In 1914 a girl of the streets is befriended by two dashing young officers, an Austrian and a Russian. Both fall in love with her, but she picks the Austrian. When the war begins, Her town is overrun by Russians, lead by the once charming, now vengeful officer, who takes her prisoner and threatens death if she won't marry him. Written by
That was, believe it or not, the title of the theme song that accompanied this silent romance, back when every A movie had to plug sheet music. (Another unfortunate example: The song for RIchard Dix's "Redskin" was "Redskin, Why Are You Blue?") This is a savory, well-shot melodrama with a star performance by Norma Talmadge. Which is to say, she bats her eyelashes a little excessively and lets the close-ups linger on a bit too long, but you don't take your eyes off her, and you see why she was a star. As a quite frankly portrayed woman of the streets, she gets embroiled in a suicide-scandal and comes between best friends Gilbert Roland and Arnold Kent. (The camera loves the young Roland, too, and Kent is a very interesting actor who didn't have much of a career.) World War I breaks out, which is a surprise because up until then Norma has been wearing some strictly 1928 skirts, and ultimately she's pressed, for complicated reasons, into either sleeping with Kent or allowing the Russian forces to crush the Austrian army. It's an adult storyline, from de Maupassant, no less, and William Cameron Menzies' cinematography is gorgeous enough to inspire one to forgive some of the pat storytelling. Paramount spent a lot on this one because it knew the talkies were coming and there was no way it could provide such visual splendor with a primitive mike. There's some satisfying moral comeuppance for the hypocritical villains, and Norma, without ever actually doing any great acting, shows how she made it to the top.
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