The Florida Enchantment (1914, Vitagraph Company), Florida’s first controversial motion picture was distributed across the nation one hundred years ago.
Variety announced that “The picture should never have been put out.” Virginia Woolf loved the movie.
The film, based upon a 1891 novel and 1896 play by Archibald Gunter and Fergus Redmond, was a gender-bending comedy of manners in which a woman discovers magic seeds that transform women into men (and men into women) without seriously altering their outward appearance. The woman takes the seeds in response to her fiancee’s womanizing activities.
The male star and director of the film was Sidney Drew, uncle of John Barrymore, and the woman was played by Edith Storey. They would later team up in other film comedies. What is unusual was the controversial film about gender was that Drew directed the film in Fort Lauderdale. The movie industry had boomed in Jacksonville, but was slowly moving to California at this time.
The film would be very unpopular if shown on today’s screens since all the roles of African-Americans were played by whites in black makeup. Yet this lesser known movie is often shown today by women’s film groups for its study of female and male roles in society.