Sunday, June 9, 2013

Silent Sundays: Lucretia Lombard (1923)



“His was the only love I had ever known- how I fought against it- but it swept me away.”

            When Norma Shearer arrived in Hollywood in the early 1920s she had been signed by MGM but she was not up to the caliber that Iriving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer wanted to be in. So to hone her skills Thalberg loaned Shearer out to several studios including Warner Bros. where she starred in Lucretia Lombard.
            Lucretia Morgan has been married to an old man for the past seven years. The marriage is loveless but the whole time Lucretia has been a devoted wife. Her husband Allen has been sick for some time. Lucretia thinks Allen is upset with her because she is going out to a charity ball and he has to stay. Allen understands she is young and she needs to socialize he is not upset with her for wanting to go out.
            The Winship family is also going to the charity ball. They have a son Fred and a ward named Mimi (Shearer). Mimi is in love with the oldest son Stephen who has just been elected District Attorney. She tells Stephen it is not fair that he is not going and Fred is going with Mrs. Lombard and she is now stuck going with his mother and father. Stephen warns Fred about seeing Lucretia because she is a married woman and it will create gossip. Fred just brushes his older brother off.
            Before she leaves Lucretia tells her husband and the butler he gets no sleeping powder until she gets home. At the party Lucretia has a good time seeing people and dancing and having fun. When she arrives home Allen is after the sleeping pills. He took one himself when she was sleeping on a chair and he woke her to tell her to give him two more.
            Mimi gets home and finds Stephen on the hammock. She tells him about meeting Lucretia and how she danced with a lot of men. He kisses her and then she seductively kisses him. His parents see the kiss. They think Steve has proposed to her. Mimi thinks Stephen is in love with her. Stephen is totally confused and nervous he has no idea what has just happened.
            Allen dies in the middle of the night. Lucretia calls Fred to come over to wait for the coroner. The coroner tells Fred that because Lucretia gave Allen the pills she has to be questioned. She is scared and runs to Fred. He reassures her that Stephen can try to help them. Lucretia thinks she may have mixed the powders by accident. The coroner speaks to Stephen and tells him if he thinks what Lucretia says about not killing her husband is alright with him he will have the charges dropped. Lucretia is very thankful for his help. When he gets home he tells Fred he is not sure what he did was right for a district attorney.
            As the months go by Stephen cannot stop thinking about Lucretia. Stephen, Mimi, and Fred all go away to their country lodge for a vacation. Mimi invited Lucretia but she is paired with Fred. Mimi becomes upset because she knows Stephen is more interested in something besides her and she has no idea his interest is in Lucretia. That night Lucretia is sitting on a chair in front of the fire. She falls asleep. Stephen was down there and he kisses her hand. Frightened Lucretia pulls her hand away. He tells her he loves her and kisses her. She runs upstairs. The next day Stephen and Lucretia speak to each other. She confesses she loves him but then she mentions Mimi. He promises to tell Mimi and thinks she will understand especially because he never loved her. Mimi walks in and sees the two of them talking.
            Fred owes some money to people. They threaten to show some of Stephen’s papers and ruin his political career if they are not paid. Lucretia overhears this. She tells Fred for Stephen’s sake he has to let her help him. Stephen sees them talking and thinks Lucretia is messing around with Fred.
            While out shooting Mimi accidentally shoots the father. He wants his dream of seeing Stephen and Mimi married realized. Stephen is upset that he has to do this but goes through with it because he thinks Lucretia never really loved him. The father marries Mimi and Stephen. Lucretia comes back and tells him why she went away with Fred. Mimi overhears Stephen tell Lucretia that he loves her more than life itself. He tries to calm Mimi down by telling her he is sorry that he does not love her. Mimi replies that he never should have let her think he loved her.
            The mother and Stephen go with the father to the hospital. The father asked Lucretia to stay with Mimi. In the middle of the night there is a forest fire and it heads toward the lodge. Lucretia and Mimi are awakened from the smoke and run out of the house. They run safely away from the house but are then swept away by a burst dam. Stephen was on his way back just as the fire was sweeping through and the dam burst. He finds Mimi and Lucretia hanging on to a rock for dear life and swims out to them. Lucretia tells him to take Mimi first since she is hurt. Stephen manages to save both women. Unfortunately Mimi was badly hurt and she dies.
            The ending was way too overdramatic but the rest of the story was very good.
            The cast did a good job with the acting. Of course some of the acting was a little too much in certain scenes but for the most part it was good. Norma Shearer’s scenes are the best. She was so funny. Shearer’s acting was a little all over the place as usual but she was good. There was a funny scene where Stephen is talking and she mimics his movements. I am not used to seeing Shearer be funny, well in Private Lives she was funny and doing physical comedy, in this film she was silly funny.

            Lucretia Lombard is a typical melodramatic silent film: there is a guy in love with a woman but there is another woman, an innocent one, who really loves him and in the end she is the one who needs to be sacrificed so the real loves could be together. Even though Lucretia Lombard had a typical story I liked it and I would recommend watching it especially of you are a Norma Shearer fan.