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This film has such a bad reputation that I pleasantly surprised when I
watched it. No, it is not one of Griffith's great films, but I was
entertained by it.
The film was shot as one of three that Griffith had contracted to make for First National. He rushed through them so none of the three represent Griffith at his best. However, that doesn't mean that they do not have their rewards.
I am not a fan of Carol Dempster. In fact I think she is generally an awful actress (although she did get better). Griffith was in love with her (she did not reciprocate) and saw her as an ideal of old fashioned Southern beauty. When he cast her that way she was wooden, ugly and boring to distraction. She was completely lacking in screen presence.
I never thought I would be writing these words but in this film I actually enjoyed watching her. In this case Griffith, for once, cast Carol in a role she could play (at least most of the time). She plays the rather athletic role, of a girl raised by her father is fairly primitive circumstances in the tropics. She climbs cliffs, dives off them into the sea. Swims underwater, and generally romps around looking wonderfully disheveled and doing nearly everything except swinging from a vine. She obviously enjoys it and she actually looks (am I really saying this) beautiful when she does it. She even has a presence on the screen. However, when she has a dramatic scene, she loses all her charm and confidence. Her presence dwindles to nothing and she becomes an ugly and boring actress. Fortunatly there are only a few of these moments.
Richard Barthelmess does his usual excellent job of acting. He has great presence regardless of if he is being athletic, cheerful or dramatic. He is clearly Carol's superior in acting. He even manages to make her look good in a few dicey scenes.
So, no, this is not a great film or even a significant film, but it can be fun and enjoyable. If you like Griffith and you have nothing better to do I might even recommend it.
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.
"The Love Flower" kept me on the edge of my seat with suspense. What a
great film! Miss Dempster was very enigmatic and strangely intoxicating
as the young daughter who is willing to kill the police detective who
is after her father for murder. They hide out on a South Sea island for
years, but the detective pursues them to the end.
Richard Barthelmess was a delight to watch as the young sailor who is tricked into bringing the detective to the island. Richard's face was literally gorgeous. No wonder Griffith preferred him over other male actors in his stock company. Griffith's personal attraction to Miss Dempster was also apparent, especially in the beach and water scenes with her scantily dressed outfits revealing ... well, I'll leave you guessing there.
If you are a fan of D.W. Griffith's work don't miss this film! It is his most contemporary and one of his most fascinating movie projects.
While daddy's girl Carol Dempster (as Stella Bevan) frolics innocently
in the woods, trouble is brewing - her loving father (George MacQuarrie
as Bevan) and shrewish mother (Florence Short as Mrs. Bevan) are having
marital problems. Informed by a faithful servant that his wife is
entertaining a lover, Mr. MacQuarrie discovers the trysting twosome;
then, during a struggle, he shoots the man dead. To escape from the
police, MacQuarrie takes daughter Dempster, and flees to a South Sea
island. There, they encounter handsome Richard Barthelmess (as Bruce
Sanders), who makes Dempster's heart flutter. She doesn't know it, but
Mr. Barthelmess is assisting police detective Anders Randolf (as
Crane), who has arrived to arrest her father.
"The Love Flower" is a much better film, overall, than director D.W. Griffith's accompanying South Sea adventure "The Idol Dancer" (1920). G.W. Bitzer's photography is superb; he and Griffith paint some extraordinary, poetic images with the movie camera. The better production values are assisted by the absence of the ludicrous comic relief elements found in "The Idol Dancer". Unfortunately, "The Love Flower" fails to bloom; the melodramatic plot is interesting, but the love story between Dempster and Barthelmess does not work. Their pairing is more dull than passionate, although Barthelmess is a fine performer. Dempster is attractively athletic, and well-photographed; but, her emoting close-ups become sillier and sillier as the movie progresses. The older performers are much better, especially MacQuarrie.
***** The Love Flower (8/22/20) D.W. Griffith ~ Carol Dempster, Richard Barthelmess, George MacQuarrie
"The Love Flower" is a real mixed bag from director D.W. Griffith. On
one hand, the story itself has some holes and doesn't make a lot of
sense at times. And, the intertitle cards are the worst written ones
I've ever seen. Yet, in spite of all this, I could not hate the movie
because the direction and cinematography were so good.
When the film began, I felt vaguely ill as I tried to read the horrid intertitle cards. Most of the worst were used to describe the daughter, a girl described this way on one card--'Girlish dreams sighed into the pink ear of a rose beneath the azure southern skies'. What does this even mean?! This was not the only time--no many more times the very prosaic writer made me ill!
The story begins in the Caribbean. Some guy had apparently written a bad check and ran off to the islands with his wife and daughter to evade the law. However, his wife was a total skank--and was fooling around on him. When he entered his home to find the wife and her lover, the lover tried to murder the husband and the husband killed the guy in self-defense. However, with his criminal record AND a wife who was going to lie about the attack, he and his loyal daughter take to the South Seas in search of a life of solitude. However, there is a crazed cop--one who vows to search EVERYWHERE to find the killer. And, there's also a nice man (Richard Barthelmess) who meets the daughter. What becomes of all this?
The plot had many problems. How could Barthelmess fall in love this quickly and sacrifice so much for a lady he didn't even know? Why was it okay for this lady to be a repeated attempted murderess in order to protect her father?! While the plot is hard to believe at times, the film did feature many amazingly good and difficult shots for 1920. Some underwater footage as well as the view from the rope bridge were incredible--as was the island footage. Overall, a very mixed bag--with lots to like and a bit to make you ill!
