Emilius Jorgensen and Walter Long in Moran of the Lady Letty (1922)


(director/writer: George Melford; screenwriters: Monte M. Katterjohn/from the novel by Frank Norris; cinematographers: Bert Glennon/William Marshall; music: Robert Israel, restored version; cast: Dorothy Dalton (Moran, aka Letty Sternersen), Rudolph Valentino (Ramon Laredo), Charles Brinley (Captain Sternersen), Walter Long (Captain “Frisco” Kitchell), Emil Jorgenson (Nels, first mate on Lady Letty), Maude Wayne (Josephine Herrick), George Kuwa (“Chopstick” Charlie), Charles K. French (Tavern owner), Cecil Holland (Pancho); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; Paramount Pictures; 1922-silent)
“Valentino gives a subdued thrilling performance as a swashbuckler.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Moran of the Lady Letty is a seafaring adventure tale. It’s an attempt to recast the star, Rudolph Valentino, in a more macho role as a two-fisted brawler so the popular ladies man can appeal to a male audience that have so far been turned off by his effete roles. Valentino’s breakthrough film was MGM’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), but when he couldn’t get the contract he wanted he jumped ship for Paramount and made the also successful “The Shiek” (1921). “Moran” is based on a novel by Frank Norris who wrote McTeague, the novel that Erich von Stroheim’s “Greed” (1924) was based on. George Melford (“The Shiek”) effectively directs the romantic melodrama by keeping the scenery changing and the action flowing; it’s scripted by Monte M. Katterjohn.

Bored wealthy socialite playboy Ramon Laredo (Rudolph Valentino) misses a family yacht excursion in San Francisco, and while arriving late at the pier an old salt befriends him and takes him to a tavern where he’s drugged and shanghaied on a smuggler’s vessel captained by the villainous “Frisco” Kitchell (Walter Long). Sneered at for wearing his sissy yacht outfit, he’s dressed as one of the rugged seamen and forced to be a second mate. One day they come upon the vessel called the Lady Letty that has been hit with a coal cargo-fire and the only survivor is Moran (Dorothy Dalton)–dressed as a man, and depicted to be as good a sailor as any man. Left alone in the world, the gutsy Moran and the protective Ramon hit it off. The clubman never met a down-to-earth gal like Moran before and is glad he’s on this high seas adventure. Kitchell steers the vessel to Mexico and locates some loot. He and his Mexican bandit partner Pancho (Cecil Holland) decide not to share with the crew, as they always do. But “Chopstick” Charlie (George Kuwa), the cook, overhears their plan to sneak attack the crew and warns them. In the ensuing battle Kitchell is captured and Pancho’s gang is repelled. The smuggler’s boat heads for their home port in San Diego, where Ramon, whose been missing for months, runs into his society pals at a hotel ball and his old debutante girlfriend Josephine Herrick (Maude Wayne). He rejects Jo for Moran, and arrives just in the nick of time to save Moran from a sexual attack by the suddenly loose Kitchell. In a fight on top of the mast, Ramon throws the lustful villain overboard and wins the gal.

It’s a conventional adventure yarn, but the digitally restored print is visually stunning and Valentino gives a subdued thrilling performance as a swashbuckler that’s worth catching if you’re a cinema buff.