Thursday, September 15, 2011


Maria (Dorothy Jordan) lives in a convent in Seville; her older brother Enrique (Russell Hopton) visits to wish her well as she is soon to take her vows, but a little like Maria von Trapp, she's not absolutely sure this is the life for her. One night, she hears singing and cavorting over the convent wall and sees the dashing Juan (Ramon Novarro) performing at a café and she immediately loses her heart to him. Juan lives with his musical mentor Esteban (who thinks Juan is wasting his vocal gifts) and toys around with Lola, his singing partner. The next day, while out with some street kids indulging in some whimsical thievery in the marketplace, Juan meets Maria. They spend the day together and that night, when Juan discovers her story, he puts her to bed alone, determined to be more a brother than a lover to her. However, when her real brother finds out Maria has left the convent, Juan, Maria, and Esteban flee to Madrid where Juan tries for a career in opera. Eventually, he and Maria get engaged, but Esteban shows up, accuses Juan of making a harlot out of her, and takes her back to the convent. Maria and Juan are both miserable; she wastes away while Juan finally has an emotional breakthrough and gets a standing ovation one night when he is called upon to step into the starring role in a opera, though he faints offstage. Will these kids get back together before one or both of them die of heartbreak?

This romantic melodrama has little going for it except for a bravura performance by Ramon Novarro, who acts with depth and does a grand job of singing. Unfortunately, Jordan (pictured with Novarro) comes off like a rank amateur (particularly bad is her over-the-top melodramatic fit as she listens to Novarro's singing for the first time) and she and Novarro have little chemistry. Renée Adorée, who died of TB just a couple of years later, is slightly better as Lola, and Hopton makes the most of his two scenes as the brother. The film feels a bit long, but it's a must for Novarro fans. [TCM]

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