Lilac Time (1928 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Produced by||John McCormick|
|Based on||play by Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl based on Lilac Time (novel) by Guy Fowler|
|Edited by||Alexander Hall|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Vitaphone (music score and sound effects)
Lilac Time is a 1928 American silent romantic war film directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper. The film is about young American aviators fighting for Britain during World War I who are billeted in a field next to a farmhouse in France. The daughter who lives on the farm meets one of the new aviators who is attracted to her. As the flyers head off on a mission, the young aviator promises to return to her.
Lilac Time was produced by John McCormick (Moore's husband), and distributed by First National Pictures. The film is based on a 1917 Broadway play written by Jane Murfin and actress Jane Cowl, who adapted the story from a novel by Guy Fowler. This film was released with a Vitaphone score and music effects, featuring the song "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time," but there was no spoken dialogue. The film premiered in New York City on August 3, 1928, and was released in the United States on October 18, 1928.
Seven young English aviators are billeted at the Berthelot farm near the French front. One of the flyers, Philip Blythe, falls in love with farmer Berthelot's daughter, Jeannie, and on the morning before a dangerous mission declares his love for her. Philip is shot down, and Jeannie helps an ambulance crew to extricate his apparently lifeless body from the wrecked plane. In the following weeks, Jeannie searches in vain in all of the military army hospitals for Philip. She does encounter Philip's father, who, disapproving of her lowly origins, falsely informs her that Philip has died. In farewell, Jeannie sends a bouquet of lilacs to his room, and Philip, recognizing the flowers as her gift, painfully drags himself to his window in time to call her back to him.
The film was shot on sets at First National's Burbank studio and on location in El Torro, California, where a working airstrip, full-sized French Village and farm were built. In addition a portable machine shop serviced the eight aircraft used in the production. Looking for realism, many extras cast as soldiers in the film had been actual World War I soldiers, in the ranks they portrayed. The chief stunt pilot, Dick Grace, had only finished doing stunt work on the Paramount film Wings almost two months earlier. Grace sustained a severe neck injury in a stunt crash while making Wings but recovered in time for Lilac Time.
The film offers several phases, beginning with slapstick comedy elements, becoming an intense romantic film, then segueing into a spectacular aerial showdown followed by a duel in the sky between Cooper's character and the Red Baron before returning to romantic complications.
Lilac Time had its opening in Los Angeles at the Carthay Circle Theatre where, in the lobby, among other promotional materials on display, was the wrecked fuselage of one of the aircraft that had been destroyed during the filming. The film cost one million dollars to produce, an amount equal to Moore's previous two films. The studio recouped the cost of the film within months. By the end of 1928, the film had out-performed Moore's earlier star vehicle Flaming Youth (1923).
Among those in the cast were Colleen Moore's brother Cleve (under the name Cleve Moore) and Jack Stone, her cousin. Eugenie Besserer had played "Mrs. Goode," a mother figure in Colleen's earlier film Little Orphant Annie, the first film to bring Colleen a measure of fame.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- Codori, Jeff (2012), Colleen Moore; A Biography of the Silent Film Star, McFarland Publishing Print ISBN 978-0-7864-4969-9 / EBook ISBN 978-0-7864-8899-5