Produced by William S Hart Productions; Released 8/19/18 by Paramount-Artcraft; Producer: Thomas H. Ince; Director: William S. Hart; Assistant Director: Lambert Hillyer; Screenplay: William S. Hart, from the novel The Vengeance of Jefferson Gawne by Charles Alden Seltzer; Cinematography: Joe August; Art Director: G. Harold Percival; 5 reels (4757') Print Source: Gosfilmofond (Russia)
CAST: William S. Hart (Jefferson "Riddle" Gawne), Katherine MacDonald (Kathleen Harkness), Lon Chaney (Hame Bozzam), Gretchen Lederer (Blanche Dillon), Gertrude Short (Jane Gawne), Leon Kent (Jess Cass), Milton Ross (Reb Butler), Edwin B. Tilton (Col. Harkness), George Field (Paisley)
SYNOPSIS: Jefferson Gawne, known as "Riddle" because of his peculiar hatred of mankind, has devoted his life to a search for the man who murdered his younger brother, Wesley. Wesley's wife ran off with the killer, deserting their baby daughter, Jane. On his deathbed, Wesley told his brother that the killer was Watt Hyat. In the years that followed, Gawne became the owner of the Diamond Bar Ranch where he raised Jane. Nearby was Bozzam City, a tough town ruled by Hame Bozzam, leader of a gang of rustlers. Kathleen Harkness arrives in town to live with her father, Col. Harkness. When she is accosted by Cass and Connors, two of Bozzam's gang, Gawne wounds Cass and escorts Kathleen to safety. Col. Harkness is mixed up with Bozzam's gang, and Bozzam plans to use this fact to gain control of Kathleen. Bozzam orders the sheriff, Reb Butler, to arrest Gawne, but his failure is obvious when Gawne delivers Butler, tied-up, at Bozzam's doorstep the next morning. Gawne is shot by Paisley, one of Bozzam's men, and is nursed back to health by Blanche Dillon, Bozzam's lover who has tired of him. Blanche convinces Kathleen that Gawne loves her, and out of spite, Kathleen allows Bozzam to call on her. When Gawne recovers, he decides to rid the town of Bozzam once and for all. He and his men raid and destroy the rustlers' camp, but Bozzam is not there. Gawne goes to the Harkness home where he finds the Col. fatally wounded, learns that Bozzam has kidnapped Kathleen, and that Paisley has taken Jane. Gawne tracks them down, and in a ferocious fight Paisley is killed, but Gawne's leg is broken. Bozzam taunts the helpless Gawne, telling him that he is really Watt Hyat, the man who killed his brother. With superhuman strength, and ignoring his broken leg, Gawne attacks and kills Bozzam. His vengeance fulfilled, Gawne and Kathleen begin a new life together.
"The ordinary story of deferred vengeance is not liked by audiences of today...but RIDDLE GAWNE is made to respond to Hart's favorite idea of character conversion, and it is cleverly constructed." ---Moving Picture World.
The star has one of those sympathetic roles in which he always shines...Lon Chaney has a prominent character role, and plays it up to the minute." ---Motion Picture News
NOTES: Although released before some of his Universal films, this was Chaney's first film away from Universal, and filmed after some of the Universal releases that were yet to be distributed to theaters. Lambert Hillyer claims that his mother saw Chaney in HELL MORGAN'S GIRL and called him to Hillyer's attention. Hart was reluctant to use Chaney because of his height, but eventually consented. Chaney received $125 a week for work in the picture. Working with a huge star like Hart was a major stepping stone in his career.
A print of RIDDLE GAWNE survives in the Russian Gosfilmofond film archive, but only the first reel survives. This can be purchased on DVD from Unseen Cinema.
© 1996,1998,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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