Monday, September 7, 2009

Eternal Love (Ernst Lubitsch) ***

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: John Barrymore, Camilla Horn, Victor Varconi, Mona Rico, Hobart Bosworth

Background: This was Lubitsch's 59th film in his long and distinguished directing career. Leads John Barrymore and Camilla Horn had worked together previously in 1928's Tempest. The story was adapted from a novel by Jakob Christopher Heer.

Story: It is 1806 and the French have occupied a small Swiss town, demanding that all guns be surrendered. Marcus (Barrymore) is the lone hold out, but finally relents because he is in love with Ciglia (Horn). However, their romance is threatened by the scheming Pia (Rico), who plots a trap to get Marcus to marry her.

Thoughts: The first act of this picture plays out as an NRA wet dream, but the gun subplot is just another clever way in which Lubitsch inventively uses a prop for comedic and romantic effect. Unfortunately, there are fewer of those typical Lubitsch moments and instead the story plays out like a straightforward romantic melodrama. Thankfully, Lubitsch knows how to make this work and even manages to coax a strong performance from Camilla Horn, who was downright awful in the previous year's Tempest. John Barrymore is charismatic as always and the ending packs a pretty powerful punch. The movie is very short at only 72 minutes long and would've been better if expanded to add more of Lubitsch's wit.

Postscript: Lubitsch's 59th silent film would also be his last, but his transition into sound was smooth and his most notable films come from that era (Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner). Camilla Horn continued acting, but mostly in German, British, and Italian films. John Barrymore's drinking problems would get the best of him and hurt his career throughout the 30s.

1 comment:

phantasma said...

It's too bad that the transition to sound seemed to be much more difficult for actors than directors.