Monday, March 13, 2023

The Bride's Play

Marion Davies was TCM's Star of the Month not too long ago, and I recorded some of the silent movies that TCM aired. Unfortunately, I recorded Beauty's Worth which I'd already done a post on. But I'd never seen The Bride's Play before, so I recorded it and recently watched it.

As you can guess, Marion Davies plays the bride, although the wedding doesn't come until most of the way into the movies. Davies is Aileen Barrett, a young woman in a rural part of Ireland that still seems to hold on to a lot of traditions. She lives near the local lord, Sir Fergus Cassidy (Wyndham Standing). He's had a thing for her for some time, and the two would probably have made an ideal couple if they had grown up together. It's a lot like the sort of couple you see in older movies, people who are small-town neighbors and friends before adulthood draws them closer enough together that they should meet the resposibilities of adulthood together by marrying. Think Harold Russell and Cathy O'Donnell in The Best Years of Our Lives. But Aileen is in her 20s and Sir Fergus in his 40s. There were a fair number of such marriages in the old days, but you can understand why a modern woman in the post-Great War era might have second thoughts about it.

Of course, there's another reason for Aileen to have second thoughts about it, which is the presence of dashing Bulmer Meade (Carl Miller). He's a romantic poet, and close enough to Aileen's age that she unsurprisingly falls for him, having trysts with him at the local wishing well and romantic for the early 1920s stuff like that. Eventually, however, she learns that Bulmer would rather play the field, and indeed, that's what he's been doing. He doesn't love her in the way she needs. So she dumps him.

Fergus, as I've implied, does love Aileen in that way, so she agrees to marry him. But there remains the question of whether she really loves him. And that's a problem as the Cassidy family has had a long tradition of having a sort of test of love at the wedding, which it the "Bride's Play" of the movie's title. In this tradition, the bride asks a bunch of men in the receiving line if they're the one she loves best. They're supposed to say no, although sometimes everybody will have a bit of fun with it. When the bride gets to the groom, of course he's the one she loves best.

But once upon a time, there was a groom that the bride didn't love best. In a fantasy sequence, we see Davies as Enid of Cashell, who is set to marry one of Sir Fergus' ancestors. But she had another love in her past. When she goes down that receiving line, the past love shows up out of nowhere and literally sweeps Enid off her feet, with the two presumably living happily ever after. It doesn't take much guessing to figure out what sort of conflict is going to occur in the film's final reel.

William Randolph Hearst took a lot of interest in Marion Davies' career, sometimes too much for her own good as he preferred to put her in costume dramas like this and not so much the comedies at which she's really quite good. The costume dramas, however, afforded the opportunity to give viewers a more lavish spectacle and what are supposed to be exotic locations. I'm not certain exactly what part of California is substituting for Ireland here, but it doesn't much matter as the atmosphere is certainly there.

The Bride's Play as a whole, however, has the feel of being not quite as good as it could have been. I'm not quite certain what it's missing, but it just kept giving me the sense of missing something. As a result, I think it's more the sort of movie that people who are already fans of silent movies will like a whole lot more than anybody you might be trying to introduce to the genre.

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