'Love and Glory' was directed by Rupert Julian, whose best-known credit is the silent version of 'The Phantom of the Opera', starring Lon Chaney. But Chaney and Julian quarrelled very bitterly during production of that film: Julian was ultimately dismissed from the set, and Chaney took over the direction himself ... with an uncredited assist by Edward Sedgewick. Rupert Julian's reputation is based entirely on one highly regarded film ('Phantom of the Opera') which he largely didn't direct. 'Love and Glory' is probably a better indication of his talents. This movie is very bad indeed.
This is one of those films that take place in two time periods several decades apart. In the 1860s, a regiment of Zouaves (French infantry) are fighting in Algeria. For some stupid reason, Anatole Picard has brought along his wife Gabrielle, played by Madge Bellamy with an elaborate marcel hairdo that immediately types her as a 1920s actress. When gabby Gabbie (she gets plenty of dialogue in the intertitles) wanders off and gets captured by the riffraff Riffs, Anatole and his buddy Pierre leave their regiment and go looking for her. They find Gabrielle in the encampment of local warlord Karim Bey, but now they get captured too. (C'est le guerre, oui?) Discovering that Anatole is the regiment's trumpeter, the Bey (a stereotypically stupid swarthy foreigner) orders him to bring forth his trumpet and blow the call for retreat so that his regiment will go home. Of course, Anatole blows a charge instead. (This is clumsily depicted in the silent-film intertitles.) When Anatole gives his horn a sweet toot, the Zouave regiment come rushing into view, toot sweet. Sacre bleu! Gabrielle and lucky Pierre are rescued, but Anatole dies in action. Vive le France!
Fade in fifty years onward, during the days of the Great War. Pierre and Gabrielle (now much older) are living in the French village of Mirabel, which is lately overrun with German schweinhunds, I mean soldiers. From this point, the movie degenerates into a sluggish examination of honour, courage, truth and beauty. Madge Bellamy looks utterly ludicrous in old-age makeup, and Charles de Roche (as Pierre) looks very nearly as bad. Ford Sterling (the silent film era's equivalent of Harvey Korman) overacts outrageously as the French mayor who must appease the German invaders. Gibson Gowland is much more impressive in a too-small role.
Rupert Julian shows here how bad a director he was. There are long, long, long stretches in which a single actor (usually Madge Bellamy) is kept in close-up, relieved only by long speechy intertitles. Julian should have learnt from the example of William Wellman, who always used close-ups only very sparingly for maximum emotional impact. Also, Julian should have studied Wellman's action sequences: in 'Love and Glory', the battle scenes in 19th-century Algeria are ludicrously bad, and the modern-day battle sequence (German shock troops versus French poilus) is utterly unconvincing. I'll rate 'Love and Glory' precisely one point out of 10.
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