Lion of Venice (1914)
Drama | War
Captain Benito Rienzi, in command of a small fleet of Venetian men-of-war, is sent to hold the island of Cyprus against the onslaughts of the Turkish squadrons, but after a valiant defense is forced to give way and put back to Venice for reinforcements. His masterly retreat and his preservation of the fleet in the face of such odds wins him almost as much glory as a victorious battle would have done, and he is complimented by the Doge and the Council of Ten, the highest powers of the Republic. Those honors, however, are meaningless to Rienzi when he learns that during his absence his sweetheart, Bianca, has been forced to marry Count Orsini. He meets her at their trysting place, the famous shrine of Our Lady of the Water, and there she tells him that although her heart is his, she has pledged her faith to Orsini and that she will be true to her vows. In the meantime a scapegrace young nobleman of unsavory reputation has been unsuccessfully wooing Adriane, Rienzi's sister, and, unsuccessful in his attempts to win her by flattery, plans an abduction. Rienzi discovers the plot and pursues the would-be kidnapper, who takes refuge in a home frequented by Orsini. The Count protects him. Orsini, knowing of Benito's love for his wife, conspires with the young nobleman to bring about the captain's downfall. They conceal a forged letter in his apartment and denounce him to the authorities as a traitor to his country. His house is searched and the paper, ostensibly a letter from a Turkish commander accepting Rienzi's offer to surrender the Venetian flotilla to the Sultan, is found. He is arrested and only the personal intervention of the Doge's wife, who acts in response to an appeal by Adriane, prevents his execution. The disgrace causes the death of Rienzi's mother, and he, his death sentence commuted to exile from Venice, is forced to leave the country. Taking his sister with him, Rienzi joins the pirates of Dalmatia, who have risen in revolt against the power of Venice, and in revenge for the ungrateful treatment he has sustained at the hands of his fatherland, determines to lead her enemies against her. Adriane, still loyal, begs him not to turn his hand against the flag of his country, but he will not listen to her. News of Rienzi's connection with the pirates is carried to Venice and a price is set upon his head. Learning of this, Bianca hopes to win him back to loyalty, and to this end sends him a banner displaying ''The Lion of Venice," which she has "embroidered. The bitter-hearted captain, however, refuses to be won over. He throws the flag aside, but Adriane, still confident of changing his heart, secretly takes it and hides it in the hold of the pirate ship. Meanwhile Orsini has been placed in command of a great squadron sent out by Venice for the double purpose of destroying both the Turkish fleet and the pirate vessels. He is attacked by a giant Turkish armada, whose commander, knowing of Benito's rebellion, sends to invite the pirate vessels to participate in the attack. Benito gladly accepts and puts his vessel underway. While the ship is headed toward the hard-pressed Christian fleet, however, Adriane brings the lion flag of Venice from the hold and, unobserved, climbs quickly to the masthead. There is a moment of silence among the pirates as they see the waving folds of the national emblem, then they break into a hearty cheer. Rienzi can no longer resist the call of flag and country. With a shout he urges his men against the astonished Turks. By his aid the fleet of Venice comes out of the struggle victorious, and Orsini, mortally wounded, confesses the plot against his rival. Then, with the Crescent banners as trophies of his victory, Benito sails back to Venice, where his seeming treachery is explained and he is restored to rank and honor. And Bianca, freed by the same stroke that took her husband's life in battle, is waiting for him on his return.