A Daughter of the Gods

A Daughter of the Gods

Filming date: January to August 1916
Filming location: Kingston, Jamaica
Release date: 16 October 1916; reissued by Fox Film Corporation in December 1917, in August 1918, and in February 1920
Release length: Ten reels
Copyright date: 15 October 1916
Written and directed by Herbert Brenon
Cast: Annette Kellerman (Anitia, a Daughter of the Gods), William E. Shay (Prince Omar), Hal De Forrest (The Sultan), Mademoiselle Marcelle Hontabat (Cleone, Prince Omar's Handmaiden), Edward Boring (The Arab Sheik), Violet Horner (Zarrah, His Daughter, the Sultan's Favorite), Jane Lee (Little Prince Omar, the Sultan's Son), Katherine Lee (Nydia), Stuart Holmes (Moorish Merchant), Ricca Allen (The Witch of Badness), Henrietta Gilbert (The Fairy of Goodness), Walter James (The Chief Eunuch of the Sultan's Palace), Milly Liston (Zarrah's Mother), Walter McCullough (Chief Guard), Mark Price (Slave Dealer), Louise Rial (The Slave Dealer's wife), Barbara Castleton.

Fox Film Corporation production; distributed by Fox Film Corporation. / Production supervised by J. Gordon Edwards. General manager Winfield R. Sheehan. Art direction by John D. Braddon. Costume design by Irene Lee. Prop master Joseph Allan Turner. Modeller Herbert Messmore. Chief electrician F. Sullivan. Technical director George Fitch. Cinematography by J. Roy Hunt, André Barlatier, Marcel Le Picard, A. Culp, William C. Marshall, C. Richards and E. Warren. Intertitle editor Hettie Grey Baker. Musical accompaniment by Robert Hood Bowers. Presented by William Fox. Copyrighted 15 October 1916 by William Fox (LP9325). Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format. Brenon's direction went uncredited. Studio head William Fox, upset at the film's cost (about one million dollars), cut Brenon's name from the credits (Brenon sued to have it reinstated and won). This film is presumed lost; one reel survives in the Gosfilmofond film archive.

SYNOPSIS (taken from the Library of Congress copyright deposit, with additional material from the film's original program)


In witnessing Mr. Fox's screen fantasy, A Daughter of the Gods, spectators are asked to forget, for the time being, that they are busy, practical men and women, and to become, if only for one night, children again. For childhood is a blessing that comes but once in life, and is never appreciated until it is too late to fully realize its joys. Let us return to our mother's knee tonight, with the fairies and witches and gnomes and elves, and be as little children to enter a heaven of rich enjoyment. Thus for three enchanting hours do we leave this world and all its cares behind.


The Prologue

"The plaything of a little child escapes its earthly prison. And thereby hangs a tale of many years ago."

In a mythical land of Sunshine and Happiness dwell little Nydia and her parents. The choicest smiles of a Nature rarely beautiful and the carols of Song Birds make a fitting complement to their Happiness. Little Nydia finds her greatest happiness away from her parents, in communing with the creatures of brilliant plumage and the harmless animals which have retired to this haven away from possibility of harm and the Evils of mankind.

One day, the father brings to little Nydia a bird more beautiful than any she has seen. She calls it the Queen of the Song Birds and builds for it a cage that she may have it ever with her. Unwittingly she inflicts sorrow, for its mate mourns for it in the leafy home which they have built in the boughs of a spreading tree.

For many days, little Nydia enjoys the music of the Queen of the Song Birds, and then there comes a time when it leaves its cage, which she has left open accidentally, and goes forth to rejoin its mate. But at last Evil, which seemingly cannot be denied, enters in the form of a Cat, in reality one of the many shapes taken by the Wicked Witch, and kills the Queen of the Song Birds. Little Nydia arrives too late to prevent this while the mate of the bird looks on from its leafy bough in sorrow. Brokenhearted, little Nydia prepares a basket and in this she places the body of the song bird and consigns it to the waves. Its mate, also brokenhearted and sorrowful, speedily follows it to a watery grave. Little Nydia returns to her parents and tells them of the occurrence and they endeavor to console her, but to no avail. Daily and hourly and the child droops and will not be consoled.

