Director Lewis Milestone presided over The Betrayal, a part-talkie which represented the only screen teaming of Hollywood's Gary Cooper and Germany's Emil Jannings. Second-billed Esther Ralston stars as Swiss peasant girl Vroni, who enjoys a blissful summertime romance with vacationing Viennese artist Andre Frey (Cooper). For diverse reasons, the young lovers decide to keep their affair a secret until Andre can return to Vroni. But when he does come back to Switzerland, Andre learns to his dismay that Vroni has been forced into a marriage with wealthy burgomeister Poldi Moser (Jannings). To justify Andre's presence, Vroni introduces him as a young man who has just lost his sweetheart (which, of course is true) -- whereupon Poldi sympathetically invites Andre to be a guest in his house. The situation is sheer hell for both hero and heroine, but they brave it out for the sake of the likable Poldi. Seven years later, Andre comes back to the village for another visit, prompting Poldi to again extend his hospitality to the increasingly morose artist. Unable to withhold his emotions any further, Andre begs Vroni to run off with him, threatening to kill himself if she doesn't. She refuses but agrees to one last rendezvous in the village. While speeding down a toboggan slide, an accident occurs, killing Vroni and seriously injuring Andre. At the funeral, Poldi discovers the truth about the relationship between Andre and Vroni. He swears revenge, only to discover that Andre has already died from his injuries. Left alone in his grief, Poldi philosophically vows to forgive and forget, preferring to harbor only good thoughts towards his late wife and their mutual "friend." Boasting a plotline dangerously close to Ethan Frome, Betrayal was co-produced by David O. Selznick. In later years, director Lewis Milestone tended to dismiss this film, recalling only that Emil Jannings was an extremely difficult man to work with.
by Hal Erickson synopsis