AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Sorrell and Son
Director: Herbert Brenon () ([Dir])
Release Date:   2 Dec 1927
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 12 Nov 1927
Production Date:   London: mid-Jul--mid-Aug 1927; Los Angeles: began mid-Aug 1927
Duration (in feet):   9,000
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   H. B. Warner (Stephen Sorrell)  
    Anna Q. Nilsson (Dora Sorrell)  
    Mickey McBan (Kit Sorrell, their son, as a child)  
    Carmel Myers (Flo Palfrey)  
    Lionel Belmore (John Palfrey, her husband)  
    Norman Trevor (Thomas Roland)  
    Betsy Ann Hisle (Molly Roland, his daughter, as a child)  
    Louis Wolheim (Buck)  
    Paul McAllister (Dr. Orange)  
    Alice Joyce (Fanny Garland)  
    Nils Asther (Kit Sorrell [as a man])  
    Mary Nolan (Molly Roland [as a woman])  
    Flobelle Fairbanks (Young woman in London nightclub)  

Summary: Captain Stephen Sorrell, who was badly wounded during World War I, returns to London with the Military Cross, only to find that his pleasure-seeking wife Dora is leaving him for a wealthier man. Sorrell's pain at her betrayal is only softened by the love he and his young son Kit feel toward each other. Hoping to care for Kit and retain his status as a gentleman, Sorrell tries to return to his old position as a sales manager but is told that it has been filled. Because of his poor health and difficult times, Sorrell cannot find work in London, so he accepts a clerk's position at an antiques store in Staunton. Although the position reduces Sorrell's status, he is happy it will enable him to provide for Kit. Arriving in Staunton, Sorrell is shattered to learn that the antiques dealer has died and the position no longer exists. Desperate to keep Kit with him, Sorrell accepts a job as a porter at a local inn. The proprietress, Flo Palfrey, delights in humiliating Sorrell, whom she recognizes as having been born a gentleman, yet she also is attracted to him and tries to seduce him. When he rejects her advances, she fires him, but his fortunes turn for the better when Thomas Roland, a guest at the inn, hires him to work as a porter at a large hotel he manages. Sorrell works very hard at the hotel, despite constant ill treatment by Buck, the bullying head porter. One night, when Buck tries to force himself on Fanny Garland, a housekeeper who has befriended Sorrell, he is stopped by Sorrell in a violent clash. Awakened by the disturbance, Roland dismisses Buck and makes Sorrell the new head porter. As the years pass, Sorrell excels as the head porter, while Kit and Roland's daughter Molly happily play together. Roland pays for Kit's tuition at a prominent boarding school, but when Sorrell goes to visit his son, the headmaster berates him for being a lowly porter and expels Kit. Despite their humiliation, Sorrell and Kit are happy to be reunited. As the years pass, Kit, who has wanted to become a surgeon since the famous Dr. Orange saved Molly’s life after a childhood accident, attends Oxford and graduates from medical school. For Sorrell, now manager of the hotel after Roland retires, and in a loving relationship with Fanny, life seems complete until Dora, now a lonely, wealthy widow, re-enters his life. Although Kit does not want to see her, Sorrell convinces him that he should accept her offer to stay with her in London for a few weeks. Dora shows Kit a life of luxury pleasure in London, but he rejects her and returns to his father. Sometime later, after Dr. Orange has given Kit a position at a London hospital, he begins to excel at his profession. One day, however, during brain surgery, Kit accidentally cuts his hand, which becomes infected. The infection soon becomes so serious that doctors are certain that Kit’s arm must be amputated to save his life. Kit refuses the operation, with the loving support of his father, but passes the crisis and recovers. Soon Kit and Dora marry, to the pride and happiness of Roland and Sorrell. While the newlyweds are on their honeymoon, Sorrell collapses in the garden of the cottage he shares with Fanny. Sorrell does not want to disturb Kit’s honeymoon, but upon his return, Kit learns that his father is dying. Orange, who is attending Sorrell, tells the devastated Kit that only morphine will stop the great pain that will be with his father until death. That night, acquiescing to his father’s wishes, Kit gives him an overdose of morphine to stop the pain, then kisses his dying father’s forehead. Despondent and racked with guilt, Kit is comforted by Molly, who tells him “what a last service” he did for his father. The next day, the devoted Fanny attends Sorrell's garden.

 

Production Company: Feature Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Herbert Brenon production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Herbert Brenon ([Dir])
  Ray Lissner (Asst dir)
Producer: Joseph M. Schenck (Pres)
Writer: Elizabeth Meehan (Adpt)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Photog)
Art Direction: William Cameron Menzies (Settings)
Film Editor: Marie Halvey (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Julian Boone Fleming (Set dec)
Make Up: Fred C. Ryle (Makeup)
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the novel Sorrell and Son by George Warwick Deeping (New York, 1925).
Authors: George Warwick Deeping

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Feature Productions, Inc. 22/12/1927 dd/mm/yyyy LP24781

Physical Properties: Si:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Melodrama
 
Subjects (Major): Class distinction
  Desertion (Marital)
  Fathers and sons
  Innkeepers
  Inns
  Euthanasia
  Porters
  Surgeons
  War heroes
 
Subjects (Minor): Boarding schools
  Jealousy
  London (England)
  Morphine
  Mothers and sons
  Nightclubs
  World War I

Note: Director Herbert Brenon's only onscreen credit appears above the title and reads "A Herbert Brenon production." As noted in numerous contemporary news items, exteriors for the film were shot on location in England. Early in the film, there are shots of star H. B. Warner walking along a London street and riding on a double-decker bus crossing the Westminster Bridge. According to various accounts, the company, including the director, cameraman and principal actors, left for England in mid-Jul 1927 and returned to Hollywood on 17 Aug.
       A 30 Apr 1927 LAT article about actor Percy Marmont reported that he was being "mentioned" as the lead for Sorrell and Son , but the seriousness of his consideration for the role has not been determined. The picture was the first credited American film role of actress Mary Nolan (1905--1948). As some reviews noted, Nolan, who was an American, had appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies under the name Imogene Wilson. Because of her involvement in a scandal, she left the U.S. in 1925 and appeared in several films in Germany under the name Imogene Robertson. As Mary Nolan, she appeared in a number of American films through the early 1930s.
       As part of the first Academy Awards, Herbert Brenon received a certificate of honorable mention in the category of directing for his work on the film. George Warwick Deeping's novel also was the basis of the 1934 British-American co-production of the same name, which was shot in England, directed by Jack Raymond and again starred Warner (see entry). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   27 Nov 1927.   
Los Angeles Times   30 Apr 1927   p. A6.
Los Angeles Times   2 Jun 1927   p. A8.
Los Angeles Times   3 Jul 1927   p. C9.
Los Angeles Times   17 Aug 1927   p. A8.
Los Angeles Times   20 Nov 1927   p. C15.
New York Times   14 Aug 1927   p. X3.
New York Times   14 Nov 1927   p. 26.
Variety   16 Nov 1927   p. 21.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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