Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The same winning combination responsible for Don Juan-star John Barrymore, director Alan Crosland and screenwriter Bess Meredyth, once more aligned their talents for When a Man Loves. This adaptation of the classic novel and opera Manon Lescaut has been slightly rearranged to make the titular heroine (played by Barrymore's future wife Dolores Costello) a secondary figure and to place the emphasis on the male lead, Chevalier Fabian (Barrymore, of course). The luckless Manon is sold into a life of prostitution by her no-good brother Andre (Warner Oland). Servicing only the wealthiest and most influential men in Paris, Manon decides to chuck it all when she falls in love with the dashing Chevalier. But Manon waits too long to abandon her much-older "protector," the Count de Montfontaine (Sam De Grasse),and both hero and heroine suffer as a result. The final scenes find Manon and the Chevalier banished to the penal colony in New Orleans, where they experience a rather more positive denouement than the luckless lovers of the original Manon Lescaut. Among the "fallen women" shipped to New Orleans with Manon in the last reel is a young Myrna Loy.