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The Enchanted Cottage (1924)

A crippled World War I veteran retracts to a small cottage in the countryside to escape from his nosy family and to hide from the outside world. There he meets a plain but also a very kind ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
...
Ida Waterman ...
Alfred Hickman ...
Rupert Smallwood
Florence Short ...
Ethel Bashforth
Marion Coakley ...
...
Major Hillgrove (as Holmes E. Herbert)
Ethel Wright ...
Harry Allen ...
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Storyline

A crippled World War I veteran retracts to a small cottage in the countryside to escape from his nosy family and to hide from the outside world. There he meets a plain but also a very kind young woman. She reveals to him that the house he is staying in is in fact a very old honeymoon cottage. Spirits of newlyweds from the past, who are still swirling through the cottage, soon cast a love spell upon them. Written by Aljaz Ciber, Slovenia

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Drama

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24 March 1924 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Cabana Encantada  »

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1.33 : 1
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A print of this film still exists at the Library of Congress. See more »

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Featured in Hollywood: Trick of the Light (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Wistful semi-fantasy
16 November 2004 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'The Enchanted Cottage' is a delicate little drama that flirts at the edges of fantasy. Cleverly, this film evokes the aura of the supernatural without ever making clear whether it's actually here or not.

The film actor Richard Barthelmess engages me intellectually but not emotionally. I've never yet seen a Barthelmess performance that convinced me he actually was the character he was playing. Yet he always impresses me with the effort he clearly takes in his characterisations. This is especially clear in his best-known role, as the meek Chinese emigrant in 'Broken Blossoms'. Not for one instant did I accept Barthelmess as a Chinese, yet he works hard and impresses me favourably.

In 'The Enchanted Cottage', alas, Bathelmess seems to be doing a bad imitation of Lon Chaney. Barthelmess plays Oliver Bashforth(!), a shell-shocked veteran of the Great War. He was wounded in combat, but the inter-titles are very imprecise about the nature of his injury. As Bashforth, Bathelmess stoops over and wears raccoonish eye makeup. Very distressingly, he keeps making V-signs with both his hands, like some demented Winston Churchill. This is meant to indicate some sort of physical handicap, though I'm not aware of any injury that causes its victim to make V-signs. Harvey Smith syndrome, perhaps? In one scene, Barthelmess crouches in front of a full-length mirror and bitterly confronts his own deformed reflection: he seems to be imitating the scene in 'A Blind Bargain' when Chaney as the Ape-man discovers his own reflection.

The leading lady in this movie is May McAvoy. May McAvoy was one of the most beautiful actresses in silent films. Here, she portrays a plain-faced spinster named Laura Pennington. The makeup artist has given McAvoy an extremely convincing overbite and a putty job to make her face less attractive. I usually dislike it when a beautiful actress is uglified so that she can play a role that could have gone to a less attractive actress. Here, for once, the device is valid.

Bashforth, allegedly deformed by his injuries and wallowing in self-pity, flees to a secluded cottage so he'll have no visitors. His sister Ethel persists in visiting so she can tend him. Bashforth enters into a sham marriage with unattractive Laura, solely as a ploy so that his sister will go away.

Bashforth and Laura discover that the cottage has a long history as a honeymoon cottage; lovers have trysted there for more than two centuries. Gradually, Bashforth and Laura fall in love. As this happens, they subjectively become more attractive. He loses his deformities, whilst Laura becomes more beautiful and starts looking like May McAvoy. The film subtly persuades us that this is a subjective transformation rather than an actual change. Bashforth's and Laura's only neighbour is a retired major (very well played by Holmes Herbert) who's blind, so he 'sees' the couple in terms of their personalities, not their physical appearance.

SPOILERS COMING. All is well until sister Ethel returns with her fiancé Rupert and Rupert's mother. By now, Bashforth and Laura are so good-looking, they could be a couple of matinée idols. When they come down the stairs into the parlour, there is a beautiful dissolve shot as their physical appearance melts back into what it was at the beginning of the film. He is again deformed, she is again plain and buck-toothed.

This is a beautiful and subtle film, made more so because we never quite know how much of this is genuine fantasy, and how much of it merely the fancies of the on-screen characters. But the effect is sadly undercut by some extremely maudlin inter-titles. This was an ongoing hazard of silent films, as the titles were often written by someone completely unrelated to the production of the film in which the titles appeared, and often the tone of the latter contrasted with the former. I'll rate 'The Enchanted Cottage' 7 out of 10.


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