Thais (1917)

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Anatole France's famous Egyptian courtesan came to the screen in December of 1917, courtesy of the Goldwyn company and opera diva Mary Garden, the latter making a much heralded screen debut. Garden had received accolades singing the part at the Manhattan Opera House, but a Thais without the Garden voice was a tricky preposition. Most reviews of the film applauded Garden for her past triumphs and Samuel Goldwyn for attempting to bring a bit of culture to the masses, but the very same masses refused steadfastly to be cultured, at least by Garden, who never really understood that film was a different media from grand opera. Garden herself especially protested the way Thais' death was filmed. "Imagine," she complained, "a saint dying like that!" Having had all he could take, Goldwyn told her, "You'd have a hard time proving to anyone that you're a saint." The diva left the screen after only her second film, the equally unsuccessful The Splendid Sinner.