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Friday Film Review: Her Night of Romance

Her Night of Romance (1924)
Genre: Romance/Comedy/Silent
Grade: B

The Talmadge sisters rocked during the silent era but, for the most part, decided to retire from films once the talkie age arrived. In this film, which is paired by Kino along with “Her Sister from Paris,” Constance Talmadge, who played mainly light, comedic roles, shines. I had held off posting this review because the film, while out on DVD, isn’t available through Netflix – though it can be “saved” there. But now it looks like TCM will show it on either August 3rd or the 4th – check your local times to be sure. You can even sign up for an email reminder from TCM so you don’t forget.

American Dorothy Adams (Constance Talmadge) is the sole heiress to her father’s scrub brush fortune but she has no intention of being romanced for her money after she arrives in London. Accordingly, she pulls a gopher smile and looks a fright when the newspaper reporters take her picture after the boat docks. Her exasperated father (Albert Gran) can’t understand why his lovely daughter dismisses all men but both are impressed by a gentleman who assists Dorothy when she stumbles on the gangway.

Lord Paul Menford (Ronald Colman) is an impoverished Englishman who gets a glimpse of the real Dorothy and decides, on a whim, to impersonate his uncle, the doctor for whom Mr. Adams sends to attend his daughter who is supposed to have a weak heart. Paul uses an agent (Jean Hersholt) to sell his one remaining asset, his country estate, to Adams and halfheartedly enters a bargain with the man to try to marry Dorothy and pass on 1/10 of any money he gets in the marriage. But as his “doctor” visits continue, he begins to fall for her and confesses his true identity.

Depressed that the one man she is beginning to like is not what he seems, Dorothy impulsively leaves for her father’s new house in the country and is all alone there when a slightly inebriated and also depressed Paul arrives late that night. Now the pair, stuck trying to keep Dorothy’s reputation from being ruined, sink deeper and deeper into lies and half truths as first the household and then the village and then Dorothy’s father think they’ve eloped. But just when things seem to be worked out for the best, Paul’s bargain comes back to haunt him and break Dorothy’s heart. Can these two work out a HEA with a little help from her father and a garden hose?

This is a funny, charming film which shows how good Constance Talmadge was at comedy as well as, surprise, Ronald Colman. For me who had just seen him in serious roles or his action role in “The Prisoner of Zenda,” it was a revelation. The other actors are good, and funny, as well with only a slight bit of the mugging I sometimes see in silent pictures.

The film itself is fairly well preserved with only one section looking as if it were overexposed which I guess is not bad for an 86 year old movie. The dialogue, while sparse, is witty and often uses double entendres. The piano music is nice and doesn’t repeat too often.

Considering how many of the plot elements we routinely see in romance books, I think this is a fun movie to try. It’s all lighthearted froth and the ending is preordained but the fun way Paul and Dorothy reach their understanding is a treat and well worth seeking out.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

7 Comments

  1. FD
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 06:36:40

    I really like these old movie reviews, have picked up on a couple of gems from them. Actually, I really like old movies full stop.

    It may be just me, but I find they are so much likelier to pass the Bechdel test than current movies are that it’s not funny. (Yes, I know the Bechdel test is not a measure of the good/badness of any individual movies – that’s my point.) Even though there are often plot elements that make one wince, generally filmmakers in the past have seemed less afraid to have female characters who aren’t simply eye candy or stock archetypes. Or fridged. It’s bizarre that as society has become more liberated, mainstream film has actually regressed.

  2. Jayne
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 07:00:44

    @FD: I’m so glad that our recs have worked for you – at least some of the time! I’ve now seen 3 Constance Talmadge films and have liked one and loved two. I also have the two film Kino release of Constance’s sister Norma who was better known for her dramatic roles. Both of these, while not cheap, are easily available.

    “The Duchess from Buffalo” – set in the waning days of Czarist Russia – is another I plan to review.

    Constance hung up her acting shoes once the talkies arrived and advised her sister to do the same. Apparently she said something to the effect of “go out on top and thank God for the trust funds mother set up.”

  3. Estara
    Jul 23, 2011 @ 15:16:22

    The fact that before that self-censoring thing in Hollywood started there were more and better roles for females (which passed the Bechdel test) may have to do with what Martha Wells wrote about in this essay on Frances Marion, Queen of Early Hollywood Screenwriters.
    http://www.roguebladesentertainment.com/2011/07/frances-marion/

  4. FD
    Jul 23, 2011 @ 16:23:53

    @Estara: Thanks for the link – v. interesting, and I think I’ll have to hunt the book recced in the article down..

  5. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 07:32:12

    @Estara: Great article and I second the thanks for posting it.

  6. cate
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 13:54:16

    I must try to get my hands on this. I have a soft spot for the old silent movies. Carl Davies (the composer) has done such a wonderful job of re-scoring some of the classics like Ben-Hur & Safety Last ( I still think Harold Lloyd was funnier than Chaplin -gasp- shock/horror !)
    But Ronald Coleman – a forgotten hero today – is the star of one of my top 50 fave films – A superb & mega weepie called Random Harvest – starring with the wonderful Greer Garson.
    I know I bang on about voices, but he had one of the most “come to bed ” voices EVAH…. & Jayne if you haven’t seen/ reviewed Random Harvest YOU MUST ! It out Mills & Boon’s Mills & Boon…. It has everything… War,amnesia, mis-classed marriage, loss of a child,the most perfect Hollywood idea of an English country cottage( that would look REALLY out of place in the Shires,but perfect in New England)…& the ability STILL to reduce an old cynic like me into floods of tears
    - Go on ….You know you want to – watch it ! I double dare you

  7. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 18:44:19

    @cate: I’m a Harold Lloyd fan myself. And yes, I know what you mean about Coleman’s voice. Verra sexy.

    Will check out Random Harvest but too much melodrama piled on itself has a tendency to bring out my cynical side.

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