Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Silence is Golden: Beau Brummell (1924)

After he sees his sweetheart, Lady Margery (Mary Astor), forced to marry Lord Alvanley (William Humphries), George Bryan Brummell (John Barrymore) decides to lead a reckless bachelor's life. In the process he wins the friendship of the Prince of Wales (Willard Louis), leaves his regiment, and becomes a "Beau Brummell" England's premier taste-maker. As his power grows, so does his insolence towards the elite class in which Alvanley belongs. Eventually his insolence and indiscretions with the ladies of the court make enemies, and he falls into disfavor. After escaping his creditors to France, he dies there in poverty, deserted by all but his servant, Mortimer (Alec B. Francis).

I think Barrymore is wonderful in both silents and talkies, due mostly to expressiveness of his face. His face can say things that words will not. There is a beautiful and touching scene where Lady Margery visits him to let him know that Lord Alvanley is no longer alive. Hoping to rekindle what they once had, she sadly leaves when Brummell refuses, stating he is old, changed and possibly tired of even love. The moment she is gone, you can see Brummell as he realizes he still loves her deeply and opens the door while simultaneously covering his mouth to call out to her. His emotions are at war with the hard truth that he cannot be the man he once was for her and his regrets are weighty. It's an extremely moving scene.
Ironically, as Barrymore is aged throughout the film, he looks more and more like his brother Lionel eventually will in old age in real life. It's downright eerie to watch him play this old man all twisted from loneliness and mental instability.

Tonight on TCM!
John Huston Wednesdays!

1 comment:

  1. I have never been able to get over how much the Barrymore's look like one another! even Drew!