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Saturday, June 7, 2008

VICTORY (1919)

1919's THE MIRACLE MAN was Lon Chaney’s breakthrough pic, but he had 7 releases that year and this may have been the classiest of the bunch. (Naturally, a sizable chunk of his legacy has been lost.) It's superbly directed by Maurice Tourneur (Jacques ' papa), stunningly shot by René Guissart, and tersely adapted from a Joseph Conrad story by the great Jules Furthman (billed as Stephen Fox). The first half of the story plays like one of those Somerset Maugham stories while the second half is more like Jack London, not a bad combination. Solitary islander Jack Holt meets soul-mate Seena Owen on a bustling neighboring island and they sail off to his lonely home on a whim. Jealous Wallace Beery (looking like Sig Ruman, of all people) sicks some adventurers on them (including Chaney in a fabulous Spanish make up) and in defending his home and the lady, Holt discovers that no man is an island . . . even a confirmed bachelor islander! With its beautifully preserved picture elements, this smashing entertainment is no classic, but it sure makes a great intro for anyone who'd like to get a handle on what regular commercial fare was like back in the silent picture days.

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