CONQUERING POWER, THE (director: Rex Ingram; screenwriters: June Mathis/based on the novel Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; cast: Alice Terry (Eugenie Grandet), Rudolph Valentino (Charles Grandet), Ralph Lewis (Pere Grandet), Edna Demaurey (Mrs. Grandet), Edward Connelly (Notary Cruchot), Eric Mayne (Victor Grandet), Bridgetta Clark (Lucienna des Grassins), George Atkinson (Cruchot’s son Bonface), Mark Fenton (Monsieur des Grassins); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rex Ingram; UnknownVideo/MGM; 1921-silent)
“The melodrama is outdated, the romance is corny and the acting is ham-fisted, but it’s Valentino.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
After the smash hit of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the previous year, the now superstar Rudolph Valentino reunites with the same team of director Rex Ingram, screenwriter June Mathis (credited with discovering Valentino) and actress Alice Terry (Ingram’s wife). Valentino still didn’t get star salary (earned $350 a week) even though he now was one and when he asked MGM for a raise of $100, he was given only $50. Considering it a slight, he left the studio for Paramount. MGM realized they made a big mistake, as his Paramount films of The Sheik and Blood and Sand were huge hits. The cast speaks their lines in French, I suppose, to keep in the mood of the story. It’s based on the 1883 novel Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac, but the story is ruined by the crass commercially intended rewriting by Mathis who built up Valentino’s part while Ingram fought to built up his wife’s part. The melodrama is outdated, the romance is corny and the acting is ham-fisted, but it’s Valentino. The conquering power is, off course, love.
Charles Grandet (Rudolph Valentino) is the pampered son of a Paris millionaire banker Victor Grandet (Eric Mayne), living a decadent life as a playboy. On Charles’ twenty-seventh birthday celebration his despondent father sends his son to the Noyant countryside to live with estranged brother Pere Grandet (Ralph Lewis)–the wealthiest man in the country. Charles immediately falls in love with his angelic cousin Eugenie (Alice Terry) but the mean-spirited and miserly Pere Grandet, who lives on the cheap as if he were a poor man, is determined to keep them apart. The next day Charles learns in the newspapers that his father committed suicide and lost his entire fortune in speculation, which leaves him penniless. Victor sent the following letter to his brother Pere: “My dear brother, After twenty years, I am sending my son to you. By the time this letter reached you, I shall be no more. My entire fortune has been swept away by speculation on the stock market. I owe millions. In three days all Paris will say I was a rogue and I shall be wrapped in a winding sheet of infamy. My dying prayer is that you will be a father to my boy and may God bless you as you fulfill this trust. Your despairing brother, Victor Grandet.”
Pere Grandet schemes to cheat the youth out of his legitimate inheritance and dispatches him to Martinique, not realizing that Eugenie gave him her gold to pay for the voyage. When Charles writes that he invested the gold and is able to pay her back, the father intercepts his letters and writes that she married. While she’s being pursued by two greedy families, the Cruchots and the Grassins, with oafish sons, the skin-flint Pere plays them off against one another as he milks the gold diggers for as much money as he can while they pant at the possibility of marrying into such wealth. Years later, Eugenie accidentally discovers the letters of Charles’s in Pere’s desk. She goes out to the garden to read them, where the two exchanged vows of love, while the enraged Pere accidentally locks himself in his room and gets crushed to death when a chest of gold falls on him. Charles will soon appear just before Eugenie was to marry the doddering son of the notary’s, Bonface Cruchot, and love will win out.
REVIEWED ON 6/7/2006 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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