Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ace of Hearts (1921)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Wallace Worsley
Starring: Lon Chaney, Leatrice Joy, John Bowers
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Silent, Romance, Drama, Crime
Runtime: 75 minutes

A secret society meets to discuss the fate of their "client," a powerful and corrupt man whom they believe should be killed for the greater good.  The assassin will be one of their own, and the choice is determined by whoever among them draws the ace of hearts playing card.  Farallone (Chaney) and Forrest (Bowers), two colleagues in the society, find themselves rivals for the affections of Lilith (Joy), the only female member.  However, Lilith is only concerned with the group's secret "cause," and refuses both of their advances.  However, when Forrest is dealt the ace of hearts, she agrees to marry him.  But, after their first night together, it seems that Forrest might not be able to carry out the plans.

This was a very interesting silent film, and one I enjoyed quite a bit.  There were some parts that were slow, but overall, it was an exciting premise and carried out very nicely.  Chaney and Bowers were perfect rivals.  Watching their characters Farallone and Forrest interact created just the right amount of tension and drama without being over-the-top.  Both actors had faces you could read like a book, especially in scenes of high emotion.  Bowers has very expressive eyes, and Lon Chaney, the "Man of a Thousand Faces" gave yet another riveting performance.  His character was so beautiful and so pained; its hard not to feel for Farallone!  Chaney's soulful eyes just swallow you up.  In a perfect contrast to this dark, broken character, Forrest is boyish and innocent, shy and excitable; this is a young man with his first crush.
Leatrice Joy also did a wonderful performance as Lilith.  Oftentimes, in films where the main purpose of a female character is to cause tension between the two male leads, its easy for them to become underdeveloped and one-sided.  However, Joy's character is full of life, and fascinating to watch as she makes her transformation from anarchist blindly following a cause to a tender, gentler woman who cares more about love than political upheaval.

All in all, a good performance.  Despite his small amount of screen time, Hardee Kirkland made a wonderful antagonist/villain as the society leader Mr. Morgridge.  I have to say though, that Chaney stole the show.  The scene where Farallone stands in the rain staring up at Lilith's bedroom window just breaks my heart.  His performance is touching, painful, and sad, but beautiful.  Sometimes, complaints are made that Chaney has a tendency to over-act.  However, if he does, this is not one of those films!

1 comment:

  1. I try so hard to 'do' black and white. It's like Classical music, I want to enjoy it, because smart people like you do, but it doesn't make sense to me... unless, of course, it stars Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn I can appreciate without fully understanding.


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