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After World War I Irish rebels launch an uprising with the aim of creating an Irish republic, independent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. One of the rebellion's leaders and a beautiful aristocratic Englishwoman meet and - despite the enormous class, cultural, political and social differences between them - fall in love. Written by
In the "love-against-the-backdrop-of" genre, BELOVED ENEMY occupies a rather high position because of the intelligence with which an extremely unlikely romantic relationship is handled. Merle Oberon, the daughter of a British bigwig (Henry Stephenson), falls in love with an Irish rebel leader (Brian Aherne). But not only does her love for him not turn her against her own people, she even rats on him to the British military, only to be hugely relieved when he escapes from their ambush. Then she has the gall to visit him and admit her betrayal! This is truly a case of love conquers all. On one level this film is a plea for peace from a woman's point of view. Movies with pleas for peace were not uncommon in the mid- to-late Thirties. Needless to say, this production is a pure Hollywood gloss on the realities of the 1921 Irish Civil War, but at least the opening credits admit clearly that the story is "legend based on fact" with fictitious characters. When the going gets a bit heavy, we have those stunning physical specimens of Oberon and Aherne (their surnames even sound like poetry together) to feast our eyes upon. In close-up profile they both look exquisite. Oberon was a fine actress, much underrated. She had her limitations, but here, as in many other films, not only turned in a creditable and convincing performance but was a pleasure to watch as she did so. Aherne, as finely carved a block of wood that ever took human form, never quite comes to life. He is somehow not all there.
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