This movie is a biopic of one of the mistresses of Edward IV, set against the background of the War of the Roses. As it opens, Blanche Forsythe (as Jane) has just gotten married to goldsmith Robert Purdie, much to the annoyance of his cousin, Dora de Winton, who proceeds to make trouble for the heroine. The king spots her as Mr. Purdie is thrown into jail for making speeches in favor of the Yorkists. The king threatens to kill her husband unless she will submit to him.... well, what's a girl to do? Similar male actions keep getting Miss Forsythe in more and more trouble, resulting in her having to be the mistress of all sorts of rich and powerful people, until she has to unjustly suffer for it. Poor girl!
It's a huge production, with hundreds, if not thousands of extras visible in the battle scenes and crowd scenes, which is all the more astonishing given that this was released ten months after the First World War had begun.
I was not thrilled. First, it is clearly intended as spectacle, and spectacle, to me, is what you do when you don't have anything important to do. It uses the already-dated "chapter heading" technique of film making, in which the titles tell you what you are about to see, and then the performers act it out. True, this had been established as suitable for big pictures with FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS, and survived into the sound era, but it never fails to annoy me unless there is something unexpected in the image, some ironic take of the text. The last major annoyance was the acting of Miss Forsythe, who cannot seem to say anything without raising her arms above her head and and turning her face away from woever she is speaking to.
On the plus side, producer William Barker served as one of the two cameramen on this picture and he was one of the most experienced hands in the business, with credits running back to 1897. There's little doubt he knows how to shoot pageantry; I just don't think it usually worth bothering. Still, I know it's an opinion I don't share with many.
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