United Artists production and release. Directed by Henry King and Sam Taylor. Based on the play by Danison Clift, adaptation and scenario by C. Gardner Sullivan. Starring Norma Talmadge. Gilbert Roland featured. Photographed by Oliver Marsh. At the Rivoli New York, Nov. 9, for a run on grind, $1 top. Running time, 87 min.
Mary Ann Wagner
Norma TalmadgePaul HartmanGilbert RolandNika TurgenovArnold KentThe Passer-byBoris de FasFather RocheMichael VavitchOtto KreugerGustav von SeiffertizThe CountessGladys Rockwell (i.e. Brockwell)
In its translation to the screen, Denison Clift's stage play has obviously lost some of its sophistication and a great deal of its charm. The directors, Henry King and Sam Taylor, with the aid of the continuity, have not done as well a clever motif of the nature provides for. But there is little doubt as to its possibilities in the de luxe picture houses for a week's run and in the bookings following.
There are just enough of those qualities retained which are indisputably recognized in the trade as of sufficient interest to draw considerable attention to any box office. Especially so where the picture is allowed to run as shown in New York without further cuts.
The story opens and continues with a fallen woman as its major subject. The treatment is such as will practically insure matinee business.
Following the opening sequences which include a suicide in the girl's room, action slows until the introduction of the war theme, running concurrently with the story of the sacrifice a woman of loose morals was prevailed to make on behalf of her nation.
The picture tells of this girl being adopted by two young officers of the Austrian and Russian armies, lifted out of the slime of street life and given some covering of respectability through their friendship. Each falls in love with the girl and wishes to marry her. She chooses Hartman (Roland) and as a result the latter incurs the hatred of Nika (Arnold Kent).
The supreme sacrifice comes when the Russian army is shown invading Lemberg under the leadership of Nika. Austrians are forbidden to leave the city. A priest, Father Roche, and three prominent citizens of the town are caught trying to get away. They are sentenced to be shot for disobeying military orders. Unconcerned about her own welfare, Mary Wagner refuses to accede to Nika's proposal that she come to him willingly and he would release all of those concerned. The priest, an Austrian Spy, reveals his identity to the girl, impresses her with her duty to her nation, shows her how his freedom and a chance to escape would give the Austrian army victory, and she goes to Nika.
Paul arrives the next morning at the head of the victorious Austrian army. He finds Mary in church, praying. Nika is dying, but conscious, and still imbued with a strong hatred which impels him to give Paul an idea of what occurred. Paul leaves the girl, but hears of her objective in connection with Nika from the commanding officer.
In molding the character of the bag swinger the directors have worked skillfully. She is changed firmly and unhurriedly into a brave, wholesome, likable person. Her relations with the two young men, on a basis of friendship only despite their knowledge of her previous life, seems logical. But here during this process, the picture is not very interesting. It is as the frightened, ill-mannered, foul creature of the night and then, later, as the changed woman that the story rouses interest. Too much has been allowed for the changing process.
All the arts of photography fail to protect Miss Talmadge in many of the sequences. Hard lines and faulty posing from different angles detract from her performance.
Kent, as the menace, does well until his final appearance in his death sequence. It is too heavily overdrawn, out of proportion to the smooth, even direction which characterizes the general tone of the picture. Roland serves as the lead.