Joseph Urban and Cosmopolitan Films

The Restless Sex

Miss 1917. Garden of Eden

Joseph Urban

Miss 1917

Watercolor, “Garden of Eden” scene, Century Theater, 1917

Joseph Urban Collection B10.8

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"The Restless Sex," Cosmopolitan Productions Number 6, starred Marion Davies in the double role of Stephanie/Steve, and premiered on September 12, 1920 at the Criterion Theater in New York.

For the live prologue, Criterion manager Hugo Riesenfeld presented his "Marion Davies Waltz" and Joseph Urban reused this "Garden of Eden" design from the Ziegfeld review "Miss 1917." 

The complete film is held by the Library of Congress and has been released on DVD.

"The Restless Sex" was directed by Leon D'Usseau and Robert Z. Leonard. It was based on a 1918 novel by Robert W. Chambers, with a scenario adapted by Frances Marion.

The plot revolves around Stephanie (Steve) played by Marion Davies, a restless and adventurous woman. Growing up she loves Jim Cleland, played by Ralph Kellard, her foster brother, but she also finds herself attracted to art student Oswald Grismer, played by Carlyle Blackwell.

In the archive, Urban's problems with directors begin to be documented here with these two photographs. The first one has written on the verso: "As lit by Urban." The one below has written on the verso: "As re-lit by the director."

This scene shows Oswald's "Poor Studio," and with the more diffuse lighting, the actor's despair would be much less enhanced.

"The Ball of the Gods," referred to by Hearst in his letter to Urban, shown below, also called the "Bal des Arts" sequence, had costumes designed by Erté, with Marion Davies dressed as Pallas Athena. Norma Shearer was an extra in the scene.

Erté had signed an exclusive contract with Hearst in 1915 to design for his Harper's Bazar, a relationship that lasted until 1937, producing hundreds of covers.

Among many other photographs in Urban's Scrapbook Number 1, here are Oswald's Rich Studio, Helen's Studio, and the College Theatre where Jim has his first triumph as a playright.

Other scenes documented in the scrapbook are: various Hospital scenes, Grismer's Office, the Cleland Home, Stephanie's Room, Jim's Room, Runner's Rest, Sheriff's Office, and the Entrance to a Cheap Hotel.

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