Title ID 8434Collection ID1192
TitleA Lowland Cinderella
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeEarly film in the South East Family life
KeywordsClothing Domestic Gardens Folklore Family Social Class Rural Areas Urban Areas Fancy dress Dresses Uniforms Houses
RegionalWest Sussex
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionProgress Film Company
CameraStanley Mumford
DirectorSidney Morgan
CastJoan Morgan (Hester Stirling)
FormatBlack & White Silent
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Joan Morgan stars as Hester, whose story of misfortune, manipulation, love and redemption mirrors that of Cinderella. Set between the highlands of Scotland, Intertitles provide chapter titles, such as "A Great Day" and "The Storm Comes" and dialogue between characters, but also introduce the characters and their players.


Special Enterprises presents... A Lowland Cinderella. "Our Cinderella's true name was Hester Stirling... We ought almost to call her an orphan, for her mother had long since passed away... and of her father nothing had been heard... since the day when he had placed the dead woman's legacy safely in the arms of her grandmother. Now the story opens on what was to be a great day in Hester's lonely life, for her uncle, her aunt and her cousins were coming all the way from Edinburgh to visit Grandmother."

The film opens with scenes of Hester playing with a toy village in the garden. Megsy is introduced, played by Nell Emerald. Megsy talks to Hester in the kitchen, and takes her shoes and socks off because they are pinching. Hester runs off to play barefoot. A young man fires a shot gun in the woods. He comes across Hester sitting in a clearing. "The next morning... the most unexpected thing happened... Hester's father knocked at his mother's door." David Stirling is introduced, played by George Foley. Mr. Stirling arrives at the flint cottage. "Gin that be the only thing o the name of Torpeechan come back... I'll slam the door in thae face!" says Megsy. She leaves Hester and opens the door, "David! Maister David!... are ye risen frae the dead?" They begin to talk. "Nae... nae... Maister!... your father's dead long since... forget the curse he put upon ye... and come in to your ain hoose agin!" The man shakes his head. Grandmother Stirling is introduced, played by Kate Phillips. Megsy speaks to GM, who clasps her hands together. Megsy leads Mrs. Stirling outside to meet to her son in the front garden, "What for did ye no let your mither ken ye were in life?," she asks. Her son looks dejected; "My father turned me away in poverty... and I vowed I would not return, unless I brought Hester a fortune." He takes her by the shoulders and they sit on a bench together. He reaches into his leather bag, "They are rubies, mother... thousands of pounds worth... from a mine I discovered in Burmah." GM gasps and continues to listen to her son, "My rights to the mine were disputed... so I decided to get these into safety first... and then go back and argue my rights." Hester runs into the garden from the house. They embrace but she looks away, "You seem disappointed in your father." "Not in you - but Megsy always said you'd come for me in a coach and six horses." He smiles and takes her in his arms again, "But I haven't come for you this time - I've got to go away again at once - and the sight of you makes it hard - so hard." Three sit on the bench while Megsy worries inside, shaking her head. "You mustn't go father, not at once!" He pauses, in thought, before he has an idea. Hester runs into the house with the ruby she has been given by her father, "Father hasn't brought the coach and six horses, but he's given me a real ruby to keep," she says to Megsy "I must go before she returns mother. These are safest with you - what none kens of, none comes seeking." GM wishes him good luck and he leaves.

