Life’s Shop Window is an American silent drama film directed by J. Gordon Edwards, released on November 19, 1914. Starring Claire Whitney and Stuart Holmes, it is a film adaptation of the 1907 novel by Annie Sophie Cory. It depicts the story of English orphan Lydia Wilton (Whitney) and her husband Bernard Chetwin (Holmes). Although
Annie Sophie Cory, writing as Victoria Cross, was a popular but controversial British New Woman novelist. Adultery and female sexuality are common themes in her works, which often reversed the expected gender roles of the time, permitting female desire to motivate the plot. Elizabeth Bisland described Lydia, the main character of Cory’s 1907 novel Life’s Shop Window, as “a very modernist heroine”, comparing her to a more socially successful Hester Prynne. Like many of Cross’s novels, it attracted controversy, and was banned for a time by the Circulating Libraries Association in the United Kingdom. Life’s Shop Window had already become the basis of a successful play, based on an expurgated version of the novel’s plot.
In 1914, William Fox was operating the successful film distributor Box Office Attraction Film Rental Company. Box Office purchased films from studios such as Balboa Amusement Producing Company, showing them in Fox’s New York area theaters and renting prints to exhibitors elsewhere in the country. Life’s Shop Window may have originally been considered for production in this manner. However, Fox decided he was unwilling to depend on others for the products his business required, and instead prepared to produce his own films under the Box Office Attractions Company name. He purchased the Éclair film studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey and property in Staten Island, arranged for actors and crew, and began production with an adaptation of an established work, as was common at the time.
Rights to the film adaptation were purchased for $100.[a] Like the theatrical adaptation, Mary Asquith’s screenplay removed much of the book’s controversial sexual elements, censorship intended to make Fox’s nascent studio appear more respectable to the industry. Fox selected J. Gordon Edwards to direct, in what may have been his directorial debut; credit for the earlier St. Elmo is disputed, with sources disagreeing whether Edwards or Bertram Bracken directed.
Filming for Life’s Shop Window took place at a farm on the Staten Island property, and possibly in the Fort Lee studio. The budget for this five-reel feature film was small, with the cost of production reported as $4,500[b] or $6,000;[c] Fox would exaggerate the cost of production to over thirty times its true value in later advertising. At the time, films of comparable length generally required between $20,000 and $30,000 to produce.[d] Film historian Terry Ramsaye reported that Fox was not pleased with the completed film and initially declared: “Let’s burn the damn thing”, before being convinced to allow its release. Life’s Shop Window premiered at the Academy of Music in New York on October 20, 1914, although it did not receive its official release until November 19.Wilton’s marriage is legitimate, it was conducted in secret, and she is accused of having a child out of wedlock. Forced to leave England, she reunites with her husband in Arizona. There, she meets an old acquaintance, Eustace Pelham, and considers running away with him before she sees the error of her ways and returns to her family. Life’s Shop Window was the first film produced, rather than simply distributed, by William Fox‘s Box Office Attractions Company, the corporate predecessor to Fox Film. Reviewers’ opinions of the film’s quality were mixed, but it was very popular upon its initial release in New York. Like