Act One:

"The land of a Mighty Sultan; and a record of many strange happenings there."

In Another Land of Equal Beauty lives a powerful and happy Sultan, secure in the love of his favorite wife and devoted to their son, little Prince Omar. Between the souls of little Omar and Nydia a distinct parallel may be traced. Here again apparently no evil can enter, yet the Old Witch one day of evil potent rises from the sea and works a mischief upon the little Prince. He has stolen away from his nurse, and his will is directed towards a boat which rests quietly by the shore of the sea upon which his father's kingdom is situated. Unable to resist the Witch's baneful influence, he enters it, and as it drifts out to sea, the Good Fairy routs the Wicked Witch but too late to save the child, for the boat is overturned, and he sinks beneath the waves.

The Sultan -- his father -- learns of this and summons the men of his kingdom, his guards and retainers, and directs them as they swim boldly out to find the Prince. But he cannot be found and only his little hat which floats upon the surface reveals his fate. The Sultan is inconsolable. He kneels by the sea in frenzy, and in that moment his nature undergoes a change.

Almost at the moment when Omar dies, the soul of little Nydia goes forth from its earthly casing, and the souls of the two children fly towards that place wherein all children find happiness and which is shown later as the story progresses.

"A Fairy Prince and Princess Meet."

Twenty years have lapsed, and their passage has left the Sultan a lustful, greedy, soured old man. His own harem stands in awe of his moods, his favorite no longer feels the security which his kindness formerly threw about her. No one knows what may happen next, for the soul of the Sultan is sore grieved at the death of the one dearest in all this world to him, Prince Omar. His thoughts have turned to women. He is apparently satisfied with none.

Nearby is the temporary encampment of the Arab Sheik whose daughter Zarrah is the Star of the Desert. Long has the Sheik looked upon the power and dominance of the Sultan, and summoning his daughter, as wicked and ambitious as himself, they plan against the Sultan. Her beauty shall be the power which shall attract him and hers shall be the hand which will depose him and make her father the Sheik all powerful.

The Sheik escorts his daughter Zarrah through the streets and bazaars of the Oriental city and when at last, through many passages of Oriental magnificence, they come to the Sultan, his rapture knows no bounds when he sees the beautiful Star of the Desert. He immediately deposes his former favorite and takes Zarrah unto himself and his throne. She virtually becomes his mistress and the mistress of the powerful, warlike people whom he rules.

In the Land of Happiness where the Fairy of Good Kindness rules, we see little Nydia and Omar leading a childlike life among the blue waves which envelop them. Then it is that we see the Soul of the Song Bird in the form of the Beautiful Anitia, a free, untrammeled girl of the ocean, while the soul of the Song Bird's mate is now seen in the guise of a beautiful youth. Both souls are destined to become united, and their destinies cross in strange ways.

Zarrah, the star of the Desert, now reigns supreme in the Halls of the Wicked Sultan. Yet vague fears encompass her when the Wicked Witch visits the Sultan and tells him a Maiden called Anitia is being led by the Fates towards his Court and that she is destined to destroy him. The Sultan's alarm is great as he realizes this Evil coming upon his kingdom, and the witch at this opportune moment tells him that should he give orders for the destruction of Anitia that she -- the Witch -- will give him back his son, the Prince Omar. The Sultan agrees, and the witch tells him that even now a youth of noble bearing is approaching his shores who is none other than his son, the Prince.

