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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
On 4 February 1919, David Wark Griffith joined with Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in establishing United Artists as a major film distributor. Griffith had one film ready for U.A. release in "Broken Blossoms", but he had also negotiated a contract with First National in which he had promised them three films.
Griffith duly delivered "The Idol Dancer" (1920) to First National, but had second thoughts regarding "The Love Flower". Griffith decided to augment the footage shot on location in the Bahamas with an underwater swimming scene (shot in Florida). He also felt the film needed additional close-ups of both Carol Dempster and George MacQuarrie. (These were made in a studio and can easily be detected as the players are photographed against a pure black backdrop). The re-cut movie was then handed to United Artists but it received only lukewarm reviews and was not a great commercial success.
However, although "The Love Flower" has a poor reputation, it is by no means the clinker most references suggest. True, there is no great outpouring of lavish spectacle or rousing crowd scenes, but the South Seas locations are both pictorially fascinating and dramatically utilized. The characters are likewise sympathetic and the story holds more than enough suspense to grip one's attention.
In the acting department, Anders Randolf delivers a consistently strong and most compelling performance as the Inspector Javert character, while Florence Short makes quite an impression in her brief role as the heroine's unsympathetic step-mother. I also thought Richard Barthelmess handled his role with all the necessary charm and convictionalthough I should mention that Barthelmess is an actor who can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.
As for the two leads, however, I have mixed feelings. (Despite his status as the hero of the piece, Barthelmessas in the Victor Hugo novel from which this story is deriveddoesn't come into the action until the movie is half over). MacQuarrie is generally able enough, despite a tendency to over-emote, but simply lacks the charisma that a lead role calls for. This miscasting is actually a serious flaw, because the audience doesn't share the heroine's obsessive desire to protect him at all costs.
Equally at fault is Carol Dempster. Oddly enough, she seems more convincing as the young girl chasing shadows in the movie's opening scenes, despite the fact that she is obviously too old for the part. When called upon to act her actual age, she is less successful. Her simpering close-ups are especially unappealing.
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