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A writer, looking for some peace and quiet in order to finish a novel, takes a room at the Baldpate Inn. Peace and quiet are last things he gets, though, as there are some very strange things going on at the establishment.
In a masked ball in Paris, Manuel Robledo, a young Argentinian architect, meets Elena, the Marquess of Torre Blanca. Later, the young woman is rightly accused causing the misfortune and loss of wealth of Fontenoy, a man who fell for her charms. To escape social criticism, the Marquis of Torre Blanca transfers his residence to Argentina. There, Elena meets again Manuel, when he is building a river's dam. Manos Duras, a thug, harasses Elena, and when Manuel intervenes, he defies him to a whip duel. The duel is long and vicious, both men suffering many cuts on their faces and naked chests, but in the end, the thug is vanquished and humiliated. Manos Duras sets up an ambush to murder Manuel, but the Marquis of Torre Blanca is killed instead. Now, there only two men in love for Elena, the eternal temptress^Å Written by
Garbo drives four men to ruin with a mere flick of an eye lid in her breakthrough Hollywood silent.
Greta Garbo's second Hollywood feature is an irresistible meller, done to a turn by director Fred Niblo at his finest. (Dig those parallel tracking shots; first over a formal dining table laden w/ service & delicacies, and then under the same table, now heavy w/ service & delicacies of a rather different nature.) At this point in her career, Garbo was still playing femme fatale types (watch how she cups her lover's face in her hands) and in this adaptation of a rum Blasco-Ibanez novel, she drives four men to their ruin without lifting a finger. The plot takes us from Parisian highlife (a superb masked ball, a suicide at a banquet, overnight love in a park) down to the Argentine for dam building, a duel of honor played out with whips, sabotage & floods (with remarkable effects), and then back to Paris for our moral. When he's at his best, co-star Antonio Moreno is a bit like Brian Donleavy, alas he usually just looks vaguely surprised. But Roy D'Arcy & Lionel Barrymore get to whoop things up splendidly. Note that Garbo's regular lenser Wm Daniels shares credit with Tony Gaudio. But everyone deserves a prize, including one for the fine newly commissioned score.
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