Greg Denieffe writes:
From time to time, HTBS has referred readers to the definite lists of rowing movies AKA The Rabbit’s Guide to Rowing Films and row2k’s Rowing in the Movies. One movie that does not feature on either list is the 1926 production Forever After.
The tag line on the above poster – “All the pull your box-office wants in Owen Davis’ drama of the college crews” – would suggest that there was abundant ‘crew’ action for it to be classed as a rowing movie. Perhaps it has slipped the net, but as I haven’t seen it, I can’t confirm whether this is the case or whether it is just a reference back to Davis’ 1918 play.
The play Forever After was the first production at the new Central Theatre, New York City, opening on 9 September 1918. A review of the play in the New York Clipper, on 11 September 1918 included the following plot summary:
The play is of the present and the story cleverly told and well-acted, deals with the love of a poor boy in a small Vermont village and his school girl sweetheart; their long separation due to his pride and the opposition of her parents and their final reunion in a French hospital. The opening scene shows Ted, the young soldier, badly wounded in France. In his delirium he sees again his boyhood home and whispers his sweetheart’s name. Once again he lives the scenes over again and they are enacted on the stage. He is again the boy and with his sweetheart declares his love and plans their future.
His delirium continues, once again he sees himself at college as a member of the Harvard boat crew, and again back home a failure, working in a small country drug store and realizing the hopelessness of it all renounces his sweetheart and leaves for New York. Again the scene changes to the battle front and the soldier, his life despaired of, is taken to the hospital. Here he is found by his sweetheart, now a nurse, who rouses him to consciousness and by her care and love nurses him back to health and all ends happily.
The film of the play was released on 24 October 1926 and starred Lloyd Hughes and Mary Astor and was promoted with various posters including the one above. Other promotional posters highlight American football as the prominent college sport played by Hughes’ character, Theodore ‘Ted’ Wayne.
On 9 November 1926, the New York Times under the subtitle The Fair and the Brave reviewed the movie as follows:
Fighting on the football field and fighting in France are the dominant episodes in the picturization of Owen Davis’s play, “Forever After,” now on view at the Mark Strand. In this current offering these incidents are fairly well filmed, but such features when produced along conventional lines are not particularly impressive because both the gridiron and the war have not been neglected in recent photoplays. So this football game is just another “One Minute to Play,” and the war scenes might fit into any other production dealing with that subject.
Love, usually a potential quality in any photoplay, is stressed in “Forever After.” In this case it concerns the heart affair between a wealthy girl and a relatively poor young man. These two appear to have unnecessary misunderstandings, and the story becomes monotonous, which sounds strange in view of the fact that Theodore Wayne is triumphant on the football field and a man of mettle in the trenches. Wayne is a wholesome specimen, of humanity, and there ought never to have been any objection to his marrying Jennie Clayton; but if Mrs. Clayton had not tried to be an unutterable snob there never would have been any grounds for the story.
Here one, finds that ancient coincidence—the young man and the girl meeting in France. He is wounded and brought into a temporary hospital, where the heroine is working as a nurse. Mary Astor, an actress of rare beauty, impersonates Jennie. It strikes one that she is almost too immaculate for a nurse. Her costume is spotless and uncreased and her dainty fingers are the best manicured ever shown in a close-up on the screen.
In one scene Jennie is depicted imitating the French General who had decorated Wayne, ending the mimicry by kissing Wayne on each cheek. The General happens to observe this from a balcony and he promptly descends to reprimand the girl, but when he sees Jennie he decorates her—with a kiss on each cheek.
Lloyd Hughes is natural, manly and handsome, a refreshing type, who ought to be seen more often. Hallam Cooley does very well in a somewhat unsympathetic part.
This is a picture with an occasional smile and a tear for any poor young man who is in love with a wealthy girl.
So, no mention of rowing or crew in that review whilst gridiron takes centre stage.
In 2012 the online auction site eMoviePoster.com sold an original theatrical Movie Herald for Forever After for $15 featuring two racing eights and American footballers. See both sides of the Herald below.
The question remains … rowing movie or football movie?
One movie, whose rowing credentials are in no doubt, is the 1927 production College. Last year in a piece called Rudern Film: Buster Keaton – Der Student, I wrote that it was released in Germany as Der Student. Thanks to the extensive database of eMoviePoster.com, I can confirm that the poster accompanying that piece was an Austrian release. That site also has another interesting print for the movie; featuring an angular Buster Keaton holding an oar and a racing crew that has bow and stroke on the same side – but is it a four, a six, a seven or an eight? No wonder Buster looks wide-eyed!