December 4, 2008 § 1 Comment
This is a new series: everyday, a film from the 1920s brought back to life on the day it was released, with whatever film reviews I can cull from where I’m standing.
Love’s Blindness, dir. John Francis Dillon, and MGM product with Pauline Starke and Antonio Moreno, from the Elinor tiger-rug Glyn novel.
Detail view of Movies Page from the AFI catalog, including a not too clear plot summary:
when [Hubert’s / Moreno’s / the husband’s] jealousy is awakened at a dance, he begins to realize his love for her. Following the birth of her stillborn child, Vanessa’s [Starke’s] disillusionment turns to happiness when she learns of her father’s bargain [huh??]; and she accepts Hubert’s genuine devotion.
Not sure I ought to resurrect this one from the dead, as it features an anti-semitic staple of moneylender ready to pawn off his daughter in marriage in exchange for a loan to rich Earl (and thus society wedding). All clichés together, please. But, hey, the husband will eventually come to love his Jewish wife, so I suppose all’s well that…(should I really be quoting the Bard here? Nah. Reviews at the time noted that the father was Jewish, but the daughter would be just an 19-year old girl….go figure). The New York Times had quite the ironic review of the novel, but still noted how there was a message in it,
that it is wrong for a lord or lady to look down upon another because of race or station
Amen for that.(1) As for the book, it was “high-hat”, filled with “extreme exaggeration”, a “version of English society that is current in backstairs fiction,” but, sadly, too sincere to be taken as “burlesque”.
The end blushes with lushness: “And some kisses are worth today and tomorrow, and even the hereafter! But only those who have come through the tempering fire know them–and they are blessed of God.”
A more misplaced sentiment doesn’t exist.
Pauline Starke a 1922 WAMPAS Baby Star, had already been stuck in a plot-line with money lenders in Fleming’s 1924 Adventure — apparently there was something the matter with Pauline Starke, as her character has another crooked father (a gambler this time) in The Devil’s Cargo (1925). She is supposed to have had a “mediocre” career in the 1920s (i dunno…she did a lot of Fleming pictures, and playing opposite Moreno is something, no?). Antonio Moreno was fresh from two huge A pictures, The Temptress with Greta Garbo and Mare Nostrum with Alice Terry — but the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 13, 1927) noted that he had been fully “anglicized” only in Love’s Blindness (they may not have had Glyn’s message).
The film however was well received by the none too fastidious Atlanta Constition, who wrote (or maybe just pasted the studio press release) on Nov 21, 1926:
In many respects this is the most appealing story ever written by Mrs. Glyn, and to assure a perfect production she selected the cast herself, chose every piece of furniture used and passed on all costumes worn by the characters.
Keep in mind that Glyn was not only the main source of prurient purple prose back then, but was also considered, from certain not too critical quarters, as an authority on all things worldly (2):
The locale of the story shifts between London and the baronial country estates of the Culverdale family and affords opportunity for a brilliant and convincing display of the diversions and routine of smart English society.
Romance, or documentary ? The real star, in any case, was Glyn herself
It says something about Elinor Glyn‘s salability in 1926 that, reportedly, her bungalow at MGM was larger than the one occupied by Love’s Blindness star Pauline Starke.(3)
Glyn used this occasion to launch several how-to interviews explaining how easy it was to have your novels faithfully transcribed into films, if you only took the pain to adapt them yourself and follow on the filming (take that, Dreiser!)–thus forgetting to mention that if your books also had a faux noble background and a few spicy bedroom scenes, it might help.
(1) Maybe that’s why the film is listed on Silent Era’s Progressive Silent Film List ?
(2) King Vidor in his autobiography (A Tree is A Tree, 1952) famously describess what a nuisance it was to have Elinor Glyn on the set “advising” on the authenticity of costumes, sets, even table placement at the court of Russia…The film was His Hour (1924).