Fedora (1918)

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In this picture, based on the play by Victorien Sardou, Princess Fedora (Pauline Frederick) is having a love affair with Count Vladimir (Wilmuth Merkyll); she's sincere, he's after her money. Vladimir is also having an affair with the wife of Loris Ipanoff (Jere Austin). One night, Ipanoff catches them together and shoots him. Vladimir dies, unconscious, in Fedora's arms, and she believes that Ipanoff killed him for political reasons. She makes a pact with General Zariskene (W.L. Abingdon), the chief of police, to get a confession out of Ipanoff. She trails him to Paris and contrives an introduction. After a while, she finds herself falling in love with the man she's supposed to betray. The truth comes out about Vladimir's death, however, and Fedora saves Ipanoff from the police. His brother, however, is killed, and his mother dies of a broken heart. Ipanoff discovers that Fedora was responsible for giving out the information that led to their deaths, but later he also learns that she didn't know the facts of Ipanoff's case when she got involved. Fedora is about to take poison to atone for her sins. In the play, she dies and that's where it ends. In the film, Ipanoff rushes in just in time to snatch the poison from her mouth. In this case, the "happy ending" was more than just a typical Hollywood ploy to please the lowest common denominator; producer Jesse Lasky had announced that all Famous Players and Artcraft productions would be modified to remove any tragic scenes for the duration of World War I! Lasky, of course, could not keep such an absurd promise for very long; however, it managed to ruin this picture.