You Never Know Women (1926)

Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 70 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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After making one unsuccessful film (The Cat's Pajamas), director William Wellman was in danger of being fired by his new employers at Paramount. He made a rousing comeback with You Never Know Women. Written by the Hungarian-born Ernest Vajda, it involves a Russian theatrical troupe of acrobats, clowns and magicians. There is a romance between two of the troupe's members, Norodin (Clive Brook) and his partner Vera (Florence Vidor). Something truly magical exists between them, but their connection is interrupted by the wealthy and devious Eugene Foster (Lowell Sherman). Foster pretended to have saved Vera from a falling beam at a construction site, when it was actually one of the workers who pulled her to safety. Norodin, believing that Vera prefers Foster, decides to bow out. He fakes his death during a Houdini-like stunt in which he's manacled and locked in a trunk that's thrown into a river. He swims away, but everyone believes that he has drowned. With her partner gone, Vera realizes how much he meant to her, so she tells Foster she is through with him. Foster angrily attacks her, and she wrestles away, running through the backstage area in search of a place to hide. She finds Norodin's trick cabinet just as Norodin, who has heard about Vera's grieving, returns to the theater. She runs into the cabinet, there is a blast of smoke, and Foster finds himself faced with Norodin, who, with a few knife tricks, chases him off. Beautiful lighting and camera work by Victor Milner, spare use of sub-titles, and Wellman's skillful handling of the actors all conspire to make this a wonderful example of silent film technique. Paramount was so happy with this feature (and its earnings) that they gave Wellman another film to direct -- Wings -- and a 25-dollar-a-week raise.

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Keywords

acrobatics, clown, deception, love, love-triangle, magic, rescue, romance, self-sacrifice