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The usual DeMille mix of sex, sin, and moralizing but with tongue
firmly in place. Poor Anatol (Wallace Reid) is always "rescuing" women,
much to the consternation of his wife Vivian (Gloria Swanson) who
always has Max (Elliott Dexter) hanging around her.
The first rescue is of "a bubble-head jazz girl" named Emilie (Wanda Hawley) who is clearly a gold digger, She has poor old Gordon (Theodore Roberts) in her pocket but decides to go after Anatol who thinks he can redeem the poor girl. Meanwhile all she wants is a new victim. There's a great scene of redemption when Anatol tells Emilie she must throw away all her jewels in order to be cleansed. She immediately empties her jewel boxes and puts the empty boxes in a valise. They drive to the river where she throws away the empty boxes. Foolish Anatol believes her but learns the sad truth when he interrupts a wild dinner party Emilie is throwing.
Off to the country for purity and clean air, Anatol and Vivian are rowing in a river when a simple country girl Annie (Agnes Ayres) throws herself off a bridge. They dredge her out and revive her but Annie finds Anatol's wallet on the ground and steals it. After she is "saved" she runs home to husband Abner (Monte Blue) and replaces the money she stole from his church collection box. So much for country purity.
Back in the city Anatol decides to go out on the town, so Vivian decides to wear her :lowest gown" and "highest heals" and go out as well. Anatol falls into the clutches of the notorious nightclub star Satan Synne (Bebe Daniels) who lures Anatol into her den called "the Devil's Cloister." In the middle of vamping him, she gets a couple phone calls. It seems her husband is undergoing an operation for wounds suffered during the World War. When Anatol learns the truth, he gives Satan the money she needs to save her husband.
But back home, he finds Vivian has not come home from her night of clubbing. When she and Max finally come in a 9 AM he demands to know if she's be unfaithful. She refuses to answer. At that moment, a famous hypnotist (Theodore Kosloff) arrives and is compelled by Anatol to secretly put her in a trance and answer his questions. He does, but Max pleads with Anatol that to do this will forever ruin his marriage no matter what the answer is. Will Anatol force the issue? Reid and Swanson are terrific here as the stars, but the fallen women, Hawley, Ayres, and Daniels, all come off well also. Dexter and Blue have little to do. Roberts fumes and Kosloff looks mysterious. And yes that's Polly Moran as the nightclub entertainer.
The film has beautifully colored title cards and boasts nice tinting throughout. This is a must for silent film fans and was an important film for superstars Gloria Swanson, Wallace Reid, and Bebe Daniels.
THE AFFAIRS OF ANATOL, which are really only his attempts
help unhappy or wayward women, has left his own marriage
a very precarious predicament.
During the 1920's, director Cecil B. DeMille became famous for two types of film - the lavish historical spectacle & the elaborate, somewhat salacious, social comedy. ANATOL is an example of the latter. While its plot is insignificant (and faintly ludicrous), it is still quite enjoyable to watch, and can boast of fine performances & superior production values.
In the title role, Wallace Reid acquits himself very well as the hapless rich chump whose noble deeds always seem to backfire. Good-natured & affable, he is only too susceptible to damsels in distress. But even this worm can turn, and his violent scenes - laying waste the apartment of a mendacious maiden, crashing into his wife's locked boudoir - show the energy & passion of which this nearly forgotten star was capable.
Gloria Swanson, as Reid's lively spouse; Wanda Hawley as a millionaire's courtesan; Agnes Ayres as a duplicitous country wife; and diabolic Bebe Daniels as the ultimate vamp, all add greatly to the enjoyment of the proceedings, slinking about in fashions (all except Miss Ayres) only crazy movie folk of the 1920's could ever truly get by with.
Movie mavens will have no trouble spotting the irrepressible Polly Moran as a zany nightclub orchestra leader.
A Wallace Reid film is a rather rare & wonderful thing now, as most of them seem to have vanished long ago. Reid, immensely popular in his day, was the epitome of the American Hero. Tragically, his story became a living nightmare. Injuries received while on location in Oregon in 1919 left him seemingly unable to complete his role. The Paramount Studio doctor was dispatched to plug him full of morphine and put him back in front of the cameras. It worked, but already weakened by alcoholism, Reid now became a helpless morphine addict. His problem was an open secret in Hollywood, but instead of the real help he desperately needed, he was given more of the deadly drug. His box office returns were considered too valuable, and the Studio pushed him through an insufferable number of films - 7 in 1921, 8 in 1922. After ANATOL, in which it was becoming obvious that his good looks were beginning to decay, Reid made 11 more films in increasing agony. His death on January 18, 1923, was officially attributed to the influenza which finally overcame the body debilitated by alcohol & drug addiction. Wallace Reid was only 31 years old.
