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A young woman marries the wastrel son of a British aristocrat. Her husband, who has been disinherited by his father, loses what little money he has left gambling in casinos and then dies, leaving her penniless and with an infant son. When her former father-in-law tries to get custody of the child, she leaves him with a couple she trusts, but when she later goes to reclaim her son, she can't find the people she left him with. Written by
Only of few of Norma Talmadge's 1920s silent features exist: KIKI, SECRETS, and THE LADY. Of the three, THE LADY is her best performance.
The film opens with middle-aged barmaid Polly (Talmadge) being insulted by patrons and sitting down to tell the story of her lifelong pursuit to be "a lady." She says that 24 years before, she was the toast of the British music halls as a singer and dancer and that she was pursued by a young gentleman. They marry and travel throughout Europe, but in Monte Carlo she discovers that he is having an affair. Polly attacks the woman, but the husband (Wallace MacDonald) comes to his girlfriend's defense and calls his wife a common trollop.
Back in England, they separate and Polly descends into singing at a cheap saloon. But her revenge is the son she has kept from her ex-husband. Then one day an older man (Brandon Hurst) comes into the salon and demands possession of the boy because the husband has died and he wants his grandson. Polly panics and goes back to get the baby but instead hands the kid over to a minister's wife (Margaret Seddon) with the promise the boy be raised to be a gentleman. They disappear into the London fog.
After 5 years of searching, Polly has never found the boy and is now reduced to selling flowers on the street. She calls plaintively into the fog and follows families with the hopes of finding the boy. A policeman comforts her and advises she give up the search. Years later we're back in a saloon where middle-aged Polly is a barmaid. After an especially violent apache dance, there is a brawl and shooting and a surprise ending.
Norma Talmadge is simply wondrous. At age 32, she is at the height of her dramatic powers and the height of her silent career. Co-stars include George Hackathorne, Doris Lloyd, Emily Fitzroy, Paulette Duval, Marc McDermott, and Walter Long. Directed by Frank Borzage with the same atmospheric touches he brought to great silents like SEVENTH HEAVEN and STREET ANGEL. A reel or two is missing and there is decomposition, but this film is still well worth seeking out.
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