Title ID 8930Collection ID1192
TitleThe Mayor of Casterbridge
CollectionEarly Films
Genre/TypeProfessionalFilm/Video companyFictionAdaptation
ThemeEarly film in the South East Family life
KeywordsMen Fathers Workers Food Family Performing Arts
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionProgress Films
DirectorSidney Morgan
WriterSidney Morgan
CastFred Groves
Other creditsThomas Hardy
FormatBlack & White Silent
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Sidney Morgan presents Thomas Hardy's tale of a man who changes his ways and makes a success of his life after wrongdoing his wife and child only to loose it all, the first film entirely shot on location in Britain and produced in 1921, the same year as A Lowland Cinderella starring Joan Morgan.


'On the road to the Dorsetshire town of Casterbridge.' Black opens to reveal a couple and young girl walking along a road. They pass a man with a shire horse and cart; '"Got any work, mate?,"' he asks. '"No, nothin' doin' here, try over at Casterbridge"', is his reply. Men and women have gathered at a fermity tent. The family sit at a table. Susan begs her husband not to drink but he goes ahead. Michael Henchard grows quarrelsome 'under the influence of many drinks'. Richard Newson, a sailor, arrives, an old admirer of Susan. Men gather to auction off a horse. '"An Auction!... Ha-ha... an auction!... Here, I'll sell this wife I've got no use for... to the highest bidder!"' Richard Newson produces five pounds, which Michael takes without hesitation. Newson picks up the child and Susan follows the pair out of the tent; 'Susan quivered under the insult, but seeing the offer accepted, she left Michael without another look or another word and joined Richard Newson.'

Fifteen years later, Susan and her daughter Elizabeth, who has grown up knowing Richard Newson as her father, return to Casterbridge. They walk through a fairground. Elizabeth opens a handwritten note, which tells of Richard Newson's death; 'It is my faithful duty to inform you that the "Scotland" on which your husband was sailing has foundered with all hands.' Elizabeth looks up, tearful and goes to comfort her mother, sitting with a gypsy. 'Tortured by remorse for his past misconduct Michael Henchard had sought, by hard work, to atone for the past. Destiny willed that he should succeed and fifteen years found him a prosperous merchant and Mayor of Casterbridge.' Men dine at a long table. A crowd has gathered outside, peering in. Susan starts to cry when he sees Michael through the window. She sends her daughter with a letter for Michael, who greets the girl at his desk. The pair arrange for Susan to meet Michael, the Mayor of Casterbridge. Elizabeth takes the note for Susan, who has been waiting in a bedroom.

The Rendezvous. Susan and Michael meet on a path. She bows her head and he tips his hat. He begs for her forgiveness, and promises he's changed. She asks him to care for their daughter when she is gone. He kisses her on the cheek as she walks away. 'Worn out by sorrow and privations, Susan died shortly afterwards, but her appeal had succeeded and Michael lavished all the depths of his love upon his daughter, to whom, however, he always appeared in the guise of a devoted friend.' Michael brings out a pony for Elizabeth at the stables on his estate. Elizabeth and a local doctor walk together by the river. He asks her to marry him but she bows her head. A the magistrates' court, Michael asks a woman in the dock if she has anything more to say. She accuses him of forgetting that he sold his own wife and child for a fiver when he was drunk in a fermity tent. The image fades to reveal the mayor's memory of the event; 'The woman is right, it is true. I have no right to judge others,' he says, and leaves the court room. Michael retires to a little cottage, far away from Casterbridge. They sit at a table to eat together. 'Richard Newson, who had escaped from the wreck of the "Scotland" once more made his entrance into Michael Henchard's life.' Michael stops Elizabeth answering the door, but recoils with shock when she sees the man she knows as her father. They embrace, and she leaves with Richard.

'The following spring, there was a wedding in Casterbridge and Elizabeth was married to her doctor lover.' They speed along a road on a horse and trap, in footage taken from another moving vehicle in front and behind. Michael, meanwhile, returns to his old ways. He stops a man with a shire horse and cart to ask for work, as he had done on his way to Casterbridge. He receives the same reply; 'No, nothin' doin' 'ere... try further along.' Glumly, he continues along the road. The End.