Julio Madariaga is the Argentine patriarch of a wealthy family. He has two daughters, the elder wed to a Frenchman and the other to a German. He prefers the Frenchman and his family, especially his grandson Julio, causing jealousy from the German and his three sons. When Madariaga dies, the family splits up, each son-in-law returning to his own country. The Frenchman and his own move to Paris, where Julio becomes an artist and has an affair with an unhappily married woman, the lovely Marguerite Laurier. Her husband finds out, but before he can finalize a divorce, World War One rears its head and both sides of the family will endure great suffering in the conflict, especially since they must fight one another on the battlefield. Written by
In his book 'John Wayne: The Life and Legend', Scott Eyman recalls how Wayne saw this title "twice a day for the entire week it played in Glendale." His favourite actor was Douglas Fairbanks, and Wayne "admired his dueling, his stunts, his fearlessness in the face of danger, and his impish grin when he was about to kiss his lady-love." See more »
Poor little Marguerite! Laurier is a fine fellow - but too old. Her heart yearns for youth's companionship and - romance.
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Stereotyped portrayal of Germans blurs anti-war-message
This is surely a visually magnificent film to watch, especially if you get to see a copy of the tinted Photoplay restoration with a great score by Carl Davis.
It strikes me however that few commentators here seem to bother about the very nasty portrayal of German people in this film. Despite its claims for universality, condemning WWI in general and not just a single nation (or class for that matter) involved in it, the image of the Germans is no different from the wartime propaganda huns as portrayed by Erich von Stroheim and others. They appear as arrogant, cold, ugly, brutal, grotesque, greedy, militaristic idiots, who even in peacetime in a civilian/family setting march in line and click their heels all the time. Julio's three cousins are portrayed as bespectacled, mischievously grinning jerks who obey their father's commands as if he was an army officer, even as children. They are even shown reading Nietzsche's Zarathustra and it's appraisals of the warrior man as if it was some kind of a bible. A race of villainous, natural born warmongers, it seems. Now this can hardly be the basis for an honest anti-war-movie. Compare this portrayal to the very different, more human and sympathetic image of German people in John Ford's FOUR SONS and of course ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Despite the now-campiness of these scenes in question I find them still quite offensive and hard to watch, even given that most silent movies made heavy use of strong contrasts and stereotyping. I guess in 1920 the anti-German resentments in the US were still very strong, which even caused D. W. Griffith to absurdly switch a German refugee family in post-war Berlin into a polish refugee family in ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL - as late as 1924!
All this shift from anti-war-intentions to merely anti-German clichés somewhat betrays the "message" of the movie, which admittedly comes across quite rhetorical and pretentious in the first place, and is indeed one of the movie's weakest and most dated points. It just seems to be tagged onto the Valentino adultery romance story for mere dramatic effect (as in the vision of the Apocalyptic Horsemen and the final graveyard scene). But overall the war theme doesn't really stand in the center of the movie.
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