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Prince Danilo falls in love with dancer Sally O'Hara. His uncle, King Nikita I of Monteblanco forbids the marriage because she is a commoner. Thinking she has been jilted by her prince, Sally marries old, lecherous Baron Sadoja, whose wealth has kept the kingdom afloat. When he dies suddenly, Sally must be wooed all over again by Danilo. Written by
We don't need the words, do we? It's all in their eyes, in their bodies...in the dance.
So much has been written about this picture that it is impossible not to see Von Stroheim's strange genius in it. I, for one, was brought up too conventionally to appreciate the recurring shots of feet - dancing, jumping, caressing, kicking - but it didn't get in the way of the story. It all takes place in their eyes - Mae Murray and the wonderful John Gilbert, so beautifully paired. The sparks fly, the seduction scene with the two blindfolded musicians sets the scene, and when he would seduce her...she cries, and he falls in love.
The responsibility of royalty and the greed of nations come between the lovers, but they come together again, and in the dance all is resurrected. A war of wills, of mistaken feelings and misunderstanding is what they talk about while their bodies move as one. I can hear the music still, see them, his incredible dark eyes riveted on her in all moods:successively amused, then tittilated, finally adoring, hungry; bereft, angry, and finally - consumed and satisfied.
It's a lovely film, even with the feet, and John Gilbert gives a wonderful performance. Mae Murray, who could cry for her own purposes and succumb when every woman in the audience was hoping for their union, was his match.
It's more than big, glorious MGM - it's a good story with strong characters. See it - on the big screen if you can, but see it in any case.!
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