- The Canadian (1926) movie review: Marred by a conventional second half, William Beaudine’s romantic drama is notable for its inhospitable setting – Canada’s Great Plains – and as a star vehicle for popular silent era actor Thomas Meighan.
The Canadian movie review: Silent era star Thomas Meighan faces environmental & marital adversities in uneven romantic drama
By then in his mid-40s, Thomas Meighan is The Star of William Beaudine’s The Canadian (1926), which was screened at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The credits feature his name far above everyone else’s.
The film’s basic plot – scenario by the Canadian-born Arthur Stringer, adapting W. Somerset Maugham’s 1913 play The Land of Promise – is thematically similar to Victor Sjöström’s better-known 1928 drama The Wind. That is, without the wind tempest, the madness, and the murder.
In brief: After her rich aunt dies, stuffy, uptight Nora (Mona Palma) travels from London to a wheat farm owned by her brother (Wyndham Standing) in Calgary. She looks down with disdain at the simple, rustic life he lives in the country, accompanied by his wife, Gertie (Dale Fuller), and several farm hands, notably the independent-minded Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan).
The scenes following Nora’s arrival on the farm are both humorous and touching. I particularly liked the hostile relationship between her and sister-in-law Gertie – the latter a memorable screen presence as played by the unusual-looking Dale Fuller (of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed). Gertie’s impatience with Nora’s domestic ineptitude and their subsequent personality clash were delightful to watch.
In all, this first half of The Canadian is both engaging and unpredictable. If only the second half were as entertaining.
The story’s key element revolves around men seeking mail-order brides. Having said that, no post office boxes are actually needed for Nora. After an ugly battle with Gertie, she offers herself to Frank as the wife he is looking for, promising to “cook, clean, and sew,” even though she can’t quite do any of these things.
In any event, they marry and settle down in his small shack in the fields. On their wedding day, Nora returns the ring to Frank and locks him out of the bedroom, making it clear she is to be his wife in name only.
This is where The Canadian falls flat, as the plot becomes a series of predictable clichés. Among these are: Frank breaking down the bedroom door and forcing himself on Nora, Nora trying to escape her life in the prairie, Frank repenting, Nora forgiving, nature ravaging, and love blooming.
Love of the sort that neither storm nor crop failure can destroy.
The Canadian (1926)
Director: William Beaudine.
Screenplay: Arthur Stringer (story and scenario).
Titles: Julian Johnson.
From W. Somerset Maugham’s 1913 play The Land of Promise.
Cast: Thomas Meighan. Mona Palma. Wyndham Standing. Dale Fuller. Charles Winninger. Billy Butts.
“The Canadian (1926) Movie Review” notes
The Land of Promise & The Purchase Price
 As The Land of Promise, W. Somerset Maugham’s play was first brought to the screen in 1917. Billie Burke played Nora and Thomas Meighan was Frank. Joseph Kaufman directed from a screenplay by Charles E. Whittaker.
Also worth noting, The Canadian has a number of similarities to the mostly North Dakota-set Pre-Code drama The Purchase Price. Directed by William A. Wellman, this 1932 Warner Bros. release stars faux mail-order bride Barbara Stanwyck, homesteader George Brent, and gangster Lyle Talbot.
Robert Lord received screenplay credit for adapting The Canadian scenarist Arthur Stringer’s story/novel The Mud Lark, first serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in 1932.
“The Canadian Movie” endnotes
San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.
The Canadian was shot on location in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies.
Mona Palma and Thomas Meighan The Canadian movie image: Famous Players-Lasky | Paramount Pictures | San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
“The Canadian Movie (1926): Uneven Rustic Romance” last updated in January 2022.