Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beyond The Rocks (1922)

Beyond the Rocks
Director: Sam Wood
USA 1922
80 min

A film adaptation of the Elinor Glyn novel (author of It, filmed with Clara Bow in 1927, and Three Weeks), directed by Sam Wood (director of the Marx Brothers movies A Night at the Opera from 1935 and A Day at the Races from 1937). Elinor Glyn accompanied at the shooting of the film.
For most of the 20th century this film was thought to be lost, but was found 2003 in a private collection in the Netherlands. (A short and fascinating documentary of the restoration is included later on in this post.)

It was great news when this film finally was found since it contained two of the greatest star of that era, the only time they acted together on screen - Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino.
The film begins with a young girl, Theodora Fitzgerald (Swanson), who falls out from a rowing boat. A handsome, rich young man, Lord Hector Bracondale (Valentino), sees her from his boat and quickly jumps into the water to her rescue.

Lord Bracondale jumps for Theodora's rescue.

Theodora give Lord Bracondale a narcissus flower.

Theodora's half-sisters wants her to get married to a rich man.

The dramatic incident is soon over, and Theodora thanks her hero by giving him a narcissus flower. They say goodbye and Theodora follows her father home.
While at home Theodoras half sisters convinces her that she has to get married soon, to a rich man who can restore their lost family fortune. Not wanting to hurt her father, she acts when an opportunity comes - a rich old man, Josiah Brown (Robert Bolder), proposes to her and she accepts.
They go away for their honeymoon, spending it in "a quaint inn, high in the snow-clad Alps".

The scent of narcissus brings the youth together.

However, fate seems to want Theodora and Lord Bracondale to get together ones again. It happens that Lord Bracondale, his mother and his fiancée spend their holiday at the same place at the same time.
In the dining room, a waiter finds a lost handkerchief next to Lord Bracondales table, and asks the company if it belongs to them. It doesn't but Lord Bracondale recognizes the perfume, even though he at first can't replace it.
However, the handkerchief finds its rightful owner. Lord Bracondale follows it with his eyes, but since Theodora sits with her back to him, a bell doesn't ring.

Theodora recognizes her hero.

The next morning, Theodora and her lady friend Jane McBride (Mabel Van Buren) go mountain climbing. In an attempt to take a picture of her friend, Theodora takes one too many steps back, and falls over the cliff.
From a distance, Lord Bracondale happens to see the woman hanging in a rope around her waist, fainted. He quickly runs for her rescue, again, and ends upp at a cliff alone with Theodora while the other in the company go back for help.
All alone on that cliff together, recognizing each other, forbidden feelings start to grow.

For a start Theodora enjoys Lord Bracondales company, but when she no longer can control her feelings she gets scared. She made a vow when marrying Josiah Brown, that she fears she is going to break. She decides that she and Lord Bracondale must never see each other again. But even if not fate wanted otherwise, Lord Bracondale surely wouldn't give up the love of his life that easy.

I can't express how grateful I am for the restoring of Beyond the Rocks, which in my meaning is an immortal classic for every silent era devotee to see. The cast is brilliant, and Valentino (who I always thought was a little androgynous) in this picture is extremely handsome, if not even smoking hot! (But I guess I'm not a normal woman, either.) I understand the panic among his devoted fans when he died.
At two occasions there are historical retrospects (or perhaps the characters imaginations and fantasies running a little wild); one takes place in the 18th century, and the other in Ancient Egypt. They add a little humour and glamour into the movie, and even though they might be a little odd, they are not in the least negative in any way.

See this film if you get a hold of it. A romantic drama with Swanson and Valentino can't be missed!


[to Lord Hector Bracondale]
Theodora Fitzgerald: Fate seems to send you to me when I most need you, Lord Bracondale.

[when smelling a narcissus]
Lord Hector Bracondale: I shall always associate this wonderful perfume with you.

Theodora Fitzgerald: I could never live under the shadow of my broken word!

Lord Hector Bracondale: Darling, we have passed the rocks and here are the safe waters beyond.

Documentary: The restoration of Beyond the Rocks.

Below: A picture from the filming of Beyond the Rocks, with a yawning Gloria Swanson to the left, Valentino with the script, author Elinor Glyn with the big hat and director Sam Wood to the right. (Click for a larger picture.)


Elizabeth said...

I was so excited when I heard that TCM was going to be playing the newly restored version for the first time! Now its one of my all time favorite movies.

Lolita said...

I can understand that! Can't say that news in this area travels very fast to Sweden, though. I'm glad that I found some classic film blogs in the USA, so I can catch up a little!