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"Le Maitre des Forges," by Georges Ohnet, is an unblushingly melodramatic tale of love between noblesse and bourgeoisie, and the dire effects of pride. The heaviness of the plot is compensated for, however, by skillful acting, pleasing repartee for those who can understand it, and a delightful delineation of a very comical nouveau-riche.
The plot can boast the originality of having the heroine marry the right man, and wish that she had married the wrong, but most of the time it struggles along with some time-unhonored devices that can't help shooting wide of their marks. The ending is particularly unfortunate. The heroine rushes on to the scene of the duel between her newly-valued husband and her worthless duke of a lover, manages to be the only one hit, and is reconciled with her worthy spouse, in the arms of him and the face of death. There follows an imaginative scene whose fantasy draws nothing but uninvited laughter.
"Le Maitre" himself, that is, the president of the great steel corporation, is skillfully played by Henri Rollan, who wisely uses all the restraint required by the role of a dignified, devoted, long-suffering man. He is paired with Gaby Morlay, who is just as deftly quiet in her portrayal of the proud noblewoman who frankly marries out of spite, and then doesn't know how to break the news when she falls in love with her husband. These two go far to make the story plausible. More in keeping with the excesses of the plot are Jacques Dumesnil, who simpers and sneers as the no-good duke in the grand old style, and Christiane Delyne, the bourgeols Miss who captures the duke from the stately lady, and then tries to get her steel man too, and who ogles and languishes in the voluptuous fashion burlesqued by Miss West. But Leon Belieres endears himself to a new audience as the roly-poly chocolate-maker, the ambitious father of the duke-catcher, whose garrulity and faux pas are always impairing his daughter's chances.
The photographer made himself much too arty. Not content with mere technical perfection, he tried to make a lot of psychological double exposures, which turn out to be what most double exposures are, mistakes. But despite all this censure, it is really quite possible to overlook the flaws and enjoy the picture for its better dialogue and acting.
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