Drawn to this by the irresistable and rare chance of seeing Wallace Reid and Gloria Swanson working together on a film, I had heard about it through reference books (and also about Swanson's recollections of the film not being happy due to feeling uncomfortable with Reid at the time), and expected exactly what I got - a fun piece with some nice touches (Gloria's playful mood before she feels slighted by Wanda Hawley's flapper girl; Reid trashing Hawley's apartment when he realises she did not have pure intentions towards him after all; Agnes Ayres and Reid sharing a kiss in the woods while Gloria has gone to fetch a doctor to attend to Ayres, 'half-drowned' when she left; and best of all, Bebe Daniels as the absurdly named Satan Synne who is really a domesticated pussy cat chasing young men for cash to help her sick husband). The Affairs ... also benefits from having a lovely series of colour tints throughout. A little overlong perhaps (and too much focus on Hawley at the expense of the other girls encountered by Tony) but another fascinating early piece from De Mille. Sad to think that Wallace Reid would be dead by early '23. The movies' loss.
Highly entertaining marital situation-morality play of the sort Cecil B.
DeMille was so adroit during the silent period (He seemed to have lost his
touch later on with similar bedroom farces/battle-of-the-sexes films in the
1929 & 1930 "Dynamite" and "Madame Satan" and wisely stuck thereafter to his
other strong suits, adventures and Bibilical extravaganzas-morality tales).
The title is a bit misleading in that the "affairs" are not affairs in the
usual sense of the word. Wallace Reid stars in the title role as the
handsome, rich husband Anatol de Witt Spencer, a chivalrous, idealistic,
romantically 'inclined' young man who is unable to pass up any opportunity
to aid young and beautiful damsels-in-distress, much to the dismay and
exasperation (not to mention jealousy) of his glamorous wife Vivian (Gloria
Swanson) and at the expense of their marital harmony. The three "damsels"
in the film drive home the expressions "you can't tell a book by its cover"
and "things are not what they may seem" and are covered in an effective
"vignette" style fashion--Anatol's former sweetheart Emilie Dixon (Wanda
Hawley) is now a rich old man's mistress, apparently sincere but in reality
deceptively repentant. The scene where Anatol realizes he's been duped is a
wildly satisfying, frenetic, cathartic one as he figuratively and literally
(and how!) lets Emilie's sugar daddy "pick up the pieces!"
The 2nd damsel is a seemingly sweet and pure country girl (Agnes Ayres) who has despondently thrown herself into a river to drown due to the irreparable trouble she has caused in her marriage. She turns out to be rather scheming and seductive when Anatol yet again takes on the role of savior, as well as that of dupe, albeit the latter role as unwittingly as before. The scene where Anatol and Vivian attempt to revive the apparently half-drowned, unmoving Ayres is quite amusing, it looks as if they're performing calisthenics upon a corpse!
These 2 deceptive "damsels" cause Anatol to lament about the lack of "loyalty and honesty," but as a wise character in the film informs him, "loyalty and honesty, like charity, begins at home," which at this point has seriously deteriorated from neglect due to Anatol's dogged, romantically-tinged samaritan pursuits, when he goes off yet again to the ostensibly venal vixen Satan Synne (Bebe Daniels), an infamous stage star-courtesan known as "the wickedest woman in New York," but this time his intent is purely "romantic" rather than gallant. But his anticipated rendezvous doesn't unfold as expected when Satan, unlike the others, reveals herself to be genuinely "loyal and honest," deceptive, but in a good way. Unlike the other 2 segments, this one is not comical but poignant.
Particular praise for Wallace Reid, who is exemplary as Anatol, more than capably embodying his characters' sense of chivalry, romance, sophistication and "goodness," but also a man that is not above being human and falling prey to feelings of fury, stubbornness, revenge, and, of course, a pretty face. It's easy to see why he was a superstar in his day (unfortunately completely forgotten now). He had it all--the virile boy-man good looks, the tall strapping build, talent, and, most of all, charisma and energy to spare. A pity he died under excruciating circumstances at the young age of 32, it's almost enough to take some enjoyment out of the film, but even knowing he was in terrible pain and under the drugs that would help do him in when this film was made, he still manages to be so good (not to mention healthy-appearing) as to make any viewer think nothing was amiss. Regarding the other performers: Wanda Hawley and Agnes Ayres are competent in their parts, but that's it. Nothing stands out about them. Gloria Swanson gives a rather one-dimensional, unsympathetic performance (despite what should be a sympathetic role) which, like her admittedly attractive looks, is hard and brittle and unyielding. But the one who steals the show is Bebe Daniels, she impressively, movingly and convincingly portrays a tigress that is really a pussycat without becoming maudlin.
