Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love

 In MOA Features

Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love, a 1931 film, loosely tells the Book of Mormon story of Corianton, the son of Alma.  The BYU Museum of Art will be screening the film on Thursday, October 6 at 7 PM in the Auditorium. This film screening is in conjunction with the exhibition A Visual Testimony: Minerva Teichert’s Book of Mormon Paintings.

The first iteration of Corianton story retelling was a serialized novel published in 1889 by B.H. Roberts. This version was entitled Corianton: A Nephite Story. The novel was the adapted into a stage play in the early 1900s by Orestes Utah Bean (his real name), with the slightly more colorful title of Corianton: An Aztec Romance. The play became immensely popular in the West and Teichert herself went to see it as a teenager. She recorded how impressed she was with the production, particularly the costumes and the spectacle of the production.

In 1930, filmmakers Lester and Byron Parks worked with the playwright Bean to adapt the play to screen. The film opened in October 1931 with the most provocative title yet: Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love. This film was one of the first “talkies”—created right in the transition between silent films and films with sound. The movement and expressions of the actors in the film are very expressive and gestural—another indication that this film was made during that transition. Silent film actors were often stage actors as well, using huge movements in order to convey their message to the back of a theatre. These grandiose expressions can seem a bit too dramatic on film, but is indicative of the history of this film. Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love is also considered to be the first commercial “Mormon film.”

It is also interesting to note the embellishment of the story of Corianton in order for it to be a full-length film. The playwright and filmmakers imagine Corianton to be a sympathizer of the anti-Christ Korihor, which eventually leads to his decision to disobey his father Alma and follow after Isabel. The film shows his fall and then his decision to repent and turn back to righteousness.

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