"Within twelve months of David Stirling's mysterious visit... the old lady of Arioland was laid to her rest... an the Torphichans were in possession of her property." Hester, wearing a black dress, stands by the fireplace in the kitchen. Hester's aunt, also in mourning dress, enters; "Don't stand about sulking all day, you heartless child --- I should have been crying my eyes out at your age." Hester leaves the kitchen before Megsy arrives to find her aunt counting the china in the dresser; "If ye dinna want to find em all cracked i' the morn ye'd better get oot o my kitchen." Mrs. Torphichan finds Hester in GM's room, where uncle is writing at GM's desk; "If she isn't spying now!" Hester is shooed back into the kitchen, where her and Megsy embrace; "Don't let me go to live with her Megsy!... take me to the poor-house first!" Back in GM's room, uncle complains to his wife; "Your mother was not so well off as I had hoped." He starts to open cupboards in a dresser, finding the leather bag. He reaches in, pulling out a handful of rubies and a note that reads "These precious stones were given to me by David Stirling in trust for his daughter Hester, Isobel Stirling." He sits back in the chair, shaking his head; "If David Stirling ever returned...," he says to himself. Megsy and Hester are seen packing suitcases upstairs. Hester's aunt brings in a newspaper, David Stirling has been found murdered in his office at the mine he was prospectoring in Burmah. He asks his wife to sit before Megsy runs into the room. "I suppose you want to know if anything has been left to you?" "Nae I dinna - I want to ken whats to become of the child." "My wife is charitably disposed to her _ ," he replies. "She can keep her charity -- but as tha's £50 a year to come to me." "Let her keep the child - my mother must have been insane," says Mrs. Torphichan. Both women leave and Dr. Torphichan sets fire to the note after pulling a box of matches from his pocket.

'Some years have passed since Doctor Torphichan with his ill-gotten gains established himself in London.' Young men and women are seen in a lavish drawing room. "Ethel and Claudia were now great matrimonial bargains." The two young women, Hester's cousins, are seen in close-up. "The Master of Durrock was being pressed by Lord Durrock his father, to secure one of the girls." The Master of Durrock is introduced, played by Ralph Forbes. "Tom had developed into a sport." Tom, the Torphichan's eldest son, sits at a grand desk with a cigar, playing cards and drinking with his chums. "And there were still younger Torphichans." Two young girls and a boy sit at a table in a school room while their teacher instructs them behind. The boy slyly eats an apple and throws the core at his teacher. Meanwhile, at their Scotland home, Hester and Megsy are seen in the garden. "I've been thinkin' darling ye're too bonny a lass to waster your life with a crazy auld woman like me. I've put up a bit prayer for guidance - so ye jen its in the hands o the Lord." Hester finds a letter at the table after the two women run inside, her aunt wants her to receive training as a governess in their own "well-ordered home" in Mayfair. She passes the letter to Megsy; "Weel, if that's the Lord's will it's go to be -- but it's enough to mak'a puir woman never pray again," says Megsy, angrily tearing up the letter.

"The eccentric old Duchess of Niddisdale, is consulted by her grandson. Played by Frances Wetherell." A servant brings out a tray of refreshments for the Duchess and her grandson; "So your scoundrelly old father wants your to marry one of the Torphichan girls?" She crosses her arms; "I think it's your business my boy - but I'll call and see her if you like." Meanwhile, Hester arrives at Bannister House in Mayfair, home of the Torphichans. "Let her wait in the schoolroom," says her uncle from his plush study filled with books and elaborate furniture. Hester pulls the Torphichan boy off the tormented governess who he has tied up with string. She punishes him with a Chinese burn. The boy immediately helps Hester pull the table back into the centre of the room in preparation of a lesson. "Now Hester meets an old friend and discovers a new one." She runs up to her cousins but they reject her and walk off. A young man enters the hall, where Hester sees him; "Will you please announce The Master of Durrock?" She does as requested, politely announcing the young man to her cousins in the drawing room. "It's a new nursery governess... some charity affair of the mater's." The Master of Durrock sits with one of the Torphichan girls in the drawing room. Hester leaves the hall and finds herself in a room with a stage. The three younger children dance on stage, directed by an older gentleman while the governess plays piano. Hester joins in, dancing on stage with the children. The Duchess of Niddisdale and her grandson enter the room where they are met by the youngest son; "Is this your Miss Ethel? You sly young dog!" "She's not one of my sloppy sisters - you feel her muscle." "Why!... it's Hester Stirling." In a flashback scene, Hester is seen sitting with the young man in a clearing in the woods, where they met years ago. In the present, they laugh and talk together before the butler arrives to usher them into the drawing room. They take Hester's hand; "I'm not allowed in the drawing room." The Duchess and her grandson greet the Torphichan family; "I'm afraid I'm rather imposing on you Doctor - I really called to see Hester Stirling - she's sort of a God child of min." Hester is invited into the drawing room, where she sits with the Duchess; "You've just come in time for your Aunt to bring you to my ball next week." "She can't dance!," says one of the Torphichan girls. "She hasn't any dresses," says the other. "I'm afraid I can't spare her, Duchess," explains the girls' mother. "God bless my soul!... am I to be told, whom I'm to invite to my own house," replies the Duchess. "I'm afraid we shall have to let her go." "It won't matter, mother, if you leave her dress to me," says one of the girls.

