Meres Francaises (1917)

Genres - Drama  |   Countries - France  |  
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This film, made under the auspices of the French government, earned more attention than just about any other World War I propaganda film because its star was Sarah Bernhardt. She plays Madame D'Urbex, who lives with her husband (Jack Denbourg) and son, Robert (Aubrey Angle), on an estate in the peaceful village of Meurcy. When war breaks out, all the men go to fight, including Monsieur and Robert D'Urbex, the schoolmaster Guinot (Albert Signer) and Nonet (Albert Signer, Jr.), an orphan boy who is living with the caretakers of the D'Urbex estate. Madame D'Urbex, who has gone to work at a field hospital, hears that her son has been wounded and she tramps through the trenches in an effort to find him. She does, just as he lay dying. She returns to the hospital and Guinot shows up there one day, having been blinded in combat. He bears news that Monsieur D'Urbex has also been killed in battle. The grief-stricken Madame D'Urbex decides to devote herself to comforting others who are in pain. Guinot has been engaged to Marie (Alice Lagrange), the daughter of the estate caretaker, but he offers to give her her freedom, since he is blinded for life. She refuses, even though she is secretly in love with Nonet. The schoolmaster discovers this when Nonet comes home on leave, and insists that Marie follow her heart. This brings Guinot to a lonely, depressing juncture in his life, but Madame D'Urbex eases his sadness by taking him to his pupils, who honor him. Director Louis Mercanton had to shoot around the fact that Bernhardt was missing a leg -- it had been amputated two years earlier. But he and the great actress skillfully worked around this problem. Bernhardt also looks nearly two decades younger than her 72 years.