Other plusses include the exceptional, artfully decorated dialogue cards and the use of color in the Satan Synne segment, it's so expertly done that it appears nearly like Technicolor, seems to be a film that was made much later. And remember, the moral of the story is" "Loyalty and honesty, like charity, begins at HOME!"
The plot and an analysis is elsewhere here well done with Ron Oliver's
review. Suffice to say that the hand-tinted titles and the sepia-toned
itself, hinting at reds along with its browns are a real joy to behold.
Seeing so many luminaries in one film is also a treat - Reid, Swanson,
Moran, Daniels, Ayres.
However, the film could easily have been a half hour shorter with less wear and tear on the viewer and with virtually little loss in the morality tale or sense of the work. It's all enjoyable but it does drag a bit.
Grapevine and Kino both have excellent prints. Important for its director and his non-epic style as well as for the presence of Reid and Swanson, but far from a great or important film.
I know some may find me an oddball for this but I consider The Affairs
of Anatol a masterpiece of silent cinema.
Gloria Swanson is one of my favorite actresses and she's remarkable as always in this one. But I wouldn't see Affairs for just her alone, her part is rather small compared to the ones she had in Don't Change Your Husband and Why Change Your Wife? However, even though she doesn't get as much screen time, she's still amazing and in my honest opinion, she steals every scene she's in. Her elegant wardrobe and sophisticated aura makes her the star. Wallace Reid is great too and watching him, you never would have guessed he was towards the end of his life. He seemed very strong and handsome to me, although I haven't seen him in much (sadly).
Anatol (Reid) and his wife, Vivian (Swanson) are a pretty happy married couple until Anatol starts developing the habit of wanting to rescue women with no morals from their fate. This film is long but it HAS to be to fit it all in! We travel with Anatol and Vivian through many adventures that continuously test their marriage and happiness.
The cast is absolutely fabulous! Many, many good actors and actresses here. Obviously, Gloria Swanson and Wallace Reid. Then we have delightful Bebe Daniels as Satan Synne, a vampish woman with a heart of gold deep down. Also, there's the wonderful, unique and sadly underrated Raymond Hatton who has a short appearance as a violin teacher. Pretty and talented Agnes Ayres plays a country "good girl" and the great character actor Theodore Roberts plays a mean ol' millionaire. Others in the cast worth mentioning are Monte Blue, Wanda Hawley, Elliott Dexter and Theodore Kosloff.
This movie is stunning visually and is gorgeous to look at. Beautiful tints and a score that works with the film like butter works with bread. The costumes and sets are to die for and the whole thing just screams DeMille. TCM shows this film every now and then but I wouldn't wait that long. For Gloria and DeMille fans this is a MUST.
Wallace Reid (as Anatol Spencer) is a wealthy newlywed who is oddly
attracted to various women other than his wife - specifically: Wanda
Hawley (as Emilie), Agnes Ayres (as Annie), and Bebe Daniels (as Satan
Synne!). Gloria Swanson (as Vivian) is the wife who seems to develop a
roving eye of her own as the running time progresses. BUT, are "The
Affairs of Anatol" really affairs, or just a series of titillating
DeMille's work with mirrors is on display, with the director inserting a skeleton image of Mr. Reid in one scene. Reid was a very big star when this film was released (one of the most popular actors in the world); and, though this isn't really representative, it's nice to see him. Of the leading ladies, I enjoyed Ms. Ayres over the others, because her simple scenes with Monte Blue seem so ORDINARY when contrasted with the rest of the goings-on.
DeMille's unlikely mix of titillation, religiosity, and heavy-handed message is obviously in full flower. While there are no performances for the ages, the scenes with Swanson being hypnotized by Theodore Kosloff are fun. Elliott Dexter (as Max Runyon) is the film's best supporting actor; keep a sharp eye on his closing scenes as he'll reveal, through his performance, the affair you might not have been expecting
****** The Affairs of Anatol (9/25/21) Cecil B. DeMille ~ Wallace Reid, Gloria Swanson, Bebe Daniels, Elliott Dexter
An interesting document of almost one hundred years ago. Your enjoyment of this will obviously depend on whether you like silents or not. As a look way back to the beginnings of narrative film making and a fashion show of what woman wore then this has some interest. Gloria is unquestionably the star and she holds the screen with no problem. A renown clotheshorse her outfits are bizarre in the extreme to the modern eye but were the height of high fashion in their day. It's also a rare chance to see the doomed Wallace Reid in one of his few existing films. He was deep in the throes of the morphine addiction that would kill him within two years when this was made and looks shockingly old when you realize he was only 29 at the time, he appears 50 minimum.
