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The wife of an American playwright in Paris becomes ensnared in the seductive wiles of an American Army officer, but her devotion to her husband convinces the officer to try to extricate her from the gossip and scandal that have ensued. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Having had the studio recut his previous film Blind Husbands (1919) against his wishes, director Erich von Stroheim took no chances with this movie, barricading himself in the editing suite with a loaded Winchester. See more »
This silent 1920 drama was directed by Erich von Stroheim and produced by The Universal Film Manufacturing Company. Tragically it remains a lost film and all I can provide the reader is this brief synopsis and original review.
Grace Goodwright ( Una Trevelyn ), the wife of Warren Goodwright ( Sam De Grasse ), a struggling playwright living in Paris, is an extravagant woman accustomed to living beyond her means. Grace is in arrears to dressmaker Madame Malot ( Maude George ), who suggests that wealthy Captain Rex Strong ( Clyde Fillmore ) could provide the solution to Grace's financial ills. Strong offers Grace a loan in exchange for sexual favors. When Grace refuses, Madame Malot becomes enraged at the prospect of losing her money and attempts to ensnare Grace in a blackmail scheme. Warren reads the account of the scandal in a Paris journal in which no names are mentioned and decides to write a play around the main situation. The play becomes a great success, but all Paris is laughing at Warren, who is unaware that his main character is his wife. Upon discovering the true story, Warren decides to kill Strong but at the last minute relents, convinced of his wife's innocence.
"Mr. von Stroheim who, throughout the war, was known to the public entirely as the interpreter of villainous spy parts, was suddenly revealed as a director of marked insight and ability when "The Pinnacle," renamed "Blind Husbands" over his protest, was presented. In "The Devil's Pass Key" he has, in some directions, gone beyond his achievements in "The Pinnacle," and has given even more promise of future success. "His work, in many of its details, is different and new, if compared with that of the great majority of directors, for he has realized that the substance of the photoplay is . . . not the subtitle, nor the spectacular scene, nor the beauty or the tricks of any star, nor the sentiment or surprises of any story but moving pictures that have meaning . . and are in themselves some essential incident of the story, exposing suddenly some unexpected but considered or anticipated, but not obvious, side of the character . . . his story is unfolded forcefully and his characters are definite and comprehensible individuals." The New York Times, August 9, 1920.
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