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Norah Baring




British Instructional Films, 1929.  Directed by Anthony Asquith.  Camera:  Stanley Rodwell.  With Norah Baring, Uno Henning, Hans Schlettow, Anthony Asquith, Judd Green.

In a small Devonshire town, Joe, a young hairdresser, falls in love with Sally, the pretty manicurist in the shop where he is employed.  The young man finally invites her to go out with him for an evening. She accepts; but it is soon apparent that she does not return his interest. Nevertheless, Joe persists.  Into the shop—with some frequency—comes a young farmer who does not disguise his interest in Sally.  He takes her to the cinema (one of the new 'talking films') and Joe, filled with jealousy, follows them.  From the row behind he watches their happiness, and rushes out of the cinema in great distress.

Next morning the young farmer comes into the shop for a shave. Joe notices that Sally is wearing an engagement ring.  Desperate, he leans over the farmer, a razor in his hand.  There is a struggle, and the razor wounds the farmer.  Sally is convinced that he had attempted to murder her lover, and Joe is sent to Dartmoor.

A few years later, Joe escapes and finds his way to a cottage which he knows is owned by the farmer he attacked.  Sally, now the farmer's wife takes pity on him and hides him.  Warders, however, trace Joe to the cottage and he is shot down while trying to escape.  He dies in the arms of Sally, whom he still loves.

Excerpt© 'Puffin Asquith' by R.J. Minney


A deranged man escapes from prison to seek revenge on the woman who put him there in A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929).  Revealed in flashbacks and punctuated with rapid montage, this late silent era film displays the mastery of visual narrative achieved just prior to "the talkies" using lurid metaphor and a minimal number of inter-titles.

Joe (Uno Henning) a barber's assistant, is obsessed with Sally (Norah Baring) a pretty manicurist who has fallen in love with a customer and local farmer (Hans Schlettow).  As their attachment grows, Joe becomes increasingly jealous, cutting the farmer's throat with a straight razor when he finally snaps.

Director Anthony Asquith etches his characters with sparing light against the darkness of night, in the street, the theater and farmhouse.  By contrast, the dark doings of Joe's crime are all the more shocking in the only bright setting, the barbershop.  As mayhem ensues, a bottle falls from an overturned table, its liquid contents burbling onto the floor.  An overwrought Joe smears real blood across his face and claims his innocence, "I never meant to do it."  A glowing ceiling light over his shoulder recalls the earlier image of a sinister moon hiding behind clouds as he runs across the darkened countryside.

Fundamentally a silent film, A Cottage on Dartmoor was released during the period of transition into sound when hybrid productions were common. The original film included one scene, in which Joe spies on Sally and the farmer at the movies, with a synchronized soundtrack.  Ironically, the group who would soon be thrown out of work by sound is featured in this segment, the theater orchestra.  Anthony Asquith appears briefly as an audience member, mistaken for the star on the screen by two boys.  While this scene remains in the film, the synchronized soundtrack recorded in Germany is now presumed lost.

Multi-national in the truest sense, A Cottage on Dartmoor was co-produced by British Instructional Films and the Swedish Biograph Company.  Schlettow, a German, appeared in numerous Fritz Lang productions, also working with D.W. Griffith and Joe May.  Henning, a Swede, appeared in G.W. Pabst and Victor Sjöström films, while Baring, a Brit, was featured in Alfred Hitchcock's Murder (1930).

Internet Movie Database
(R.D. Jeffers)