Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE EAGLE (1925)

In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 9 of 12)

The Eagle

What I know about Rudolph Valentino:

1. They made a lot of biopics of the Italian screen hearthrob over the years. I remember seeing one starring Franco Nero during the 70's.

2. He was know for being the Latin lover during the twenties

3. He was tremendously popular with his adoring female fans.

4. His overblown acting style was often mocked.

5. He died prematurely and his New York City funeral was a mass of hysteria.

6. I know the names of his most famous movies: The Sheik, The Son of the Sheik, Blood and Sand and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 

So if I'm ever on Jeopardy! and get Valentino as a category, I might do all right. The problem is that I have never actually seen a movie with Valentino in it before. I was surprised when the new edition of the 1001 book listed the silent film The Eagle and I realized this was a Valentino movie I hadn't even heard of.

The Eagle turned out to be a fun adventure film. Valentino plays a Russian soldier who has to go on the run after he spurns a Czarina's advances. He also has to battle the evil nobleman who steals his families land. Valentino begins wearing a mask and takes on the avenging Robin Hoodesque persona of The Black Eagle. Of course, he falls in love with the evil nobleman's daughter which complicates matters.

My verdict is that Valentino is actually pretty good in this heroic role. If there was much overacting or exasperated mugging, I didn't really catch it. He even shows a flair for comedy. There is a scene where Valentino keeps putting pepper in his soup while admiring his great love that is almost Keatonesque.

The movie is also noted for a tracking shot at a dinner party that is very impressive.

Pretty silly title card moment: Valentino as the Black Eagle kidnaps the woman he loves, but then decides to release her and adds: "You are as free as you are beautiful, and that is very, very free."

Clarence Brown appreciation society: If you had told me there was a motion picture director that had been nominated for six Academy Awards that I could never remember hearing of before, I would have thought that you were certainly mistaken. That was before I saw Clarence Brown's resume: (Annie Christie, Romance, A Free Soul, The Human Comedy, National Velvet, and The Yearling, all nominated for Academy Awards) But he also made his mark in silents, including The Eagle
So note to self: See more Clarence Brown films.

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