Socialite Anatol Spencer seeks a better relation that he has with his wife. He sets up the friend of his youth Emilie in an apartment only to have her two-time him. He comforts the near ... See full summary »
A stenographer who works for a lawyer falls in love with and marries a wealthy young man. His family has the marraige annulled, after which she gives birth to a child. Her former boss helps... See full summary »
Robert and Beth Gordon are married but share little. He runs into Sally at a cabaret and the Gordons are soon divorced. Just as he gets bored with Sally's superficiality, Beth strives to ... See full summary »
Cecil B. DeMille
Love, duty, and the scent of narcissus. Theodora, a young and penniless aristocrat, marries a much older man, self-made millionaire grocer Josiah Brown, so that her father and spinster sisters can live comfortably. Soon after the wedding, she finds herself falling in love with Hector, the Tenth Earl of Bracondale, a playboy she encounters on the social circuit of the very rich -- in the Swiss Alps, Paris, London, and the English countryside. Hector is attracted to her as well. Theodora must choose between love and duty, and then Josiah and Hector must make choices of their own. Written by
Lost for most of the 20th century, a copy of this film was discovered in April 2003 in Haarlem (The Netherlands) in a private collection. It was restored by the Nederlands Film Museum and the Hagheflim Conservation and was screened in 2005, complete with English dialogue screens in place of the original Dutch, at the Cannes film festival. It made its television debut on May 21, 2006, on Turner Classic Movies as part of a nine-film tribute to Rudolph Valentino. See more »
When Husein Ben Ali and his men are being chased away by the soldiers, a crew member steps in front of the camera during the wide shot of the scene. See more »
When 'Beyond the Rocks' had its initial and only performance at the London Film festival, it was undoubtedly one of the events of the year. The cinema was booked out in advance, and queues formed at the box office in the hopes of obtaining returned tickets. Irrespective of its artistic merits, the miraculously-rediscovered film was guaranteed to arouse interest.
It has to be confessed, however, that the storyline of 'Beyond the Rocks' is in itself complete and utter tosh...
It became apparent to the audience what to expect within the first few shots, where the breathless and far-from-deathless prose of the title cards raised more than a few chuckles, although the attitude in the auditorium was good-natured throughout. The film is no great work of art and never pretends to be; the plot is women's-magazine stuff, told with a straight face as it whips through a quick world tour of stereotypes, from the English seaside to the quaint Alpine inn and a desert oasis. One of the biggest -- and to give it its due, probably in this case intentional -- laughs was raised by the heroine's bewildered husband voicing the audience's own reaction to the revelation of some very undersized Egyptian ruins: "Is that all?"
I was favourably impressed by the restraint and sensitivity of Rudolph Valentino in handling this material. His performance appealed to me considerably more than that of Gloria Swanson, whose role here, to be fair, consists of little more than a series of coy, tragic or would-be dramatic poses; she suffers also, I suspect, from being the designated Star and thus made up far more heavily in the contemporary style than the other female characters. The actress whom I actually admired the most was June Elvidge, playing the small role of Valentino's sister (randomly referred to in various title cards as Ann, Anne or Anna). She gave a very sympathetic and vividly-drawn rendition of her part that contrasted somewhat with what struck me as Miss Swanson's mask-like demeanour.
Despite an expressive performance from Valentino, unfortunately we have to take the central love affair more or less on trust. There is not a great deal of chemistry in evidence. Indeed, the heroine Theodora comes across to me as rather more animated and concerned about the fate of her husband in the final scenes, than about her lover in all that precedes; I must admit to half-hoping for a last minute twist that would have her realise she has grown to love this unprepossessing figure instead! But convention is met by a different set of clichés, and young love duly has its day.
It is interesting to compare the film with the references in Swanson's own memoirs, written many years after it was deemed lost: unless it has been lost in this print to censorship or decay, there is no sequence showing 'the tango as it was meant to be danced; by the master himself', let alone featuring in this dance 'a gold-beaded and embroidered lace evening gown so shimmering and beautiful that movie-goers talked about it for the next year'. Nor, even in this 'European' version, are there any of the 'torrid kisses' of which she observes 'Poor Rudy could hardly get his nostrils flaring before the American version was over'. Either the relevant sections are forever missing, or her memory must have been confused by other Valentino pictures of the era.
The film shown in London was the 'archival version', full-frame and silent, as opposed to the print with attached soundtrack to be made available for future exhibition and sale. In place of the Vrienten score with its allegedly intrusive sound-effects, we were treated to accompaniment by the National Film Theatre's justly renowned Neil Brand. I am unable, therefore, to comment on the music other than to commend the improvisation on this occasion!
In conclusion, I cannot honestly recommend 'On the Rocks' other than as a curiosity: true, it is a relatively early production in a style unfamiliar to modern eyes, but even so I have seen earlier film that I have appreciated more. The beautiful Theodora remains largely a helpless cipher of events, the melodrama of the plot is superficial rather than absorbing, the literary standard of the titles is on occasion risible and the screen lovers fail to kindle a convincing spark. Contemporary critics reputedly disdained it, and only the innovative star pairing and mythical 'lost' status have resurrected its appeal.
But it *is*, without question, a curiosity, and as such worth seeing once by any amateur of film history or Valentino fan. Just don't expect too much...
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