An Adventuress (1920) Poster

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I Liked This Film For Some Reason
zpzjones5 September 2010
First off this movie or abridgement of an earlier movie was produced in 1918 as "Over The Rhine", a wartime comedy for crossdresser Julian Eltinge. For those who don't know who Julian Eltinge was, he was probably the 20th Century's most famous and successful Broadway drag actor. Im not a fan of crossdressing so I'll leave it at that. In 1920 "Over The Rhine" was re-edited and released as "An Adventuress". In 1922 the Over The Rhine/An Adventuress footage was further re-edited into a third version called "The Isle of Love" to take advantage of Rudolph Valentino's stardom and Virginia Rappe's tragic death both in 1921. Both Valentino and Rappe originally had supporting roles in the original "Over The Rhine" version of the footage. The only reason this film even has the nerve to survive today is because of the Valentino and Rappe situations. That withstanding both Valentino and Rappe are quite charming in their supporting roles and limited screen time and makes one visualize them as a movie team. The original "Over The Rhine" cut seems to be similar in theme to a Mack Sennett comedy made a year later called "Yankee Doodle in Berlin"(and on home video), whereas in Yankee Doodle in Berlin the hero infiltrates the German lines by dressing as an opera star or something. Both films made use of Curtiss Jenny biplanes probably on loan from the Air Service. There is also a terrific car chase in "Over The Rhine" that survived the edit to "The Isle of Love".

THE ISLE OF LOVE "The Isle of Love"(1922) cut of "Over the Rhine" is the only version of the footage that survives today and has repeated scenes of Valentino and Rappe to the point that it makes the story incongruent. Virginia Rappe for all her troubles was obviously a beautiful and alluring woman and seeing her in this movie only accentuates the tragedy of her death. For viewers who are watching closely and have a sense of history about bathing suits, the style of frumpy bathing suits the girls at the beach wear early in the film dates from 1918 and the pre-war era. They are too conservative for 1922 which by then had see America have it's first Miss America contest in which the contestants wore 'one-piece bathing suits'. The story throughout "The Isle of Love" keeps tilting back and forth to a German war story concerning Julian Eltinge to the frolic at the beach without any sensible writing tying the two themes together. The title of the film misleads the viewer into thinking he's going to get frolic & gaiety on a tropical isle somewhere and what appears on the screen is some wacky story concerning Germans and a crossdresser. Indeed when Valentino and Rappe are on the screen it is a relief as they are so natural together and have great chemistry in the closing scenes riding in the touring car. The southern California scenery in the beach scenes are nicely captured by director Fred Balshofer and crew. If only they had not shot so much footage with the bumbling bearded beachcomber with spiked German helmet. He's as annoying as El Brendel. Mind this film has a lot of risqué scenes that would be censored for sure a decade later. One or two of the ladies at the beach have form fitting attire a la Annette Kellerman and Rappe has a diaphanous dress on showing her beautiful cleavage and rear end, before jumping into a pool. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Watching silent movies like this on DVD or the internet with freeze frame options one can see scenes of nudity that wasn't meant for the original audiences. The Eltinge character's girlfriend played by Alma Francis for example can be seen at the end of the movie being rescued from a pool. Despite her long dress she is completely drenched and for a brief millisecond the sun gets behind her revealing that under the dress she has no underwear on. No doubt films like this is what almost caused Hollywood to be closed down in the 1920s. Perhaps director Balshofer discovered in Rappe a girl willing to strip down giving credence to Adela Rogers St. John's description of Rappe in a 1980s documentary that Rappe would drop her clothes at the slightest provocation. Alas "The Isle of Love" edit no doubt got rushed through the printer once again in 1926 and re-released after Valentino's death to take still further advantage of his appearance in the movie. These constant re-releases assured that we would have copies to view today.
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Historical Curiosity
rmax30482317 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
There is no musical accompaniment to this 39-minute, 1920, Rudolph Valentino feature that's available on YouTube so an eerie silence prevails throughout. It opens with the silhouette of a young woman shouting and pointing at something along the rocky sea shore. In fact, we then see a whole lot of bathing beauties running around on the boulders and the sand, laughing and chatting, and having the kind of good time you can only have in the movies or when you're fourteen and high.

I must say, the bathing suits vary in style, as I think some reviewer pointed out. Some are full and frilly. (No bodily contours, please.) Others look like SCUBA wet suits, and they're much to be preferred. The titles sometimes sound salacious. "MEN, HANG ONTO YOUR HATS. LADIES, HANG ON TO YOUR MEN!" No modern viewer needs to hang onto his hat though. It's curious how customs evolve so quickly. It develops that we're looking at an island that seems to be full of girls but with few men, ruled by a creakingly old monarch wearing a spiked German helmet from World War I, which we must remember had ended only two years earlier.

Well, Julian Eltinge is the best football passer in his college. He gets an invitation to join a fellow student, Carlos, on "The Isle of Love," which is apparently somewhere in Latin America. Eltinge is forced to leave his sweetheart and his mother behind. They weep and give him a memento, reminding him to keep it pure, even if there's a revolution. Getting bored yet?

Rudolph Valentino is recruited by the hero and Carlos to lead the fight to take over the throne, foiling the plans of two heavies to do it. There are a couple of references to Valentino's films -- "Blood and Sand" and "The Sheik." The latter is used as a verb. Eltinge agrees to dress as a woman and meet Valentino at a certain café on the Isle of Love, but warns him over the phone, "Don't SHEIK me." I think it was somewhere around here that I began to get lost.

The plot turns a bit more turgid. The bathing beauties on the beach do grotesque gavottes. In the café, the leading dancer does a number that's rather nice, even without music, that looks borrowed from the style of Isadora Duncan. Valentino is there too, looking a little oily in his mustache. Virginia Rappe is darkly pretty. She met a pretty bad end, not that any ends are particularly good.

I didn't find the story, a fantasy, very interesting except as a peep into the past. This is what people who went to the moving pictures found entertaining. This is the way they dressed. This is the way Los Angeles looked -- uncrowded, unsmogged, not wrapped in freeways, and if not itself an isle of love, at least an equable climate and a good place to grow jasmine.
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