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Wealthy young man Ramon Laredo is abducted and put into service aboard a ship commanded by a none-too-scrupulous smuggler. When the ship encounters the foundering "Lady Letty," some of the Letty's crew is brought aboard, including Letty 'Moran' Sternerson, feisty daughter of the Letty's captain. Moran and Ramon have little use for each other, but when trouble erupts and the smuggler Captain Kitchell turns his evil eye on Moran, it is Ramon who comes to her rescue. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The character played by Rudolph Valentino was called "Ross Wilbur" in the novel by Frank Norris on which the film was based, but the name was changed to "Ramon Laredo" for the film to accommodate Valentino's non-American appearance. See more »
Except for Dorothy Dalton, whose name appears on the title frame, actors were not credited in this movie at the start or at the end. Instead, 7 additional actors and their character names are credited in the intertitles right before they appear onscreen and are listed in the same order in the IMDb cast. All other actors are marked uncredited. See more »
Valentino does a quite creditable job of portraying a bored San Francisco society swell, whose life is turned upside down when he gets shanghaied by a villainous arms smuggler. His performance is refreshingly naturalistic (for a silent) as he discovers unexpected pleasure in his rough-and-tumble life as a smuggler -- at least, until the more sinister side of his captain's nature emerges. Walter Long makes a good heavy, and Dorothy Dalton is passable as the love interest.
What captivated me, though, were the locations: That harbor chock-full of tall ships, just at the end of the era of commercial viability for sail. And especially the two merchant ships on which most of the action takes place. When you see a sailing ship in a movie it's usually a replica of a warship from the 18th Century or earlier. I found those little details of actual workhorse merchant vessels from the late 1800s/early 1900s -- the zenith of commercial sailing -- fascinating.
For instance, there's a pretty authentic sequence in which the Lady Letty's cargo of coal spontaneously combusts -- a bad enough prospect when you're at sea, but much, much worse when you're at sea on something as inflammable as a ship constructed out of very dry wood. After the captain and a couple of men are overcome by fumes while trying to fight the fire, the remaining crew panics and abandons ship, leaving the captain's daughter behind, easy prey for vultures like Capt. "Slippery" Kitchell.
Whether you're a seafaring history buff or not, this is still an entertaining example of an action film from the heyday of the silents, and for my taste one of Rudolph Valentino's most watchable performances.
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