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The Ace of Hearts (1921)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 4 April 1924 (France)
A romantic rivalry among members of a secret society becomes even tenser when one of the men is assigned to carry out an assassination.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Forrest
Hardee Kirkland ...
Morgridge
...
The Menace
Edwin Wallock ...
Chemist (as Edwin N. Wallock)
Roy Laidlaw ...
Doorkeeper
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Storyline

A secret society holds a meeting to determine what to do about a powerful and dangerous man whom they have been studying closely for the past three months. They all agree that he deserves to die. Two of the members, Farallone and Forrest, are both in love with Lilith, the group's only female member. But Lilith accepts neither of them, preferring to devote herself to the group's cause. When the group meets again and deals cards to all the members, Forrest draws the ace of hearts, meaning that he will be the one to carry out the assassination. Lilith then suddenly agrees to marry him, in order to give him courage. But after their first night together, both of them begin to feel differently about what they have planned. Written by Snow Leopard

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Passed | See all certifications »
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4 April 1924 (France)  »

Also Known As:

La carte fatale  »

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(2000 alternate)

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| (tinted)

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original ending to the film picked up after the bomb explodes at the meeting headquarters. Forrest and Lillith are living in a cabin in the woods, and believe that they are safe thanks to Farralone. Rushing back to the cabin to warn Lillith, he sees Morgridge, who tells him that they have nothing to fear - Farralone's sacrifice has taught him that love is the solution, not destruction. This ending was cut on the request of Samuel Goldwyn, who felt that it was too contrived and that the lovers reading about it in the newspaper was a much more satisfying ending. See more »

Crazy Credits

The title frame simply shows a picture of a playing card, the ace of hearts. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Top 10 Lost Horror Films (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Historically Interesting Potboiler
5 June 2016 | by (Crystal Palace) – See all my reviews

At noon on 16 September 1920 the United States suffered the most destructive act of terrorism yet committed on American soil when a bomb believed to have been planted by Italian anarchists exploded on Wall Street, killing 30 people outright and injuring hundreds of others. Already in cinemas, Wallace Worsley's 'The Penalty' (1920), had recently starred Lon Chaney as the head of a gang of anarchists plotting a spectacular robbery; and a year later the director and star released a similarly themed follow-up based upon another novel by Gouverneur Morris.

Obviously a pot-boiler compared to 'The Penalty' (but like its predecessor handsomely shot by Donovan Short), Chaney has top billing but a very secondary role as a member of a secret society who resemble the anarchists in Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' (1907), the conspirators in Thorold Dickinson's 'Secret People' (1952) and the vigilante judges in Peter Hyams' 'The Star Chamber' (1983). They decide to rid society of a vile plutocrat (Raymond Hatton, called "The Menace" in the cast list but referred to throughout the film as "The Man Who Has Lived Too Long") by cutting cards to choose the assassin. This scheme is complicated by an extremely uninteresting love triangle comprising Farallone (Chaney), Forrest (John Bowers) and the intriguingly named Lilith (Leatrice Joy); the last being the brotherhood's only sister, a prig whose infatuation with "the Cause" means she has zero interest in romantic matters.

Although selected on the basis of cutting cards (an obvious nod to Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Suicide Club'), Forrest should have been the obvious candidate to carry out the assassination in the first place; since for the past three months he's been working as a waiter in the restaurant where The Menace has breakfast every morning at 9.00, and thus perfectly placed to shoot him in the head at point blank range. Instead their chosen method of execution takes the form of an entirely indiscriminate act of terror employing a bomb capable of destroying an entire building; which it should already have been obvious to Forrest and his associates would mean that The Menace would not be the only casualty (like the little Kenyan girl in 'Eye in the Sky'). Sure enough, when it finally dawns upon Forrest that there will be collateral damage the entire operation is compromised.

The bomb itself looks like a cigarette case and neatly fits into a jacket pocket: yet another example of movie technology far in advance of anything available in real life. The Wall Street bomb itself had had to be brought to the site where it exploded on a horse-drawn wagon.


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