The Sunday Intertitle: Doone by Law


Then a posh lady shows up from London to take Lady Doone away. “A lady?” simpers Lorna, forgetting for a moment that she’s supposed to be in love with the strongest man in Devonshire. The s.m.i.D. himself, after a pensive moment, tries to encourage her to go. I’m no lip-reader, but I formed the distinct impression that actor John Bowers says “Are you kidding?” Apparently it’s by order of the King, though I don’t see why he should be so bothered.

If I have a problem at all with Madge Bellamy’s performance it’s in her tendency to play Lorna as a nitwit. Allowing for that, it’s quite a skilled job. Unlike John Bowers, she had stage training and she made it into talking pictures as a supporting player, and you can see her for instance in WHITE ZOMBIE. Per IMDb: “In 1943, she would again appear in the headlines when she shot her lover, millionaire A. Stanford Murphy after he jilted her to marry another woman.”

There seems to have been a plague of millionaires called Stanford getting shot by movie stars, since one Stanford White earlier took a bullet from Evelyn Nesbit, though admittedly her stardom came after, as a result of her success in the role of murderess. Still, it’s a fine tradition and I’d be all in favour of resuscitating it.

Madge’s ability to plug the cad is all the more impressive when you consider she’d have to sneak up on him while maintaining a three-quarter backlight to make her hair radiant.

John sends Lorna on her way with a climax of fervid urging, then lapses into despondency as soon as she’s left frame. Oh well, it’s back to breaking up logjams, I suppose.

Second act trouble: the villainous Carver Doone spots Lorna saying her farewells — we worry about what he might now do. Well, sure, he could stick up her carriage and rekidnap her. A slight problem may be exposed here: there are relatively few plot elements in play, and a kidnapping and inevitable rescue would be rather repetitive, since that’s chiefly what the first half of the film has consisted of.

London! The movie resists the urge to repeat itself, and has John Ridd head for the big smoke, or a painting of same. Actually, though, we get some pretty big street sets. And a glass painting of the inside of Westminster Abbey as well as the outside. Fortunately, the people in shot are live action, so John can approach Lorna and rekindle their friendship. Although some bloke keeps sticking a halberd between them. It’s always the way.

The occasion is the christening of James II’s son — not sure which one, he had LOTS, but few of them lived long. I have no patience with religious services or pageantry, so this scene wasn’t looking too thrilling, but then John overhears some antiroyalist plotters, plotting in plain view in the public gallery, which is pretty stupid of them, and of the movie. I would be on their side if they weren’t so bloody indiscreet. They all have terrific villainous faces, which is a feature of this movie. As one rapscallion draws a musket and prepares to assassinate the baby with the bathwater, or possibly the King, John pounces, and shows that he’s not JUST the strongest man in Devonshire. His muscle travels.

It could easily have happened that John’s intervention might end up with him getting the blame for the assassination attempt — “I’m just a patsy!” — but the movie (and presumably the book) don’t opt for anything so complex. John is hailed as a hero, and his path to marrying Lorna is seemingly smoothed.

But there is still nearly half an hour of troubles ahead.


2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Doone by Law”

  1. Ray Milland took a bullet from Farley Granger over Joan Collins, OR Stanford White took a bullet from the husband (Harry Thaw?) of Evelyn Nesbit. The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. But Evelyn got the blame in the tabloids!

    Still read SP every day David . . .

  2. Thanks, yes of course you’re right. EN was innocent! (And SW was a rapist, a fact the movie left out.)

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