#121 – Love in the Shadows

(1920, US, 72 min, b/w) Dir Pit Piabro. Cast Francis de Pascal, Olivia Bead.

It can be hard looking back to fathom the appeal of what was popular in the past. The short-lived ‘Bowler Cat’ fad of the 1890’s, for example, where ladies of good breeding would keep a live kitten in their bonnets, seems from this remove unnecessarily cruel to the kittens (which so frequently fell from their mistresses’ headgear) and without sufficient reward for difficulty involved. Cinema is no different either, with the big hitters of yesteryear enjoying their moment in the sun before the public tires of them and we’re left looking back over the years wondering what people were thinking at the time. Burt Reynolds, perhaps, or Ryan O’Neal. All of this is a roundabout way of bringing your attention to Francis de Pascal and Love in the Shadows, his first English language film which was shot when he was a mere week off the boat from France. It’s the usual forgettable, melodramatic stuff but it catapulted de Pascal to a position just below Valentino in the viewers hearts for the next handful of years. Unlike Valentino though his name would nowadays be recognised by none but a few diehard film aficionados (of which I count myself one). But does his popularity now baffle, almost a century later? Is he the ‘Bowler Cat’ craze of 1920’s cinema? I’m relieved to say no – he was a fine actor and a magnetic presence on the screen but the one thing he was missing  at this point in his career was the right vehicle. Enter Hans Bismark…

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