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Not every Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell film is golden...
Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell made a dozen films together and their films were incredibly popular. A few of them were classics, such as "7th Heaven" and then, unfortunately, there were films like "The Man Who Came Back"...a terribly written nonsensical sort of picture!
When the film begins, you see that Stephen Randolph (Farrell) is a rich, spoiled brat (sort of the Paris Hilton of the day). While his father is incredibly wealthy and worked very hard to amass this fortune, his son has none of his dad's character. The problem apparently is that Stephen knows no matter how stupid and obnoxious he is, his dad will once again bail him out of any trouble he gets in...or so he thinks. He's finally done it, however, and gone too far. His father gives him an ultimatum...go to work in San Francisco and work his way up (just like he did) or be completely disowned. Well, Stephen is apparently a total idiot as well and instead goes to San Francisco and drinks and carouses. He's still a major embarrassment to the family and so after blowing this chance, he is literally Shanghaied--tossed on a boat and ends up in Shanghai!
At this point, the film goes completely insane and I can only assume that is why you see him in an opium den...just a few steps away from turning from alcohol to drugs. Here is where he inexplicably meets the exact same girl he was running around with in San Francisco! Huh?! Well, apparently when Stephen was Shanghaied, this nice girl he was dating fell into despair, became a drunk slut and ended up in the exact same opium den he'd find himself in halfway across the world!!! Not only are the odds of this one in a billion, but seeing Gaynor playing this character was laughable. She was a tiny, lady- like actress and excelled at always playing nice girls...and seeing her as a tough slut in the opium den was more laughable than seeing Florence Henderson taking on such a film role!!
Suddenly, the film skips ahead a year. The pair have married and are living in Hawaii. Life is apparently good and Stephen appears to have stopped drinking. Oddly, however, the hubby brings home a bottle of booze and admits he had a drink. And, at this point I started wondering if perhaps it was the writer who was drinking heavily when they wrote this crap! What's next? Who cares?! I sure know I didn't...especially because the dialog and writing were just terrible and didn't get any better...in fact, it got much stupider!! The scene where Gaynor meets his family is one that needs to be seen to believed!!
The bottom line is that if you had poor writing BUT you liked the characters, the film might be watchable and worth seeing. But with characters who were idiots, made little sense and talked like no one in real life, you are left confused and wondering why they made this mess in the first place...especially since the pair were top stars at the time, not actors in a crappy B-movie by a 4th-rate studio. Inexplicably, it was from Fox...one of the biggies of the era. And, it was made by a great director...Raoul Walsh. Rarely have I seen a film with so many good parts that all amount to nothing!
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