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A man murders his wife's lovers, escapes with his daughter to the South Pacific. A detective pursues him, joined by a young man who eventually falls in love with the daughter. Written by
Beautiful cinematography, decent acting, weak story
THE LOVE FLOWER is one of two DW Griffith films with South Seas settings, filmed at the same time in 1920. Both films showcase two up-and-coming young stars that were part of Griffith's company. THE LOVE FLOWER features Carol Dempster and Richard Barthelmess. The other film is THE IDOL DANCER, starring Clarine Seymour.
Since the story has been explained in other reviews I will just add my perspective on the movie.
SCRIPT: The story seems like a riff on Les Miserables, but isn't very well thought out. Mr Bevan (George MacQuarrie) is ultimately responsible for the death of his wife's lover because he initiated the struggle. Also, the attempts to convince us that Stella's (Carol Dempster) love is motivation enough to attempt to kill a policeman just don't hold water. We are asked to suspend not only our disbelief, but also our ethics. Griffith's flowery intertitles (a common weakness of his) are particularly irksome. SCORE: 3/10.
ACTING: I was particularly impressed with George MacQuarrie's turn as George Bevan. He never really seems to overdo it and turns in a measured performance, managing for the most part to stay away from some of the melodramatic mannerisms that can make silent movies hard to take nowadays. It felt quite modern to me. Anders Randolph, as the determined policeman Crane, also shows control and realism in his portrayal, without coming off as a villain. Richard Barthelmess does well for the most part, although there's not a whole lot of chemistry with the female lead.
She would be Carol Dempster. Though she has been reviled by many, Dempster actually could be superb on quite a few occasions. This would come more frequently later on in her career. She creates touching moments both as the young girl and as a more mature woman devoted to her father, and displays a warmth and charm in her close-ups. She also excels in the more athletic moments, like during her diving, swimming and climbing scenes. However, there are also moments of hand-wringing, arm-flailing melodrama in her performance that undermine her efforts. This is probably Griffith's fault as well, since he was determined to mold her into a facsimile of Lillian Gish or Mae Marsh...for all of his love for her, Griffith didn't seem to know how to consistently play to Dempster's strengths. Florence Short is adequate in her brief part, though she also succumbs to histrionics. ACTING SCORE: 6/10
CINEMATOGRAPHY/PRODUCTION: The cinematography is wonderful. Griffith's most famous and acclaimed cameraman, GW Bitzer, captures the beauty of the scenery (filmed in Florida and the Bahamas) wonderfully. For indoor scenes, he uses an array of long, medium, and close up shots, without resorting to stagey tableaux shots. He shows himself to be a master of his medium. The underwater scenes are also very well done. The editing appears fairly smooth. While not as revolutionary as previous Griffith films, the quality of the scenery and cinematography helps to keep viewer interest even now. SCORE: 8/10
SUMMARY: THE LOVE FLOWER isn't a total bust. It does have good moments. The cinematography is top notch and you can't beat the scenery. However, the performances have their ups and downs, and the story just doesn't work as well as Griffith would have us believe. MOVIE SCORE: 6/10
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