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The Ace of Hearts
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The Ace of Hearts (1921) More at IMDbPro »

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The Ace of Hearts -- A romantic rivalry among members of a secret society becomes even tenser when one of the men is assigned to carry out an assassination.
The Ace of Hearts -- A secret society, "brothers" at odds and an unrequited love.


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Release Date:
4 April 1924 (France) See more »
A romantic rivalry among members of a secret society becomes even tenser when one of the men is assigned to carry out an assassination. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
2 nominations See more »
(3 articles)
The Penalty (1920) | Blu-ray Review
 (From ioncinema. 16 October 2012, 5:20 PM, PDT)

Lon Chaney Movie Schedule: The Phantom Of The Opera, Tell It To The Marines, Mr. Wu
 (From Alt Film Guide. 15 August 2011, 12:20 AM, PDT)

Levin, Mayer and TMZ -- 3 Lucky Dogs
 (From TMZ. 2 September 2009, 7:40 AM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Wow, do I need to see more Lon Chaney films! See more (28 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Lon Chaney ... Farallone

Leatrice Joy ... Lilith
John Bowers ... Forrest
Hardee Kirkland ... Morgridge
Raymond Hatton ... The Menace
Edwin Wallock ... Chemist (as Edwin N. Wallock)
Roy Laidlaw ... Doorkeeper
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Cullen Landis ... Young Man in Restaurant (uncredited)

Directed by
Wallace Worsley 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Gouverneur Morris  by
Ruth Wightman  scenario

Produced by
Samuel Goldwyn .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Vivek Maddala (2000)
Cinematography by
Don Short (photography by) (as Donovan Short)
Art Direction by
Cedric Gibbons 
Music Department
Vivek Maddala .... orchestrator: 2000 score
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
75 min (2000 alternate version) (21 fps)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:TV-PG (TV rating)

Did You Know?

Second of four films Lon Chaney made for Goldwyn Pictures.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Top 10 Lost Horror Films (2010) (V)See more »


Surely Gouverneur Morris didn't write the story this film was based on.
Does Lon Chaney wear his usual macabre makeup for this role?
See more »
18 out of 22 people found the following review useful.
Wow, do I need to see more Lon Chaney films!, 16 May 2005
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City

Although I've seen the standard Lon Chaney horror classics in the past--such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925)--I haven't seen them for a while. This is the first of Chaney's less currently popular films that I've seen. I was very impressed. Although it wasn't just Chaney, but everything about The Ace of Hearts that "clicked" for me on this viewing.

Despite the conventional wisdom, I think The Ace of Hearts works marvelously if you don't have the background information on the story. I think that was part of my attraction to it--it's presented as something of a mystery. As shown on screen, the film concerns some kind of very solemn secret society who have decided that a particular individual is a "Man Who Has Lived Too Long".

We learn that some members of the secret society have been interacting with him--one, Mr. Forrest (John Bowers), has regularly served as his waiter for breakfast for a number of years. "The Man Who Has Lived Too Long" has been going to the same restaurant at 9:00 a.m. every day. Another, Mr. Farallone (Chaney), has been painting "The Man Who Has Lived Too Long's" portrait. We learn the procedure for the secret society's carrying out of their death sentences, which involves the executioner being "randomly" chosen by receiving the Ace of Hearts. The executioner is chosen, and he's given the tools he needs for the job as a plan is settled on. All that's left is to carry out the sentence. However, there's a snag when the executioner has second thoughts, and The Ace of Hearts becomes something of a twisted parable about morality.

As presented in the film, we never learn very much about who the main characters are, who their villain is, and so on. The story stays extremely focused on the plot, which is deceptively simple. There are only two aspects--the machinations of the secret society planning and attempting to carry out the death sentence and a love triangle between Mr. Forrest, Mr. Farallone and Lilith (Leatrice Joy), the only female member of the secret society.

Without knowing the background information that fueled the film, The Ace of Hearts is a taut, metaphorical work about "the power of love". Early in the film, one member of the secret society expresses relief that he wasn't chosen as the executioner because he has a wife and kids at home--there is a chance that the executioner may come to harm while carrying out the sentence. The eventual kink in the plan arises because of love, through an ironic plot development that was initially to give the executioner strength, or added resolve, but that ended up undermining the operation. And the final resolution of the film arises through love and a realization that the final course of action is the right one ethically.

Chaney is amazing in his ability to convey complex emotions and thought without the aid of sound. Apparently, his abilities developed partially out of the fact that his parents were deaf, and he learned how to communicate with and even entertain his ailing mother through gestures.

Wallace Worsley's direction is inventive. Goldwyn films were relatively low budget at the time, so costs were cut by keeping sets to a minimum, for instance. Worsley gets maximum mileage out of the few sets in the film. He uses a well-planned mix of economic shots to easily convey the plot. The few shots set "outside" are extremely effective, with the torrential rain and hurricane-force winds (both caused by technical limitations of the effects at the time) lending an appropriately gloomy atmosphere in crucial scenes. It's just too bad that there aren't very clean prints of the film floating around, or that spending time and money to clean them up wouldn't be justified financially.

Another big factor that helped me love this film is the DVD version I watched--Turner Classic Movies' "Archives" Lon Chaney Collection release. This features a new score by Vivek Maddala that is simply fantastic. It's even more incredible when we consider that this was Maddala's first score--he obtained the gig by winning a contest that TCM hosted. The score is beautiful and modern, with inventive harmonies. It always meshes exquisitely with the action, and goes far in helping to tell the story.

But what about that background information? Well, even though I don't think it's necessary to enjoy the film, it's interesting in its own right. The story, by Gouverneur Morris, was a response to the first "Red Scare" in the U.S., from 1917 to 1920. Although the roots were complex and associated with World War I, all one needs to know is that the Red Scare involved anti-communist ideology, connected to communist paranoia among the public.

Thus, the "secret society" in the film is supposed to be a Russian communist group (although they're often said to be intended as anarchists, but that's complicated, as well, as "anarchist" can mean very different political ideologies). Lon Chaney's character was originally named Rattavich, but the script was eventually generalized to avoid the more overt politicizations. Under this interpretation of the film, the "Man Who Has Lived Too Long" is a capitalist whom the communist secret society feels the need to assassinate--sometimes this is seen as something of a parallel to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, which is said to be one of the causes of the first World War. This interpretation helps explain how a film that is mostly on the "wrong" side of the moral compass, or even nihilistic (until the ending), made it past the censors. Whatever the reasons, though, it's a refreshing, unusual and well-made film that gains bizarre, eerie universality through its ambiguity.

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