Edgar Allan Poe (1909)
Edgar Allan Poe (film)
Edgar "Allen" Poe is a 1909 American silent drama film produced by the Biograph Company of New York and directed and co-written by D. W. Griffith. The short stars Barry O'Moore, who portrays the 19th-century American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe. When it was released in February 1909 and throughout its theatrical run, the film was consistently identified and advertised with Poe's middle name misspelled in its official title, using an "e" instead of the correct second "a". The short was also originally shipped to theaters on a split-reel, which was a single reel that accommodated more than one film. This 450-foot drama shared its reel with another Biograph short, the 558-foot comedy A Wreath in Time. Prints of both films survive.
The film focuses on Edgar Allan Poe and his wife Virginia Clemm, who is bedridden and seriously ill. While Poe comforts her, a raven suddenly appears on a bust of Pallas displayed on a high shelf in her room. Inspired by the sight, Poe writes "The Raven", his greatest poetic work. He then leaves, hoping to sell the poem to a local newspaper or book publisher so he can buy much-needed food and medicines for Virginia. At a newspaper office, the first potential buyer rejects the creation. Desperate for money, Poe rushes to another publisher's office, where a man and a woman are busy editing. Initially, one editor dismisses Poe's poem, but the other one reads the work, likes it, and pays him for it. Poe then uses the money to buy a basket of food and other items for his wife. Virginia is still lying in bed when he returns home, where he proudly unfolds a new blanket he also purchased, but as he places the blanket on her, he realizes that she had died while he was gone. Poe is devastated by her loss, and the film ends with him crying over her body.
- Barry O'Moore as Edgar Allan Poe
- Linda Arvidson as Virginia Poe
- Arthur V. Johnson as publisher at first office
- Charles Perley as "Resident poet" at first office
- David Miles as publisher at second office
- Anita Hendrie as editor at second office
The screenplay for this short was co-written by director Griffith and Frank E. Woods. The drama was shot using three interior corner sets at Biograph's headquarters and main studio, which in 1908 and 1909 were located inside a renovated brownstone mansion at 11 East 14th Street in New York City. Filming by company cinematographer G. W. Bitzer was completed in just two days, although records differ as to those exact dates. Profiles on the film at the Library of Congress cite January 21 and 23, 1909, while Biograph production records noted in the 1985 reference D. W. Griffith and the Biograph Company give earlier dates–December 21 and 23, 1908.
Upon release of the short in early 1909, Biograph marketed it as "a work of art" that the company produced to commemorate "this season of birthday centennial."
The playable copy of the film featured on this page was produced from a 161-foot roll of paper prints copied from the production's original footage. That roll of images, preserved in Library of Congress, was made in 1909 by Biograph, which used its now-lost 35mm master negative of Edgar Allen Poe to print frame-by-frame positive images of the drama onto strips of photographic paper. Submitted by Biograph to the United States government shortly before the film's release, the roll of paper prints is part of the original documentation required by federal authorities when motion-picture companies applied for copyright protection for their productions. While the LC's paper print record is not projectable, such paper copies can be transferred onto modern polyester-based safety film stock for screening. In fact, during the 1950s and early 1960s, Kemp R. Niver and other LC staff restored more than 3,000 such paper rolls in the library's collection and transferred many of them, including Edgar Allen Poe, to safety stock.