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W.S. Van Dyke
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Fabien des Grieux, a divinity student, comes to the rescue of a beautiful girl, Manon Lescaut, when her brother tries to "sell" her to the lecherous Comte Guillot de Morfontaine. Fabien and Manon fall in love and he abandons his priestly ambitions. But de Morfontaine has no intention of giving up his desire to possess Manon. She again falls into his clutches. Fabien, borrowing on his father's wealth, transforms himself into a gentleman gambler and moves into court society. But there he discovers that Manon is endangered not only by the cruel de Morfontaine, but by the King of France himself. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
I must admit I've only seen one clip, of this rumored to be picturesque silent, on an old HBO documentary on the 1920s. That was in the early 1980s. This film treatment on the much filmed Manon Lescaut romance story is known to exist. It is not a lost film yet it is almost never seen even though it would presumably be owned by Turner Classics being a Warner Bros. silent. This was the film in which Ethel Barrymore upon seeing commented that her brother John Barrymore basically threw his part away in order for Dolores Costello, then Barrymore's girlfriend and soon to be wife, to standout and shine. Costello was then concurrently starring in Warner's "Old San Francisco"(1927), which had a Vitaphone pre-recorded soundtrack. WAML was John Barrymore's third and final film in a three picture deal with Warner Brothers and it followed the better know Don Juan. WAML had a Vitaphone pre-recorded soundtrack with musical score & sound effects, the same as Don Juan. Vitaphone was the pioneer system where the music, sound effects, speech etc. was recorded on an LP type of wax disc rather than the later standard of film. Byron Haskin, WAML's Cinematographer, said in an interview that this was a wonderful story to photograph and was superior to Don Juan photographically in many respects IHHO. Incidentally director Alan Crosland seemed to be involved with all things Vitaphone & Warner Brothers at this time. He was not only the director of WAML but the aforementioned Old San Francisco & Don Juan as well as the talking film breakthrough The Jazz Singer. Maybe one day Turner Classics will surprise everyone and resurrect WAML, a late silent/major studio obscurity. Perhaps some kind of restoration is in order and that includes the original pre-recorded soundtrack if it exists. I'm sure it's as gorgeous as Don Juan's soundtrack.
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