Jul 22 2011
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.