'The Great Day.' Hester tries on her dress, provided by the Torphichans. Miserable, she tries her best to make the ugly and shapeless dress presentable. In a rage she throws the dress to the floor and starts to cry. Meanwhile, her cousins are dressing in their grand rooms, provided with elaborate costumes. Mrs. Torphichan receives a letter from the Duchess requesting Hester's presence an hour before the ball to help with decorating. The maid enters Hester's room and hands her the letter; "and Mistress says you are to go at once." Hester dresses in a hat and her governess uniform. The sisters are dressed in Arabian costumes, Tom in a sailor suit. Hester arrives at the house of the Duchess and begins to comfort her; "The rascals have done exactly as I thought they would." Two women bring a beautiful costume and feather headdress for Hester to wear to the ball. The Duchess greets her guests, all in fancy dress, introducing Hester to each one. A band starts to tune their instruments on a stage in the ballroom. Her grandson, The Master of Durrock, arrives, wearing a prince costume, taken aback by the sight of Hester in her beautiful costume. Hester's cousins look on from the staircase spitefully. Dr. Torphichan and his wife arrive in their costumes, greeting the Duchess. They stare at Hester, and Dr. Torphichan notices the ruby around her neck; "My father gave it to me to play with years ago," she explains. Tom laughs at his sisters' misfortune before asking Hester to join him in the ballroom. The band play and couples start to dance in their elaborate costumes. The ballroom fills with dancers, and Hester is spotted by the Doctor, dancing with the Duchess's grandson. Tom runs up to his father; "Have you seen our Hester - isn't she a jewel?" Hester walks with a young man in a pierrot costume. Dr. Torphichan, angered at the sight of Hester's ruby asks Tom to tell his mother that he is going home. The Master of Durrock sits with one of the Torphichan girls but is distracted, clearly thinking of Hester. She speaks to her mother; "That girl must be sent back to Scotland at once." Hester walks in the gardens with the Master. Tom finds the Duchess; "Have you seen our Hester? I want to propose to her before any other beast gets there." She walks with both young men. Back at the house, the doctor is arranging his rubies, while the party is getting wilder and the music more frantic. Streamers fall from the ceiling onto the dancers. "Will you tell Hester we are going home," says Mrs. Torphichan to her son. Upon receiving the news, Hester leaves reluctantly. "Come and spend the night in my den," says Tom.

