It is 1830 in Paris and the rent is due, but the money is not there. An article here, a painting there and a monkey with a cup gives them enough money for the rent, but not for food. Fortunately, Musette from downstairs has enough food for everyone including Mimi - the poor little waif from next door who Rodolphe has met. But Count Paul also has his lusting eye on Mimi and uses her embroidery to get close to her. Rodolphe and Mimi fall in love and Mimi works endlessly to support Rodolphe who is writing his play with a new found passion. He does not know that he has been discharged from writing for 'Dog and Cat Fanciers'. Mimi wants to get his play produced and Count Paul offers to help, but there is a terrible fight when Rodolphe thinks that Mimi is faithless to him with Count Paul. After the fight, he seeks out a doctor as she is sick, but she has left when Rodolphe returns and will stay away until his play is finished.Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 19th century Bohemia, artistic residents in the "Latin Quarter" of Paris suffer and starve. Lillian Gish (as Mimi) is a seamstress who can't pay the rent. John Gilbert (as Rodolphe) is an playwright with money problems of his own. Gilbert has been watching Gish, who lives in the neighboring attic apartment; he is taken by her innocent waif-like beauty. On the first of the month, neither Ms. Gish nor Mr. Gilbert are able to pay the rent, when the landlord visits. Gilbert, his roommates, and friends get some cash together; but Gish, a loner, is evicted. As Gish is preparing to leave the building, Gilbert and friends rescue her from street life. Then, Gish and Gilbert fall in love.
The film is most notable for its outstanding pairing of stars Gish and Gilbert, under the star direction of King Vidor. Mr. Vidor is strangely subdued by the period, and settings; but, his Paris street scenes are terrific. The meeting of Gish and lecherous Roy D'Arcy (as Vicomte Paul) is striking; and, Gish's tubercular crawl through the streets of Paris is most especially stunning.
The lovers of "La Bohème" face poverty and misunderstanding; but, mainly, it's Gish's "Mimi" making sacrifices for Gilbert's "Rodolphe". Gish's performance is indescribable. According to Vidor and co-workers, she may have put her life in danger to make the film's ending most realistic; and, it shows. Gilbert is in fine form, and characterization; according to Gish, he proposed during film-making. Renée Adorée (as Musette) and Karl Dane (as Benoit) standout among the oddly more well-fed Bohemians.
King Vidor directing Lillian Gish and John Gilbert in a prestigious M-G-M production is, of course, well worth seeing; but, the sum of their efforts do not produce the portended masterpiece. Gish's performance seems too outer-worldly for the rest of the cast; and, the story is unworthy. Cinematographer Hendrik Sartov contributes to some beautiful imagery; although, his soft focus lens, on Gish close-ups, is distracting during the early scenes. Happily, Gish, and photographer Sartov, returned to balanced perfection, in "The Scarlet Letter" (1926).
******** La Boheme (2/24/26) King Vidor ~ Lillian Gish, John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Roy D'Arcy
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