A cavalcade of English life from New Year's Eve 1899 until 1933 seen through the eyes of well-to-do Londoners Jane and Robert Marryot. Amongst events touching their family are the Boer War,... See full summary »
In a role specialized in by Marlene Dietrich, Elissa Landi plays a woman of the world brought low by men. Reduced to being a companion in West Africa she is expelled from an English colony to a German one just prior to the first world war. Upon arrival she is about to be held for examination when she meets a young officer (Alexander Kirkland) who falls helplessly in love with her. He takes her in charge to a local hotel but his father, Warner Oland, intends to intern her because war has broken out. To save herself, Landi agrees to marry the son. Oland demands that either the marriage be annulled or he will send his son back to a hell hole post. A grateful Landi agrees to go with Kirkland but her husband's jealousy and the climate soon cause problems. Kirkland must be away for several weeks and the handsome Paul Lucas arrives shortly thereafter. Naturally, they fall in love. Oland arrives and drives Landi away penniless but not before Donald Crisp, a British spy, offers Landi 500 pounds to steal a vital map. She declines and Kirkland overhears. The map is discovered stolen. Landi opens her bag in her steamship stateroom to find a note from Kirkland and the 500 pounds. He has stolen the map for her. She confronts Crisp just as the soldiers arrive. Crisp tries to explain her innocence but she confesses to save her husband, knowing she will be executed as a spy. Brought back to Oland he is contrite, explaining Kirkland has confessed and committed suicide. He offers his help but she declines and walks away. We expect she will continue her life as before.
Landi is absolutely terrific in the role. Unlike Dietrich's cartoonish performances, Landi's is nuanced. We see both her hardness and softness in conflict as she tries to survive yet do the right thing. There's not a moment of falseness. Kirkland is excellent as the driven husband. Oland, Lucas and Crisp perform well, but they're nothing special. This is Landi's film and she carries it off to perfection.
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