'The Storm Breaks.' A maid goes to fetch Hester. She is brought into Dr. Torphichan's study; "You told me last night that your father gave you that ruby. It's a lie - you stole it from my collection," he says. He points to his cabinet of rubies; "Do you wish me to send for the police?" He speaks to an inspector using his telephone. The sisters run into Tom's rooms to greet the Master of Durrock. The pair rush to the doctor's rooms; "There is no need for excitement Tom, the matter is now in the hands of the police." Tom flies into a rage and the Master comforts Hester affectionately. She throws the ruby to the floor; "I want Megsy, I must go to Megsy," she says before leaving. "She needs a woman's comfort -- and there are only friends in this house," says the Master to Tom. Taking up the ruby collection, Tom threatens his father; "Give it up, or I'll put these where you'll never see them again." Dr. Torphichan gives up the ruby. "And so Hester returns in disgrace to her Megsy." "They called me a thief... and... I shall never see him again," she says to Megsy, who comforts her in the garden. Hester's love finds his grandmother in the garden; "You're in a tight corner young man... if you marry Hester... your father with disinherit you!," she says, "... and if you don't marry her... out of my will you will come!" He kisses the Duchess; "Don't you go cuddling any old women in Scotland... or you'll find one of them jump over a broomstick with you... and you'll be tied to her for life." Dr. Torphichan sits in his study, inspecting his jewels. He speaks to a jewelers; "I want some stones re-cut and mounted... Will you send a responsible man round at once." He enters a room of old furniture to find the leather bag in which he found the jewels. A man in a top hat arrives, asking for Hester; "Hester Stirling is not living her now, sir!" says the butler. The Doctor arrives; "I keep the stones in my library... will you come along," he says to the new arrival. Inside the study, he suddenly realises the man who has just arrived is David Stirling. He cowers and shakes before reaching for the bag to run away. Mr. Stirling takes the bag and cuts its lining. retrieving from inside his will. Inside her Scotland home, Megsy greets Hester's love who has ridden from London; "Megsy, I want a proper legal broomstick!" Megsy fetches the young man a broom before he goes to find Hester in a field. He takes her hand and offers her the broomstick. They jump over the broomstick together and embrace.

'David Stirling fulfills his promise.' A carriage pulled by horses arrives. Mr. Stirling jumps down to embrace his daughter, who introduces him to her love; "You're too late to take her away now... unless you take me with you. The couple climb into the carriage and leave together.

Contextual information

A Lowland Cinderella, also known as A Highland Maid, is an adaptation of S. R. Crockett's novel by Sidney Morgan, made on location and at his Shoreham Beach Studio in the summer of 1921, the first, and only, film studio complex in West Sussex. The Shoreham studios operated between 1919 and 1923 as 'Progress Films', run by Stanley Morgan, at a site near to the Church of the Good Shepherd. The glass building was built by F. L. Lydhurst of the Sealight Film Company. Acquired in 1918 by Progress Films in 1919, parts were destroyed by fire in 1922 and the company went bankrupt. Stanley Morgan made seventeen features in the studios for the British film market. Joan Morgan, Sidney's daughter, became the star of the studio. In an interview taken in 1995 before her death in 2004 aged 99, she spoke of the anxiety of making pictures at the studio, worrying whether each picture was going to be her last. She also spoke of her father, Sidney, who refused a five-year Hollywood contract on behalf of his daughter; "My father was very well read and he chose wonderful subjects... he adapted them, and, it seems very simple now but we did very serious work and it was quite successful."

The archive also holds a copy of Little Dorrit, another Sidney Morgan production starring Joan Morgan as Little Dorrit. While working for Progress Films Joan starred in, among others, Lady Noggs: Peeress, The Scarlet Wooing The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Two Little Wooden Shoes. Despite her father scuppering her chances of working with Chaplain and Douglas Fairbanks in Hollywood, Joan went on to write novels, scripts and plays in the 1930s and after serving in the Home Office during the war.

Related titles

Related resources


Eyles, Allen, Frank Gray, and Alan Readman. Cinema West Sussex: The First Hundred Years. Chichester: Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1996

Description. Further information of film making in Shoreham in the 1920s. Copies are held at West Sussex Record Office, Chichester and Screen Archive South East.


British Film Institute

The BFI's extensive archives includes a collection belonging to Joan Morgan which was donated to the organisation following her death in 2004.


Brighton & Hove, Film and Cinema, by David Fisher (Terra Media)

The story of film and cinema in Brighton and Hove from the earliest days. Details chronological information on film-making in Shoreham.

Obituary for Joan Morgan, The Independent, 2004