Society-girl thrill seeker Lydia causes the death of motorcycle policeman and is prosecuted by her fiancé Daniel who describes in lurid detail the downfall of Rome. While she's in prison she reforms and Daniel becomes a wasted alcoholic.
Wealthy Cynthia is in love with not-so-wealthy Roger, who is married to Marcia. The threesome is terribly modern about the situation, and Marcia will gladly divorce Roger if Cynthia agrees ... See full summary »
Cecil B. DeMille
Angela and Bob Brooks are an upper class couple. Unfortunately, Bob is an unfaithful husband. But Angela has a plan to win back her husband's affections. An elaborate masquerade ball is to ... See full summary »
Malena's apparent frigidity toward her husband Kenneth is a result of injustice done in an earlier incarnation when he was a knight and she was a gypsy headed for burning at the stake. This becomes evident when their unconscious minds travel back from a train wreck in the American plains to Elizabethan England.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
If Cecil B. DeMille was the high priest of hokum, his long-term screenwriter and mistress Jeanie MacPherson was its goddess. The Road to Yesterday is among the most gloriously nonsensical stories in the MacPherson canon, being a sweeping tale of scandalous love, divine intervention and not-so-divine reincarnation.
Despite the incompatibility of Christianity and "occult" beliefs, MacPherson had flirted with the subject of past lives before in Joan of Arc, Male and Female and a few others. This is her only screenplay to entirely revolve around the concept, and begins by reminding us that (apparently) we all have inexplicable dislikes or loves for other people, and that this is (obviously) all down to reincarnation. As the story wears on the daft ideas pile up, with one character inheriting an arm-ache from his past self, another just happening to own and casually use a medieval hunting knife, rather than donating it to a museum before it falls apart. The setting for the inevitable past-life flashback is (of course) Ye Olde Englande, complete with outlaws, wenches, witches burned at the stake etc. etc.
And yet director DeMille innocently films all this with amazing grace and visual flair. Of particular note here is the "Rembrandt" lighting and other tricks with shadows and stark framing. DeMille's goal with these techniques is not merely to show off; in spite of his reputation being all about scale and spectacle, DeMille always used cinematic technique to highlight characters, framing actors within dark backgrounds at moments of dramatic tension or picking out an individual in a crowd. Even in his mightiest epics DeMille never once lost sight of the human relations at the heart of the story, and this is always reflected in his visual style.
Also very much worthy of a mention here is DeMille's editor Anne Bauchens, who was the most prolific collaborator of his entire career. Unlike MacPherson and recurring character actress Julia Faye she was not one of the director's mistresses. She kept her standing in the DeMille stock company simply by being very good at what she did. Her work in the train wreck sequence, intercutting shots of the speeding locomotives with the fistfight between Boyd and Schildkraut, make it the most thrilling moment of the whole picture.
It is in these more outlandish collaborations that you can see how MacPherson and DeMille perfectly complement each other. Who else but DeMille was so good at making the ridiculous seem poetic? Yes, this story is absolute 24-carat hogwash, but DeMille handles it with such rhythm, such finesse and such grandeur, the chances are you won't care.
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