Joyously, the Sultan hurries forth and there landing upon his shores he sees the Noble Youth and welcomes him. With equal joy, the Sultan bears him through the streets and proclaims from the balcony of his palace that this youth is his son and heir, long lost but now recovered and destined to rule for many years after he has gone. The people joyously acclaim the Prince, and as they do so, Anitia dances a strange dance upon the shadowy rocks with her sea maidens, and then the waves bear her onward to her destiny.

Anitia enters the encampment of the Arab Sheik and is welcomed and made much of. At a distance, however, the Desert Thieves see her, and becoming aware of her rare beauty, they decide that she shall bring them large sums of gold upon the Slave Mart of the Sultan's city. That night, as the shadows gather, they enter the sleeping quarters of the Sheik and inform Anitia that he is about to take her on the morrow and dispose of her in the market of the city. Anitia, believing their deceitful tales, leaves with them, and the Sheik, awakened, offers pursuit.

In the Slave Mart of the Sultan's City we behold the Evil of Man in full sway. A mother has been captured and prays that the brutal auctioneers of human flesh will not take from her the baby which she has borne and loves. Her prayer is denied, and the distracted mother, rather than witness the removal of her child and everything she holds dear, rushes upon the parapet close by and precipitates herself into the sea.

Cleone, a girl of noble family, has also been captured and her charms are exhibited publicly for those who would see and buy. As she also pleads, the Prince Omar, the Youth of Gentle Deeds and Kindness who has endeared himself to the people, visits that part of the city and overhears and sees Cleone's frantic pleas. He interferes and, buying her from the auctioneer, he removes her towards the harem of the Palace, where she is destined to become a handmaiden of the women of the Court. As they depart, Anitia is brought into the Mart by the Wicked Desert Thieves and put up for sale.

Rudely the men clamor for her and offer large sums of gold, but the beauty of Anitia is seen by the Harem Eunuch of the Sultan, a keen judge of values, and he claims prior right to buy the girl. Amid scowls concealed by obsequious bows, he removes her to the Palace of the Sultan. The Desert Sheik who has been in Pursuit arrives but also bows before the imperial authority of the Harem Eunuch.

When Anitia comes before the Wicked Sultan, the beauty of the other women pales into insignificance, and Zarrah, the reigning favorite, sees the coming death of her ambitious hopes.

All the harem women make preparations by bathing themselves for the gorgeous Oriental Festival of the Springtime. Zarrah watches the beauty of Anitia with jealous eyes and tells her to keep in the background as her work is all powerful and a suggestion from her will result in a horrible death for Anitia.

(Intermission Five Minutes)


Act Two

"Wherein We All Become Children Again and Fight for a Beautiful Princess."

We now revert to Mermaid Land, where happiness reigns and where little Omar and Nydia are seen in the midst of the mermaids, who carry the children from rock to rock and disport themselves in the waves. Then comes the Festival of the Springtime. Many women dance before the Sultan and the assembled people, but none satisfy his jaded senses. When Anitia advances down the royal staircase, it is then that the Sultan, although he realizes the menace of Anitia to his own kingdom, cannot restrain the evil desires which possess him at [the] sight of her beauty. The people also are enraptured. Afterwards, the Sultan offers to make her his favorite and presses the highest rewards of his luxurious kingdom and favors upon Anitia. Disgusted by his proximity, her whole maidenly soul offended by the undercurrent of sensuality so strongly revealed in the man's manner, she refuses and thus reassures Zarrah, who has been waiting breathlessly with her own fate hanging in the balance. The Prince Omar has looked upon the beauty of Anitia with pleasure and favor, much to the sorrow of Cleone, who mourns in secret for a jot of the love which he has suddenly conceived for the beautiful maiden, Anitia.

Anitia's refusal to accept the Sultan's favors results in her being locked in the Tower, this evil suggestion coming from Zarrah, who tells the Sultan that once [she is] secure in the tower, he can wreak his pleasure upon Anitia without possible interference. Anitia is accordingly imprisoned in the Tower and there, shortly afterwards, Zarrah, the favorite, follows her and taunts her with her impending fate.

