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The Amazing Quest of Mr Ernest Bliss (1920)

The Story

The Cast

"The Amazing Quest of Mr Ernest Bliss" was made in 1920, a five part serial film produced by Hepworth Picture Plays, directed and starring Henry Edwards with his wife Chrissie White. This London-set serial was a hit with public and press alike.

It is based on the book "The Curious Quest" [aka The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss] (1919) by E Phillips Oppenheim. A story outline and information is here but to give you a taste of this modern fairy tale read on....

Mr. Ernest Bliss (spot the symbolism in the name?), is a rich, spoilt, insipid young millionaire sickly not from physical disease (except perhaps those complaints that result from an unhealthy lifestyle of excess), but from boredom and the dullness of a life lived without purpose or true intent.

He visits a famous doctor, who insults him and refuses to shake his hand, while offering him a piece of advice that is destined to change his life. He challenges Bliss to give up his luxurious lifestyle, and earn his own living for a year, without touching a penny from his inheritance. An enraged Bliss takes up the challenge, makes a bet and stands to lose 25,000, if he fails in his task! [Note that this sum in 1920 was considerable!]

What follows is an interesting year in the life of Mr. Bliss, who begins his quest with nothing more than 5 in his pocket and a stubborn resolve to win his bet! In that one life-changing year he meets people from all walks of life, lives and learns the true meaning of poverty, discovers the value & importance of honest hard work & toil, understands the meaning of true friendship, and finally finds the happiness that comes from selflessness and true love!

As of August 2010, the film is missing from the BFI National Archive, and is listed as one of the British Film Institute's "75 Most Wanted" lost films. As you can see from the stills below it captures some wonderful views of life in England at the time. A contemporary review from "The Bioscope" notes mentions the good use of the London locations and "remarkable example of street work".

The IMDB entry is here. More information is available from Wikipedia although it may not be entirely accurate.

The same novel was filmed in Hollywood as The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss (aka Romance and Riches, 1936, with an up-and-coming Cary Grant in the lead role). Once again Hepworth got there first!

The 10 images on this page come from the 85 stills of this film in the Townly Cooke Collection.

(Still no.2) Part 1  Sir James Alroyd, (Henry Vibart) physician to millionaire Ernest Bliss (Henry Edwards).
(Still no.1) Part 1  Frances Clayton (Chrissie White) and Ernest Bliss (Henry Edwards).
(Still no.3) Part 2  Mrs Gloria Mott (Mary Brough)

(Still no.5.)   Part 1  Ernest helps the poor when selling stoves.

Wait a minute - could that be Cecil Hepworth in the white coat in the background? He's missing his characteristic moustache though. What do you think?

(Still no.8.)   Part 3  Jack (Reginald Bach) and sister Kate Brent (Mary Dibley) at Newmarket.


(Still no.12.) Part 2  Frances (CW) and Ernest (HE).


(Still no.16.) Part 2? Frances (Chrissie White).


(Still no.17.) Part 4 Ernest (Henry Edwards) working as a shoe-black.


(Still no.18.) Part 5 Ernest (Henry Edwards) working as a bus driver.


(Still no.22.) Part 5 Toasting the newlyweds.


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