A Florida Enchantment (1914)

When Lillian Travers (Edith Storey) begins to question her fiance Fred’s (Sidney Drew, who also directed) fidelity, she’s so upset about it that when she finds some seeds in an old trunk that supposedly turn women into men and men into women, she takes one.  Although she doesn’t physically transform into a man, she does suddenly start to act like one and has lots of fun going around flirting with women.  Lillian even gives her maid Jane (Ethel Loyd) one of the seeds so she can have a valet instead of a maid.  After a while, Lillian decides to cut her hair short, wear mens’ clothing, and start going by the name Lawrence Talbot.  Fred still doesn’t understand why this is happening, so when Lawrence tries to explain, he gives Fred one of the seeds.  Fred suddenly begins acting very femininely and when he goes out in public in a dress, some people on the street chase him into the ocean.  But then Lillian wakes up and realizes the whole thing was just a dream.

If you have an interest in LGBTQ images in film, you’ll definitely want to see A Florida Enchantment. First of all, it’s one of the earliest known films to contain LGBTQ themes.  And considering it was made in 1914, it’s remarkably accepting of lesbianism.  Lillian is never looked down upon for flirting with and kissing other women.  In fact, the other women really seem to enjoy it.  Fred is confused and surprised by Lillian’s sudden change in behavior, but he doesn’t condemn it, either.  Even when Lillian becomes Lawrence, there aren’t any judgements for that.  However, the movie isn’t nearly as kind towards men.   Fred’s the one who is judged for behaving like the stereotypical flamboyant gay man and later drowns for dressing in womens’ clothing.  I also feel I should give a warning that there are a lot of very cringe-worthy blackface scenes in this movie.

A Florida Enchantment definitely isn’t a great film, but it certainly has a lot of historical value.

For more contributions to the Queer Film Blogathon, be sure to visit Garbo Laughs.

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11 comments

    1. Ugh. I didn’t even get to finish my comment before it posted. I was going to complete that last sentence with a period and then add:

      This reminds me somewhat of the Virginia Woolf novel ORLANDO, with the changing-sexes motif, and I’m curious as to whether or not it may have been an influence on this …

      1. It’s suppose it’s possible. The movie was an adaptation of a novel that was first published in 1891 and that was turned into a stage play in 1896, so it seems this was a pretty popular story around that time.

        Actually I’d love to find a copy of the novel sometime and see how it compares to the movie.

  1. I’ve heard of this one but haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet. Really really fascinating early example of LGBT images in film. Thanks for your awesome review.

  2. I’ll definetely watch this anytime soon! Do you know where I can find Different from the others, a 1919 movie that deals with homosexuality?
    Gretings,
    Le

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