As Anitia lies prostrate under these taunts, Zarrah leaves, and the Wicked Witch appears to gloat upon Anitia's form and the success of her plans. But the Good Fairy who guards her also appears and once again puts to rout the Wicked Witch.

When the Sultan approaches, Anitia renders desperate tries to make her escape, but the guard struggles with her. She does escape, however, and leaps upon the battlements of the Tower in which she is confined and into the ocean hundreds of feet below. The Sultan notes her escape and urges after her his guards. Anitia swims desperately.

Zarrah, returning, tells the Prince Omar, and his anger and surprise are great. Zarrah secretly nourishes a love for Omar, and the Sultan, entering, finds her arms about his neck. Zarrah endeavors to explain, but the rage of the Sultan is very great.

Meanwhile, Anitia has been swimming desperately and is captured. Zarrah visits the Temple where the Wicked Witches worship and begs their assistance in destroying Anitia. They agree to aid in this destruction, but Zarrah must sell them her soul. Without hesitation she agrees to do so and departs. After she has gone, the Wicked Witches, as their first operation, cause the eruption of a volcanic mountain, and the lava pours down upon the city.

Meanwhile, Anitia, who has been brought again before the Sultan, is pursued by him around the harem and strives desperately to make her escape. None seems possible, when the eruption of the volcanic mountain makes itself felt in the city and causes a temporary diversion of interest.

The Sultan now remembers the Witches' warning and denounces Anitia as a sorceress. The people below, furious at the possibility of Anitia causing the eruption, call upon the Sultan to allow them to burn her alive. To this he agrees, and the populace bring her forth to where a large post has been erected and soon it is in a blaze.

As the Sultan watches in great glee, Prince Omar also sees Anitia and goes to her assistance. This infuriates the Sultan, who arrests them both and, at Zarrah's suggestion, commands that Anitia be thrown to the crocodiles. As they take her to her fate, the Prince Omar has a heated scene with the Sultan who -- doubly infuriated at this resistance -- commands that Prince Omar be tied to a rock near the sea and there be drowned. Prince Omar is likewise led to his fate to the sorrow of Cleone, who has been watching.

Anitia is bound, and below in the pool coming through the sluice gate, we see the cavernous jaws of the monsters which are to devour her. At that moment when there seems no hope, the Good Fairy again becomes her savior, and the murderous, devouring crocodiles are turned into innocent swans which swim about upon the surface of the pool. Anitia, thus rescued, goes through the sluice gate and is swept, bound, into the whirlpools beyond.

Onward Anitia is swept through the cascades, unable to help herself. The rapidity of her flight, the desperation of her efforts, prevent her from sinking. As she is thrown from one rapid to another and swept further out, she is seen by the mermaid children -- little Nydia and Omar -- and attention is called to Anitia's plight.

The mermaids swim to her as she is about to be dashed to pieces on a rockbound coast and rescue her, bringing her in safety to the shore. There she is made welcome, but, alas, she cannot linger here as no mortal may stay among the mermaids and live. Anitia is told that she must journey to the land of the Gnomes, a strange little people -- very hard working -- who will treat her kindly.

Accordingly, Anitia journeys onward and bids her kind rescuers and protectors goodbye. Upon her arrival, the Wicked Witch appears and tells them that she is a spirit of evil who means the destruction of the people. The Gnomes receive Anitia with sticks and stones. They chase and finally capture her, but at the moment when they are about to execute summary sentence upon Anitia, the Good Fairy again appears and stills their fears and anger. Anitia is then made much to-do over and assigned the little cabin of state in the Land of the Gnomes.

Back in the Kingdom of the Sultan, Prince Omar is led out to his doom. He is tied by the sea-washed rock and there left to perish by the Wicked Sultan. Zarrah now thinks the time ripe for the consummation of her wicked designs. She visits her father -- the Arab Sheik -- and gets from him the mysterious potion which will first deaden the Sultan's mental powers and then cause the death of his body.

