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The Bells (1918 film)

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The Bells
Ad for film
Directed byErnest C. Warde
Written byGilson Willets (film scenario)
Jack Cunningham (film scenario)
Based onThe Bells
by Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian
StarringFrank Keenan
Lois Wilson
Anderson-Brunton Company
Distributed byPathé Exchange
Release date
  • September 15, 1918 (1918-09-15)
Running time
5 reels
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

The Bells is a lost[1] 1918 American silent drama film released by Pathé Exchange. It was adapted from the 1867 French play Le Juif Polonais (The Polish Jew) by Erckmann-Chatrian and an 1871 English-language version, The Bells, by Leopold Lewis. The latter was a favorite vehicle for actor Henry Irving. This silent film stars Frank Keenan and Lois Wilson. The story was remade in 1926 as The Bells with Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff.[2][3]


As reported in a film publication,[4] Mathias, the struggling innkeeper in an Alsatian hamlet, murders a wealthy Jew who comes to spend a night at the inn in order to pay off debts and a mortgage.

The murderer is never discovered, but the season passes into local history as the "Polish Jew's winter." Mathias prospers, and years later his daughter becomes engaged to the captain of the gendarmes. Mathias prepares her dowry, and the sight of the gold coins brings again to his tortured conscience the ever-present sound of the sleigh-bells that heralded the approach of the ill-fated Jewish guest. In his sleep he dreams he is on trial and a hypnotist wrings a confession from him. In an ecstasy of fear he expires in the arms of his wife and daughter, the victim of Heaven's justice.



Like many American films of the time, The Bells was subject to cuts by city and state film censorship boards. For example, the Chicago Board of Censors required a cut, in Reel 2, of the two intertitles "The Crossroads, on murder bent" and "The murder in the snow", the theft of money belt, robbing body of money, and the intertitle "Destruction of the body in the lime kiln" and throwing the body into the kiln.[5]

See also


  1. ^ The Library of Congress/FIAF American Silent Feature Film Survival Catalog:The Bells
  2. ^ The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1911-20 by The American Film Institute, c.1988
  3. ^ Progressive Silent Film List: The Bells at
  4. ^ "The Bells: Pathé Presents the Distinguished Player, Frank Keenan, in a Screen Version of One of the Most Famous Plays of the Speaking Stage". Moving Picture World. New York City: Chalmers Publishing Company. 38 (11): 1253. Dec 14, 1918. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  5. ^ "Official Cut-Outs by the Chicago Board of Censors". Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 7 (22): 28. November 23, 1918.

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The Bells (1918 film)
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