The Cinema Museum, London

Kennington Bioscope presents The Man Without Desire (1923) and John Heriot’s Wife (1920)

Wed 15 Jun 2022 @ 19:30 · Events

The Kennington Bioscope is a regular cinema event featuring live accompaniment to silent films that takes place at the Cinema Museum.

The Man Without Desire (1923), dir Adrian Brunel, with Ivor Novello and Nina Vanna. When his lover is murdered by her cruel husband, an 18th Century Venetian nobleman is placed by his magician friend into suspended animation. Awaking 200 years later, he finds the experiment has unexpected consequences.

The feature film debut of British director Adrian Brunel, The Man Without Desire was co-produced by Miles Mander and its star, Ivor Novello. It was made on a total budget of £5,000, meagre even by the standards of 1923 but still sufficient to facilitate some location filming in Venice (with studio work and post-production in Germany). Brunel had been commissioned to set a historical drama there but felt it would gain audience interest by framing an 18th century story within a present-day context (it was known during production by Brunel’s suggested title, It Happened in Venice). Author Moncton `Pat’ Hoffe had been reading a story about a man who had been put into suspended animation by freezing for a period of fifty years and it was agreed that doing the same for their central character for two hundred years would fit their brief. In the end Hoffe provided little more than that but a script was developed by Brunel with designer/impresario Hugo Rumbold and screenwriter Frank Fowell. Musical-comedy star Novello, who had already begun to make a reputation in films with French director Louis Mercanton, agreed to play the lead for the small fee available and as his leading lady Brunel chose an unknown who had fled Russia after the Revolution, Nina Vanna (née Yarsikova). After a somewhat turbulent production – Rumbold departed after a dispute with production manager Jack Ewen, Venice had an uncharacteristic month of heavy rain, Brunel went to Italy in search of assistance and inflation-hit Berlin proved a difficult place to source studio space – Brunel got his film completed and it was chosen to be screened during the British Film Week at London’s Tivoli Theatre, sandwiched between Rex Ingram’s Scaramouche and Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris. `A formidable test’, he later recalled, `but it broke several records and could have stood for a run’.


John Heriot’s Wife (1920), dir B. E. Doxat-Pratt, with Mary Odette, Henry Victor, Annie Bos and Lola Cornero. A young debutante gets into an innocent but compromising situation with a charming writer during a weekend at her aunt’s country house.

John Heriot’s Wife was the fourth film produced by Maurits Herman Binger and directed by the British filmmaker B. E. Doxat-Pratt.  Few Anglo-Holladia productions survive, so this film is of great value in helping to give us an idea of the company’s production. It is a solid, professional production with some fine locations (especially the opening episode in the country), able photography, and good acting. Annie Bos, who plays a pivotal role of the blackmailing Lady Headcombe to the hilt in the film, was the top star of Dutch silent films from 1912 to 1924. Lola Cornero was an Anglo-Dutch actress who appeared in quite a number of Dutch films from 1915 to 1920.

Colin Sell will be providing live piano accompaniment for The Man Without Desire and John Sweeney will be playing for John Heriot’s Wife.

35mm film presentation. The Man Without Desire is a 35mm print from the BFI, and John Heriot’s Wife is a 35mm tinted print from The Cinema Museum collection, restored by the Lumiere Project.

Silent film with intertitles which may be suitable for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Tickets & Pricing

£7. Seats are limited, so please arrive early or request an invitation using the email
John Heriot's Wife