its central theme of thought transference; the vampire of the story stealing the literary ideas of those of whom he has surrounded himself with.[3] Also in the summer of 1909, Bert French and Alice Eis debuted, The Vampire Dance, a seventeen minute exhibition based on the Burne-Jones painting; the dance recital was performed at Keith & Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theater, in New York.[4]

New York Times, New York, New York, July 25, 1909

New York Times, New York, New York, July 25, 1909

 

1910 (November 10) saw the Selig Polyscope filmed version of Kipling’s work.[5]

The Film Index November 5, 1910

The Film Index November 5, 1910

 

In April of 1911 Robert Hilliard made a recording reciting Kipling’s, The Vampire; the record was entitled the same. It was recorded in Camden, New Jersey for the Victor Company.[6] In 1915, William Fox produced, A Fool There Was, based on Browne’s play, and starred, Theda Bara and Edward José; which brings us at last to our subject, The Vampire of the Desert.

a-fool-there-was-movie-poster-1915-

 

The Vampire of the Desert was a two-reel drama, produced by Vitagraph and released by the general Film Company, starring:  Helen Gardner, Tefft Johnson, Harry T. Morey, James Morrison, Leah Baird, Norma Talmadge and Flora Finch. The scenario (no writing credit given) was based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Vampire;” the film was directed by Charles L. Gaskill; the survival status of The Vampire of the Desert is unknown.

Vampire of the Desert Escanaba_Morning_Press_ Escanaba Michigan Tue__Jun_17__1913_

Escanaba Morning Press, Escanaba, Michigan, June 17, 1913

 

The Vampire of the Desert, did indeed premiere on May 16, 1913, it played at the President Theater in Chicago, Illinois; this was reported on Sunday, May 11, 1913 in the Inter Ocean newspaper of Chicago. Below is a synopsis of the film and an advertisement directed toward the exhibitor; I have also included likenesses of the principal actors of the movie.

Vampire of the Desert The Moving Picture World May 10 1913

Moving Picture World, May 10, 1913

Vampire of the Desert The Moving Picture World May 10 1913 2

Moving Picture World, May 10, 1913

Vampire of the Desert Helen Gardner

Vampire of the Desert Tefft Johnson

Vampire of the Dester Flora Finch

Vampire of the Desert Harry T. Morey

Vampire of the Desert James Morrison

Vampire of the Desert Leah Baird

Vampire of the Desert Norma Talmadge

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Internet Broadway Data Base

Munsey’s Magazine, May, 1909

[2] Variety, April 17, 1909

[3] New York Times (New York, New York) January 17, 1909

[4] Variety, July 31, 1909

[5] Nickelodeon, November 1, 1910

[6] Discography of American Historical Recordings

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