About the Film
A melodrama at its finest penned by Hal Reid, who knew his way around the art of crafting a melodrama, brings us, Mothers of Men. Topical for 1917 when women were battling to obtain the right to vote, Mothers of Men enters into the discussion and brings a provocative voice to the Suffrage movement showing the nation how strong women can be if allowed to hold a political office. Dorothy Davenport as Clara Madison, a prominent lawyer, wins a judgeship over fellow Attorney Grant Williams, played by Willis L. Robards. Upon winning the prominent position as judge, Ms. Madison finds herself walking a political tightrope with enemies all around doing what they can to cause her downfall. Judge Madison convicts a murderer to death paving the way for her to be easily elected as the first female Governor. As Governor she is faced with a difficult dilemma. She has the power to pardon her husband who has been convicted of a serious crime, but to do so she’d be using her office for her own personal gain. “I must find some way to realize my ideals without sacrificing my husband. I must struggle on somehow for the sake of womanhood!”
About the Restoration
Willis Robards’s Mothers of Men was originally released in November 1917 and then re released four years later, after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, with the new title, Every Woman’s Problem. No elements of the 1917 version are known to survive, but a single complete, tinted 35mm nitrate print of the 1921 rerelease has been preserved at the British Film Institute. Film archivist James Mockoski has been passionate in his research on the film and its significance to the history of his native Santa Cruz and suggested a collaboration between SFSFF and the BFI National Archive to restore the film. Digital tools allowed for minimizing the dirt and damage present in the ninety-five-year-old print, which was scanned at 4K, and the color tinting present in the rerelease print was reproduced. In addition to the materials preserved at the BFI National Archive, a new 35mm preservation negative and positive print have been deposited in the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Collection at the Library of Congress.
BFI National Archive