Lila Lee

Male and Female (1919)

Male and Female 1919

Lady Mary Lasenby (Gloria Swanson) comes from a very wealthy, socially important family. She’s never had to work a day in her life and is used to having other people do everything for her. Her family’s butler William Crichton (Thomas Meighan) is in love with Mary, but Mary is a strong believer of marrying within one’s own class and is engaged to another upper class man. Tweeny (Lila Lee), one of the family’s maids, is in love with William, but he only seems to have eyes for Mary.

One day, Mary, her family, and their servants head out on a yachting trip and wind up getting shipwrecked on a deserted island. Naturally, the servants prove to be the most adept at survival while the wealthy family is completely clueless. With no money to divide the classes anymore, the tables quickly turn and the servants end up becoming the leaders. They are all left on the island for a couple of years and over time, Mary begins to fall in love with the William. They decide to get married in a simple little island ceremony, but right as they’re about to say their vows, a ship finally comes to rescue them.

When they return to home, everything goes back to the way it was. Mary and William still love each other, but when one of Mary’s friends visits, William begins to reconsider his decision to marry Mary. Mary’s friend has become a social outcast after marrying her chauffeur. William decides he’d rather marry Tweeny instead and move someplace where class isn’t so important.

I was really hoping to like this movie, but unfortunately, it just didn’t do anything for me. I’d heard so much about the famous scene where Gloria Swanson is together with the lions so I was hoping to like it if only for that. The story had a very interesting premise, but it just didn’t hold my interest. A little too slowly paced for my liking. It’s very typical of other Cecil B. DeMille movies from this era in that it takes a modern day social commentary and weave it in with a flashback to historical times; in this case, ancient Babylon. The Babylon scenes are classic Cecil B. DeMille with grand sets, Gloria Swanson in fabulous costumes, and those live lions which Gloria did, indeed, really lie down with. It’s ultimately unnecessary to the plot and slows down an already slowly paced movie, but it’s definitely a good example of what made DeMille the legend he is. A lot of other people seem to like this movie, but unfortunately, I just didn’t see the appeal.

Blood and Sand (1922)

Blood and Sand 1922Juan Gallardo (Rudolph Valentino) wants nothing more out of life than to be a famous matador, much to the dismay of his mother who would rather see him go into a less dangerous profession. He loves the sport and given that he doesn’t come from a wealthy family, he sees the glory that would come with being a famous matador as his way to a better life.

He spends his spare time fighting in small bullfights and eventually earns a reputation for being a very talented matador. It isn’t long before he becomes quite a celebrity throughout the country. He’s living out a classic “poor boy makes good” type of story. Not only is he rich and famous now, complete with his own entourage, he also marries his virtuous sweetheart Carmen (Lila Lee) and their wedding is a grand event. It isn’t long before they start a family and have a very happy home together.

Juan’s life becomes more complicated when he meets Doña Sol (Nita Naldi), a very glamorous widow. He loves Carmen very much, but the connection he has with Doña Sol is very different. She’s much vampier than Carmen and he can’t help but resist being drawn to her. They start having an affair and before long, rumors of their relationship start turning up in the gossip papers, hurting Carmen. Juan decides to end things with Doña Sol, but she isn’t about to let go so easily and tries to destroy his marriage to Carmen. In despair over what his personal life has become, Juan starts getting more careless during his fights, which eventually leads to him being fatally injured during a fight.

Whether or not you’ll enjoy Blood and Sand ultimately all comes down to how accustomed you are to silent films. If you aren’t really familiar with silent films or the styles of acting that you’ll see in them, it might seem really creaky and overly-dramatic. But if you’re used to the style of silent films, you’ll likely enjoy it more. Blood and Sand was one of Rudolph Valentino’s most famous roles and although it’s not my personal favorite movie of his, I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are plenty of other movies that deal with the trials and tribulations of fame and do so much better, but it’s easy to understand why it was a big hit when it was released and still isn’t bad today. It’s definitely one of Valentino’s best roles, which makes it essential viewing for any Valentino fan; I recommend it over The Sheik.