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Lukashka is the son of a fierce Cossack chief, but he would rather relax in the woods or flirt with his sweetheart Maryana than go to battle with the neighboring Turks. However, his life changes when he is publicly humiliated by his fellow villagers and rejected by Maryana, who regard him as a coward. Overnight, Lukashka proves himself a capable warrior to prove them all wrong, impressing his father and Maryana; however, when she tries to apologize for her cruel treatment of him, he ignores her, even though he is still in love with her. Matters get complicated when the Tsar's son comes to village in search of a bride and sets his eyes on Maryana. And then there's still the Turks to contend with... Written by
Composer Robert Israel was commissioned by Turner Classic Movies to compose a new orchestra music score for their new High-Def broadcast edition, which aired on their network on June 1, 2014. See more »
In 19th century Russia, attractive John Gilbert (as Lukashka) is teased and called a "woman man" because he does not live the warrior lifestyle of other Cossacks. Even pretty maiden Renee Adoree (as Maryana) doesn't like Mr. Gilbert, who girlishly picks flowers and chews sunflower seeds. To make matters worse, Gilbert's father is macho chieftain Ernest Torrence (as Ivan). Everyone thinks he's a coward, but Gilbert (or, rather, his stuntman) is nevertheless a daredevil horseback rider. Eventually, as you probably suspect, Gilbert becomes a fierce warrior. "The smell of blood," he discovers, "is not so bad." Ms. Adoree takes notice. As a rival for her interests, princely and amorous Nils Asther (as Olenin) adds almost too much handsomeness to the cast...
This production reportedly went through continuous revisions as the studio, director and star were dissatisfied. The story never really impresses, but MGM spent a lot of money on "The Cossacks" and the film is beautiful and well-preserved. Great production values don't always make a mediocre story better, but they do here. Practically every scene can be enjoyed for one reason or another; everything and everyone looks absolutely fantastic. Art/set direction by Cedric Gibbons and Alexander Toluboff is outstanding. David Cox' costumes look great. Majestically photographed by Percy Hilburn, the film qualifies as an epic, with the MGM production team doing their "silent era" best to make it thrilling...
Oddly, this film's original soundtrack appears to be missing. When it aired June 1, 2014 on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), host Ben Mankiewicz stated the film had an original "orchestral" soundtrack, but showed "The Cossacks" with a new score by Robert Israel. Presumably, the standard "synchronized sound effects" score was made for the original release. A 1928 production of this quality would be unlikely to have no sound effects soundtrack. At times, sound is lost while film is preserved. It would have been nice to have the original soundtrack restored, if possible. TCM did not reveal whether or not Mr. Israel's score followed the orchestral score likely conducted live in New York by William Axt. In any case, Israel's score is fine and so is the film.
******* The Cossacks (6/23/28) George W. Hill, Clarence Brown ~ John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Ernest Torrence, Nils Asther
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