• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Silent Bible Film Mystery - #02 Joseph's Trials in Egypt

    Last week I posted a silent Bible film puzzle that I was struggling to identify and as I've been struggling with others all week I thought I might turn it into a series. (There's a very old couple of posts that fit with this series as well at that link).

    Anyway, this one revolves around a film about Joseph (son of Jacob not Jesus' guardian) which was released in the US as Joseph's Trials in Egypt in 1914. Now there are a number of other films about Joseph released around that time. The first is Thanhouser's Joseph in the Land of Egypt (1914), which is available to view on Vimeo. It was directed by W. Eugene Moore. Another US film was released the same year - Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors - directed by produced by Sawyer, directed by Louis N. Parker and released by the Dormet film company it ran to six reels. There's some record of both of these films having the alternate title Joseph and his Brethren, but these two films do seem to be separate.

    The confusion starts with the other well attested Joseph film of the era, Henri Andréani's Joseph, Fils de Jacob. David Shepherd discusses this film in some detail in his book "The Bible on Silent Film" (pp.149-154). Interestingly addition to the detailed description of the plot he also explains that Andréani had split from Pathé just before the release of the film and produced the film himself (although Pathé still distributed in).

    The IMDb (which I don't consider particularly reliable on obscure old films like this) considers this film to be the original title for the one in question, Joseph's Trials in Egypt. It's not surprising that the films have been linked as various sources refer to Trials as being French in origin and produced by Path&eacute.

    However, I'm not sure the IMDb is correct on this point. Firstly none of the people who have compiled lists of these films before seems to list this as an alternate title to Joseph, Fils de Jacob. That may not seem so remarkable for Campbell and Pitts, but it seems unlikely, to me at least, that if there was an established link that Shepherd would not have heard of it given the depth of his research; or that if he had heard of it that he wouldn't have mentioned it.

    Secondly there is also the fact I mentioned above regarding Andréani's split from Pathé. This may have left Pathé feeling that they needed to make their own Joseph film to round off their series. Verreth lists the film by its English title, but also provides a French translation Les épreuves de Joseph en Égypte. Might this have been the film's original title?

    Or am I just over-complicating the issue? Should I have just gone with the IMDb's verdict and list Joseph's Trials in Egypt as an alternate title to Joseph, Fils de Jacob? If anyone has any evidence on this one way or the other I would be interested in hearing it.

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