Madge Bellamy and John Bowers in Lorna Doone (1922)


(director/writer: Maurice Tourneur; screenwriters: Wyndham Gittens/Katherine S. Reed/Cecil G. Mumford/based on the novel by Richard Doddridge Blackmore; cinematographer: Henry Sharp; music: Mari Iijima; cast: Madge Bellamy (Lorna Doone), John Bowers (John Ridd), Mae Giraci (Lorna as child), Charles Hatton (John as child), Norris Johnson (Ruth), Frank Keenan (Sir Ensor Doone), Donald MacDonald (Carver Doone), Jack McDonald (Counsellor Doone), Irene De Voss (Lorna’s Mother); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Thomas Ince; TCM; 1922-silent)
“The action scenes were very lively and well-done on location.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

TCM presents a stunningly beautiful restored version of the silent classic Lorna Doone, which has many film adaptations with this one considered by most as the best. Cinepost did the restoring. It’s an historical romance that’s based on the popular 1869 novel by R. D. Blackmore. French director Maurice Tourneur (“Samson”/”The Isle of Lost Ships”/”The Last of the Mohicans”) sets it in rural 17th-century England and keeps the melodrama hopping with action, gorgeous visuals and a heart-tugging romantic story about breaking class barriers.

The aristocratic child Lorna (Mae Giraci as a child, Madge Bellamy as an adult) is kidnapped by the notorious Doone clan while traveling with her countess mother by coach. She is raised by these coarse looters and cutthroats. Their leader, Sir Ensor Doone (Frank Keenan), an ex-nobleman who has turned to crime over an injustice about his nobility, grows fond of Lorna and treats her with kindness in their outlaw hideout. When the warlord Ensor dies his animal-like sociopath son Carver (Donald MacDonald) forces the now grown-up Lorna into marriage, but she is rescued by the strongman John Ridd (John Bowers). He’s a farmboy of a low-birth whom she fell in love with before the kidnapping. On his deathbed Ensor tried to right a wrong, and notified King James II of her noble parentage. Lorna is welcomed at the London court, but John is not. He returns heartbroken to his Devonshire village, but is surprised when she appears soon after and tells him she gave up her title to marry him. John’s cousin Ruth (Norris Johnson) is secretly in love with him and rides to the Doone’s hideout to tell of the marriage. A vengeful Carver shoots Lorna before the marriage ceremony is finished. This foul deed arouses all the yeoman in the surrounding areas, who view this as the last straw they’ve had with the Doones. Under John’s leadership they attack their stronghold and kill them all. Back home, John finds that Lorna is on her way to recovery.

The action scenes were very lively and well-done on location. Unfortunately all the star performers, Bellamy, Bowers, Bowers, Johnson and Keenan, offer histrionic performances rendering their acting style outdated. None of these actors ever had such featured roles again as they had here.