The Red Lantern

USA 1919. Dir Albert Capellani.

With Alla Nazimova, Noah Beery. Art direction by Henri Menessier. c.70min

At once an epic story and an atmospheric Chinoiserie fantasy, The Red Lantern was an ambitious vehicle for its producer, the American actress Alla Nazimova, who by 1919 was already a celebrated stage and screen star. In a dual role as the half-Chinese Mahlee and her white half-sister Blanche stuck in a tragic love triangle, Nazimova had ample opportunity to display a great repertoire of characterizations and some majestic embroidered silk costumes. Reviewers of the time praised her warrior outfits and her goddess headdress with peacock feathers and pom-poms. This ‘super-feature’ was adapted from a book by Edith Wherry and directed by the French film pioneer Albert Capellani, a prolific director who transitioned between the early ‘cinema of attractions’ and the narrative period of the later silents. It is also the screen debut of Anna May Wong. The print was restored by the Belgian Cinemathek in the 1990s.