Good adaptation of the classic Victorian melodrama
EAST LYNNE (1925)
IMDb lists two dozen film versions of Mrs. Henry Wood's classic Victorian melodrama, stretching from the first silent version in 1902 to the BBC color mini-series in 1982. To my knowledge only four survive, two silent and two talkies.
I have reviewed on IMDb the 1916 Theda Bara version, the 1931 Ann Harding version, and most recently the 1982 BBC production. The 1925 silent version with Alma Rubens is being considered below. Interesting that Fox owned the rights to the work and produced the 1916, 1925 and 1931 versions.
I am surprised to find I am the first to review the 1925 version, despite its being available on DVD for a few years now, and to provide the timing of the piece.
I have seen Rubens only once prior, in the 1929 SHOW BOAT, which was one of her final films. She died at age 33 in 1931, a victim of drug and alcohol addiction.
First off, the production values have increased tremendously over the 1916 version, which made do with small, barely furnished rooms and outdoor shots. Here is Fox doing its best with lavish art direction for both exterior village shots and interiors.
Rubens, like Bara before her and Lisa Eichorn after her, plays her as something of a simp, a victim, spineless, vapid and stupid. She almost deserves by her own stupidity what happens to her. Contrast to this the brave, stalwart, Oscar-worthy performance of Ann Harding in the 1931 sound version.
New bits in this 1925 version:
Carlyle is already friendly with the Hare family at the outset. Marriage is expected between he and Barbara. Good directorial touch with Mr. Hare being a control freak and losing the battle re his geese and his garden.
Much is made of the Hares being of West Lynne and Carlyle buying East Lynne. Here as in the 1982 TV version, Isabel and Levison are courting prior to her father's death and her incurring his debts. Levison throws her over and Carlyle marries her. She accepts Carlyle so as not to be thrown into the street and to take over her old home as hostess.
The subplot of Richard falsely accused of Mr. Hallijohn's murder enters at 31 minutes. At 34 minutes Isabel, now married, again meets Levison.
Carlyle's sister, Cornelia, is not presented here as an evil-doer, trying to destroy her brother's marriage, but something of a comic figure, playing her harp and being romanced by a Mr. Dill. No one likes her harp playing.
Leslie Fenton as Richard Hare, falsely accused of murder, is striking here as a handsome man, giving a fine performance. Odd he never went anywhere in the hierarchy of stardom.
Ejected from the plot is the witness to Hallijohn's murder, one Ottway Bethel.
Nice directorial touch of Barbara Hare copying her lover's tossing of an apple before eating it.
Part One ends at 1:10 as Isabel leaves with Levison.
New piece in script Levison encounters Richard Hare in Paris as a menial and denounces him, even though he himself is the murderer.
Part Two ends at 1:23 as Isabel leaves Levison for East Lynne.
Part Three differs from the traditional plot. Isabel is not disfigured in the train accident and is working in a Lynne hospital as a nurse. She is not a governess to her children (always difficult to pull off). She goes to nurse her son, who does not die, due as it is intended to her intervention.
Meanwhile, Levison returns to Alfy and is caught by Richard, who reveals to Barbara the true murderer of her father. A chase ensues, which leads to the burning down of the Hallijohn house. When Richard is cleared, Mr. Hare delivers a packet of money to Alfy, sitting on the steps of her burned house, a nice directorial touch.
Isabel dies of no obvious reason., curtains of the bed parting to release her soul. The film ends on a high note, with Carlyle paying Dill to marry his sister, Cornelia.
The film comes in at 1:54:15.
One wishes the screen had been cleansed for the recording of this for DVD. A nasty spot or two is always dead center in the middle of a face.
The 1925 Fox is better than the 1916 by far. The latter lasted only 75 minutes and retained all the characters and plot points. However, there is more time spent in the 1925 version with character development. The 1931 Fox is even better with an Isabel with spine, but the subplots and characters are all eliminated and the second half of the film is totally re-written. The 1982 BBC version retains all the characters and plot lines.
Ultimately, even though the 1931 version does great harm to the plot , it is the most watchable and most entertaining. Sadly, the last reel remains missing.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?