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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.
"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.
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.
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
*** 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.
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.
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.
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