The Affairs of Anatol (1921)
A long, involved, romantic and slightly moralizing movie about a really good hearted man caught between two women. That's the reason to watch it, that and Gloria Swanson in the lead as the wife. The other woman (Wanda Hawley) is a bit of a siren, and our good fellow is trying to be a charitable fellow with her, and only gets himself in trouble. She plays him like a child.
The year, 1921, is just at the point where the silent film is solidifying and getting sophisticated in a modern sense. There is still a lot of static (fixed) camera in this one (even though one of the photographers was the legendary Karl Struss). This puts the emphasis on the acting, which rises to the occasion. The copy I saw had some great hand colored title cards and some scenes that were toned in rich yellows or other colors, which made it all quite fun. The conflict between the two women, and the intrusion of another man or two, make this a classic soap opera kind of drama, well done and clear enough to follow once you get the basic flow. There are sort of two halves, and the second part out in the country is a nice shift even though the theme remains similar.
Of interest? The director, Cecil B. De Mille, had a hugely influential and long career, and this is toward the beginning, and it shows his tendency to find the popular themes that audiences would connect with, rather than push technical or aesthetic boundaries. Some might call him a populist, interest above all in success, but he was an expert director who knew how to make a movie really coherent, handling the story and actors with precision and a sympathetic feel. And the subject matter here is actually a bit edgy--a married man hanging out with a woman in her most intimate spaces. The play of the "bad" woman against the "good" one is a little expected, of course, but it's such a heartwrenching problem for this nice guy who just wants to help (or so he says), it's painfully enjoyable to watch.
Cecil B. DeMille, it would appear, had a bit of a thing about ladies'
feet. This may partly explain why the first glimpse we catch of Gloria
Swanson in the Affairs of Anatol, is a close-up of said body part
bare, exquisitely framed, and being treated to a pedicure.
However, it was very much the DeMille way to introduce his characters in bits, summing them up by focusing us on some tiny yet significant feature. Shortly before the entrance of Miss Swanson's foot, we meet Wallace Reid's impatiently shuffling boots and tapping fingers. By doing this DeMille gives us an impression of the man before we even see his face. And throughout this picture, we can see DeMille has a kind of "inside-out" approach to shooting a scene. Cinematic convention, even back then, was generally to start with a master shot, then draw us in on the details. DeMille begins with the minutiae, then gradually reveals the bigger picture. Take the dancehall sequence where Reid meets the subject of his first affair. We first of all see Reid's view of Wanda Hawley, as if she were seated alone at the table. It is only after her character has been established that we see a shot from a little further back, showing us she is in the company of a lecherous old Theodore Roberts! DeMille's process of gradual revelation especially applies to the splendour of a set, such as the giant fan being pulled aside to reveal a stunning backdrop of stars later in the same scene.
The purpose of all this is not only to make the picture visually attractive and smoothly paced. DeMille was one of the best at this time when it came to representing the thoughts of his characters. When Reid first sets eyes on Hawley, she really is all he can see, with Roberts being an unimportant distraction. At any one time, DeMille is showing us the focus of the protagonists, without often resorting to anything so subjective as a point-of-view shot. It is a subtler equivalent to the superimpositions of imagined figures or objects that he employed in his earlier pictures. With this canny cinematic approach you'd hardly know you were seeing an adaptation of a thirty-year old stage play.
Speaking of which, the original Affairs of Anatol was a popular comedy, and the jokes in theatre productions tend to be in the words, so how to translate it to the silent screen and keep in the comedy? DeMille was no master of slapstick, and his cast were certainly no clowns. However what remains from the original is a kind of growing sense of unlikely silliness, as opportunities for adultery continually appear in Reid's path, only to be flattened by unexpected twists. The world in which the story takes place is so shallow and dignified that these daft situations slight exaggerations of typical melodramatic plot turns just about pass for humour.
But the fact that it works at all is largely down to the efforts of the cast. Wallace Reid goes through it all with such po-faced seriousness, and the sober and dedicated manner in which he undertakes his infidelity is actually rather funny. The highlight is surely the appearance of Agnes Ayres and Monte Blue, who act out their little slice of melodrama without even a pretence of sincerity. It is perhaps the most frivolous moment of any DeMille film, and given its place among the familiar DeMille trappings, even Ayres jumping in the river in a suicide attempt looks like a gag.
Sadly, the only cast member who does not seem quite at home here is Gloria Swanson. She is essentially an air-headed young bride, giving her errant husband an unfeasible number of chances, and frankly the role is beneath her. Here and there she gets to show her powerful dramatic presence, but she becomes a somewhat marginal figure as the titular affairs take centre stage, and her talents are largely wasted. After giving impressive turns in several of his biggest hits, this was to be the last of her collaborations with the director. It seems that in DeMille's eyes, Swanson had become little more than a beautiful pair of feet.
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