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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Movie Review

film julio von desnoyers

1921 – Rex Ingram –

If The Big Parade is a silent film that showcases that art form especially well, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, coming four years earlier, features the static compositions that many contemporary viewers might expect when they think of silent film. The movie is noteworthy for making a star out of Rudolph Valentino, whose performance makes the film worth watching. He is controlled and natural throughout (unlike, for example, the exaggerated gestures of Francis X. Bushman in the silent version of Ben-Hur). Director Rex Ingram designs richly textured sets, especially in the first half, and often elects to bring his actors in and out of the frame rather than rely too much on closeups. By following the geography of the set rather than the frame, Ingram dissipates the emotion from some scenes. His technique slows the pace of the film markedly, but it also creates a painterly effect that often gives the film an effective stylization.

The film is based on a best-selling novel by Vincente Blasco Ibanez, and the extended development of the early scenes of the Desnoyers family in Argentina likely owes to screenwriter June Mathis’ desire to be faithful to a book that many in the audience would have known. When the patriarch (Pomeroy Cannon) of the Desnoyers family dies, the estate is divided between the French and German sides of his clan. Grandson Julio (Rudolph Valentino) moves to France to become an artist. At a tango palace Julio meets Marguerite (Alice Terry), the wife of a French politician (John Sainpolis). Julio and Marguerite begin an affair. The husband discovers Marguerite's unfaithfulness and plans to divorce her and challenge Julio to a duel when the assassination of the archduke and the tensions of the war intervene. The lovers try to atone for their behavior—Marguerite becomes a nurse, and Julio eventually enlists even though his Argentine nationality exempts him from service—but the war throws them together at Lourdes, where she attends to her blinded husband. The final battle scenes bring about a climax between Julio and his cousin Captain von Hartrott (Stuart Holmes), a representative of the German side of the Desnoyers family.

The sizable budget is visible in sets such as the Desnoyers castle and adjoining village, which were built by the film company near Griffith Park. The publicity for the film claimed that over 12,500 people took part in the production, that 125,000 tons of masonry were used for the sets, and that fourteen cameras recorded the battle scenes.

Cast: Rudolph Valentino (Julio Desnoyers), Alice Terry (Marguerite Lurier), Pomeroy Cannon (Madariaga), Josef Swickard (Marcelo Desnoyers), Alan Hale (Karl von Hartrott), Nigel De Brulier (Tchernoff), John Sainpolis (Laurier), Stuart Holmes (Captain von Hartrott), Brinsley Shaw (Celedonio), Bridgetta Clark (Dona Luisa), Mabel Van Buren (Elena), Bowditch Turner (Argensola), Mark Fenton (Senator Lacour), Virginia Warwick (Chichi), Derek Ghent (Rene Lacour), Wallace Beery (Lt.-Col. von Richthoffen), Minnehaha (the old nurse), Jean Hersholt (Professor von Hartrott), Henry Klaus (Henrich von Hartrott), Jacques D'Auray (Captain d'Aubrey) Screenwriter: June Mathis Cinematographer: John F. Seitz Composer: Carl Davis (restored 1993 version) Producer: Rex Ingram for Metro Running Time: 110 minutes Format: VHS Budget: $800,000.

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