Beyond the Rocks (1922)
Reviewed on 2011 May 29
Here is a very early film, a 1922 movie starring Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, that struck me because the acting wasn’t nearly as ham-fisted as what you see in a lot of silent movies. It’s not exactly an earth-shaking movie, but historically it’s worth a look, for one thing just for the novelty of Valentino. The mold was truly broken after they made that man.
Theodora Fitzgerald (Swanson) is the youngest daughter of a kindly pensioner with two stepdaughters. In a reverse telling of the Cinderella story, Theo’s half-sisters cheerfully farm her out to an old wealthy coot who’s struck with her beauty, using her love for their father to guilt her to into marrying the old guy, saying his money would eliminate all of their financial worries. Of course they never dreamt of marrying the man themselves. Theodora goes along with the plan, despite her love for the handsome young Lord Bracondale (Valentino). Bracondale seems to love Theodora, but his mother plots to have another woman, Morella Winmarleigh (Gertrude Astor), for a daughter-in-law.
It’s pretty much as soapy as you can imagine, but at this movie was restored by the Nederland Film Museum so well that there are only a couple of minutes lost to nitrite wear. Valentino and Swanson are wonderful to watch, and the costumes are gorgeous. The storyline is weak and kind of silly, but I’ve noted the caliber of most of the acting before, a lot more natural than what I’ve seen in most silent movies, and that almost makes up for cotton candy plot.
Two chocolate morsels and a sip of pre-Prohibition wine.