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Lord Brockelhurst, his unwilling betrothed Lady Mary, his butler Crichton and scullery maid Tweeny are on Lord Loam's yacht which is wrecked leaving them all to cope on a desert island. Class distinctions fall apart for the time being. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Very solid Cecil B. DeMille production of JM Barrie's play, "The Admirable Crichton" with a few DeMille flourishes.
Crichton (Thomas Meighan) is a very proper butler in a staid British home. Of course he has a distant crush on Lady Mary (Gloria Swanson), a very pampered and spoiled young lady. Tweeny the household maid (Lila Lee) has a crush on Crichton.
The family, headed by a silly old man (Theodore Roberts) decides to take a sailing trip to the South Seas and gathers up a party of family and friends. Of course they run the yacht into a rock and are washed ashore on a deserted island. The rich are all nitwits and haven't a clue how to do anything for themselves. They assume Meighan and Lee will continue to wait on them. Wrong.
Slowly it occurs to everyone that there is a new order on the island. The crafty and self-sufficient Meighan sets out to build a shelter, a fire, harvest food, etc. while the rich sit and watch. Their attempts to copy him are sadly disastrous. Eventually they "join" the former butler's group with Meighan as a sort of king.
Among the items that have washed ashore after the wreck is a book of poems that talks about a Babylonian king. In a typical DeMille moment, Swanson daydreams about her life in a Babylonian court. The sequence that follows ranks among the most famous in silent film history as Meighan becomes the Babylonian king who sentences the reluctant maiden (Swanson) to the lions' den as his jealous courtesan (Bebe Daniels) gleefully watches. The scene is much shorter than I remembered as the fabulously gowned Swanson walks in among the lions. The famous scene of the bare-backed Swanson with the roaring lion atop her was very real (no double).
And so the merry band of islanders, under King Crichton, goes on for a few years until, just before the marriage of Swanson and Meighan), they are "rescued" and returned to their former lives (and stations).
Meighan and Swanson are terrific. Roberts is funny as the old man. The supporting cast includes Julia Faye (as a maid), Robert Cain (as Swanson's boring suitor), Edmund Burns (as the vicar), Raymond Hatton (as the silly ass Ernie), Mildred Reardon (as Lady Agatha), and Rhy Darby (as the pitiful Lady Duncraigie who marries her chauffeur).
Logic aside, this is a stylish and solid film and features a ravishing 20-year-old Gloria Swanson in one of her first big hits for DeMille. Another famous scene is early in the film as Swanson prepares to taker her morning bath, a ritual that includes several maids, gallons of rose water, and another of DeMille's groundbreaking interior designs.
A must see for fans of silent films.
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