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From a poor working class background, Juan de Dios is a cantina performer in Seville, singing and dancing with his partner Lola. They have a contentious professional and personal relationship, her jealous self who cannot tolerate his constant flirting. He really aspires to be a serious opera singer, he under the tutelage of Estaban. Once the greatest impresario in Spain himself, Estaban lost everything because of the same reckless behavior that Juan now exhibits, that behavior which Estaban is trying to quell in Juan. Estaban's plan is to get one of his old contacts in Madrid, an impresario, to manage Juan's career to get him serious singing gigs, leading to that fame and fortune Esteban once used to have. It's love at first sight when Juan meets Maria Consuelo Vargas. What he initially doesn't know is that their meeting was by no accident, as she, a postulant at St. Agustín convent who just escaped from that life, had been mesmerized by him and his singing every time she saw him as ... Written by
Renée Adorée was ill with tuberculosis during filming, and the strenuous nature of filming aggravated her condition so much that she suffered hemorrhaging on set twice on set, almost shutting the production. See more »
A brash cantina singer in Sevilla heeds the CALL OF THE FLESH when he romances a young postulant from a nearby convent.
Sometimes movie studios make most unwise decisions, resulting in ramifications that can be quite detrimental to the careers of even their biggest stars. CALL OF THE FLESH is a case in point. Good production values & fine performances can not save this film from its one fatal flaw: it is difficult to like, or even tolerate, the hero.
Ramon Novarro, usually quite the pleasant fellow, here is forced to play a repellent rogue who quickly irritates the audience with his cruel treatment of those who love him most. Oozing a smarmy charm, he alternately smirks & pouts his way through the plot, until his eventual - and much belated - regeneration. Novarro's undoubted acting abilities enable him to deliver a fine performance, but mischievousness mixed with too much meanness can result in viewer apathy.
This did not help his career. The fad for the Latin Lover was wearing mighty thin already and would soon be completely eclipsed by the All American Hero, and Novarro's sexual ambiguity was always a bit of a problem for the MGM front office. The advent of Sound, while finally revealing his strong singing voice, also exhibited his Mexican accent, making it difficult to cast him in traditional roles. The Studio simply couldn't come up with a definitive screen persona for him, and so Novarro was made into their ethnic chameleon, playing everything from Chinese to Arab to Navajo.
Novarro's costars come through very well. Dorothy Jordan is radiant as the innocent young woman who loves him with every fiber of her being; she delivers a heart touching, memorable performance. Flamboyant & hammy, Scottish actor Ernest Torrence is terrific as Novarro's friend & mentor - although one has to wonder just why he was willing to put up with so much nonsense from the little squirt. Equally adept at drama or comedy, Torrence's theatrical mannerisms and the contortions of his great homely face make him both entertaining to the audience and an enjoyable contrast to handsome Novarro. French actress Renée Adorée, in her final film, stirs up the flames in her role as Novarro's musical partner & lover. (Ill health would bring about the early deaths of both Torrence & Adorée in 1933 - he at 54 and she at 35. Today, these two fine performers are virtually forgotten.)
Mention should be made of Mathilde Comont, hilarious as a rotund little diva turned landlady.
Novarro is in good voice throughout, which is fortunate as the plot keeps him singing interminably.
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