By the way, IMDb lists this film at 70 minutes but it ran 96.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carol Dempster was a protégé of D.W. Griffith's and many people felt at
the time she didn't help his career. She was just an ordinary actress,
there was nothing special about her that made her memorable in the way
of Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh and many critics of the time felt that
Griffith was trying to turn her into another of his stellar creations
but she just didn't have what it takes. She even appeared in a mediocre
retelling of "Broken Blossoms" entitled "Dream Street"(1921). At the
time she really divided critics with most not warming to her at all and
regarding "The Love Flower", her first starring role as a film unworthy
of the Griffith name.
The film's theme is that peace and tolerance are only possible away from the madding crowd and love will "forgive these deeds done for it's sake". Carol plays Stella Bevan who, along with her father Thomas, lives on a beautiful island. A typical Griffith title designed to show the lengths Carol will go to, to support her father - "How many deeds have been committed by women in the name of love". Clara Bevan's (Florence Short) ideal life does not include the humdrum existence of a Caribbean island village or the care of a lovely step daughter, even though the step daughter is prone to leaping about and dancing at the drop of a hat ("stop jumping around and behaving like an idiot"). Clara has her hands full but she still has time to "turn to follies that are not unseen by the servants" - namely a lover!!
Bevan is tipped off, there is a scuffle and soon father and daughter are on the run, chased by a private detective (Anders Randolph, in a solid part) who has been told by hysterical Clara that the victim was killed without cause. Always being pursued, with wanted posters following them whenever they try to moor at big ports. Bevan and Stella finally arrive at a small South Sea island. There are some provocative shots of a graceful Miss Dempster high diving into the water with some very interesting under water swimming sequences. Meanwhile wealthy Jerry Treverton (Richard Barthelmess)is following in the footsteps of R. L. Stevenson in exploring the South Seas. He meets Stella and it is love at first sight for both of them but he is the accidental means of putting the detective on the fugitive's tail - and Stella can't forgive that.
The film has some beautiful location shooting (Florida, the Bahamas) which is the highlight, with the beaches and the rocky crags, along with the very attractive Miss Dempster. But even the presence of Randolph and Barthelmess is not enough to save the film from the big minus of over acting!! When Florence Short realises her lover is dead she tears out her hair and behaves like a crazy person but Dempster is the one who doesn't seem to have been given any acting guidance apart from being told to look searchingly into the camera!! In one scene she tells her father "I've seen a man", the father looks worried and says "did he look like an officer" to which she giggles, gives him a hug and then dances off!!
Once the officer arrives on the island Stella feels, to save her father, she must kill the officer - making it look like an accident of course!! Using her swimming skills, she attempts to drown him by dragging him under the water - he is convinced it is an octopus!! As a last resort she tries to persuade him to cross a rickety foot bridge that she has already tampered with - the girl definitely needs psychiatric help!!
It was only towards the end of her career that Carol Dempster really found her acting feet. With solid roles in "Isn't Life Wonderful" and "The Sorrows of Satan", unfortunately it was too late with Griffith almost at the end of his career and Carol not caring enough about acting to carry on without him.
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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film might not be that well-known, but I thought it was awesome! I
think it was awesome because I could just could never tell what will
Usually, and I love silent movies, you can tell form 10 miles away what will happen, but not this one.
George MacQuarrie plays a man catches his wife's boyfriend in his house and shoots him to death. Using a gun, he is able to get away with his daughter, Carol Dempster to an island other than the one thee movie starts in.
One word about Dempster in this movie. Most I've read about her has been negative, but she really shines in this movie.
Eventually, the law, headed by by Anders Randolf, is contacted about the death and he plans to bring MacQuarrie to justice.
While that's going on, MacQuarrie and his daughter are living an idyllic existence on the island. During part of the time, MacQuarie times how long his daughter can keep her breath underwater. This will come in handy.
During this time they discover Richard Bathelmess, who is a on vacation and winds up at the island. Eventually, he and Dempster develop a relationship.
One day, it's her father's birthday and she bakes him a cake. However, Randolf arrives. Dempster thinks that Barthelmeess contacted him and stares at him in one of the best looks I've seen anyone give someone else in a movie. She's so mad, she tears up Richard's boat so he can't get away.
Dempster loves her father more than anyone. In fact, she tries to drown Randolf in an attempt to save her father. Randolf, being stronger is able to get away.
I will tell you that Dempster will end up with Bathelmess, but as for the rest of the ending, you'll have to watch it for yourself - but it is worth whatever money or time you can to spend.
Love Flower, The (1920)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
D.W. Griffith film about a father (George MacQuarrie) who murders his wife's lover and then runs off to a South Sea island with their daughter (Carol Dempster). After a few years a detective shows up looking for him and the daughter decides it's her duty to keep her father with her. A fairly weak story and a stupid message really drags this film down but there are still quite a bit of good things working for the film. The cinematography by G.W. Bitzer is certainly the highlight, especially a couple scenes that take place under water. The three leads all do a decent job but poor Dempster is clearly playing a role meant for Lillian Gish. She can't pull off all the emotions but she does do a good job at playing a young girl.
D.W. Griffith's two South Seas dramas made in Florida, which includes this film, "The Love Flower" and "The Idol Dancer", are two of his worst that I've seen. One can sense Griffith's lack of interest and inspiration. Probably the only thing worth noting about "The Love Flower" is that it features some underwater photography. Otherwise, the narrative--based on a magazine story and involving a relentless detective after our protagonist fugitives--is forgettable. Carol Dempster can't act and isn't even photogenically attractive. And, most of all, the care and energy behind Griffith's better work is missing here. It'd return in "Way Down East", as would Lillian Gish. "The Idol Dancer" and "The Love Flower" are merely slipshod productions Griffith rushed through to help relieve his increasing financial difficulties.
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