While pretending to lavish a wealth of affection upon the Sultan, she secretly gives the potion to the Sultan and then waits for the effects. In Gnome Land, Anitia entertains the people by her spectacular feats of diving and swimming and becomes the popular idol.

In the Sultan's City, the people, realizing the fate to which the Prince has been condemned, grow mutinous and demand that he be released. The Sultan, furiously angry, makes plans to give them a taste of his power and to rebuke them for their desire to liberate the Prince. Sending forth his guards, a battle royal ensues between the guards and the people, and the Sultan watches with great glee the triumph of his men.

Meanwhile, in Gnome Land, the Good Fairy appears to Anitia and tells her of the troublous times going on in the realm of the Sultan. Anitia then realizes the danger about to befall her lover the Prince, and marshaling the Gnomes, they set out to surround and capture the Sultan's city. As they gallop along furiously, the queer little bearded figures are changed -- by the Agency of the Good Fairy -- into Men of Valor, and they continue their swift rush to the city which they intend conquering.

Their approach is noted by the captain of the Guards, who warns the Sultan. The people demand that the Prince shall lead them against the invader. The Sultan grows furious and tells them that he himself shall lead them, but before he can complete his intention he begins to experience the effect of the mysterious potion given to him by Zarrah. As the news is communicated to the Sultan of his people's refusal to fight under any leadership but that of the Prince, the Sultan dies amid the rejoicing of his harem and Zarrah, whom they hail as their queen.

Then commences the terrible conflict; the Sultan's people under the leadership of the Prince, the Gnomes under the leadership of Anitia. The battle and siege wage back and forth. Large instruments are employed to cast stones. The victory rests with Anitia and the Gnomes until she and the Prince -- with visors down -- meet in a single combat upon the walls of the castle. This encounter results in the death of Anitia, who is thus slain by the hand of her own lover and against whom she did not realize she was fighting.

The fighting over, the sorrow and agony of the Prince is supreme. On a flowered bier by the sea rests the body of Anitia and the Prince stands with visor up and in the presence of the people is hailed as the Sultan. Pointing to the burning city, he tells them that he is Sultan of a sorry kingdom indeed and, turning, looks upon the face of she whom he has slain.

As the people retire, Zarrah comes upon the Prince and presses upon him her love. He spurns it. His heart is with the dead Anitia. Then Zarrah draws a dagger and stabs the Prince to the heart, determined at any cost to have her revenge and realize her ambition. Before she can consummate her foul intent of escape and making good her ambition, she is captured, and the vengeance of the people is wreaked upon her for the death of their beloved leader.

Then are the bodies of Anitia and the Prince consigned to the mercy of the sea upon a flowered bier. But the Good Fairy has been watching, and her intention is to reunite their souls in Death. Nearby, the happy Mermaids and the children swim, awaiting the outcome of the pleasure of the Good Fairy.

She appears upon the bier and brings back to life the Prince. But he is disconsolate at the sight of the body of Anitia which lies beside him. Saddened, the Good Fairy touches the inanimate body of Anitia with her wand, and she also comes back to life. For a single moment of bliss they are united. Then Anitia -- who has been destined forever to immortal happiness -- is forced to look upon the return of her lover to Death.

"It seemeth such a little way to me,
Across to that country,
The Beyond:
For it has grown to be
The home of those of whom I am
So fond.
And so for me there is no sting to Death,
It is but crossing, with abated breath,
A little strip of sea,
To find one's loved ones waiting on the shore.
More beautiful, more precious, than before!"

She is transported to the midst of the Mermaids and becomes their Queen. But even in her immortal happiness, her soul still longs for that of Prince Omar. When last seen, she is swimming disconsolately among her followers. And all their tender ministration can do nought to ease her troubled heart.