Middle-aged Napa Valley grape-grower Tony posts a marriage proposal to San Francisco waitress Lena enclosing a photo of his handsome younger brother Buck. When she gets there she overlooks ...
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Middle-aged Napa Valley grape-grower Tony posts a marriage proposal to San Francisco waitress Lena enclosing a photo of his handsome younger brother Buck. When she gets there she overlooks his duplicity and marries him. Then she falls in love with Buck.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film is based on the Broadway production of "They Knew What They Wanted" by Sidney Howard opened on November 24, 1924 at the Garrick Theater, ran for 192 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1925. See more »
An interesting film with an interesting combo of actors.
For one thing, this film seems to be an anachronism itself. A film about a grape grower in the Napa valley in the middle of Prohibition, and not one mention about Prohibition in the film, with wine bottles flowing left and right. Edward G. Robinson plays Tony, the grape grower in question. He is a middle aged man and has decided to go to San Francisco to find a young wife. The priest tells him nothing good ever came from an older man marrying a younger wife, but Tony forges ahead. He finds Lena (Vilma Banky) working in a San Fran restaurant, and decides she is the one with no more conversation between them than "Here's your check".
Back home, Tony has his field hand, Buck (Robert Ames), help him write a romantic letter proposing, but then Buck says it will never work without a photo. They both go into town and get their pictures taken, but Tony does not like his photo at all. He looks at his photo, he looks at the photo of handsome Buck, and makes the bad decision of mailing Buck's photo to Lena along with his letter. Lena is apparently from Switzerland - she has a picture of a Swiss farm on her night table, and responds in the affirmative.
Buck doesn't know what Tony did with his photo, Lena is for sure in the dark, and Tony is wondering how to break the news when his bride arrives. Complications ensue. Now this entire film is based on the premise that Tony is older, Lena is younger, and so is Buck. But that is not exactly true. Vilma Banky, playing Lena, is actually only four years younger than Edward G. Robinson, who is playing Tony. And Robert Ames, who is playing Buck, is actually five years older than Robinson!
Note that they try to keep Vilma from talking as much as possible, and she is pretty good at pantomiming around the part, although her thick Austrian accent actually works for her here. Also note the habit of Italian Americans at that time of keeping portraits of the heads of both America and the home country proudly displayed. They were very proud of both countries. However, in 1930, it is the unfortunate fact that Herbert Hoover is president of the United States and Benito Mussolini is in charge of Italy. You'll miss their portraits sitting side by side in Tony's living room it if you don't look around on the set!
Recommend as one of the better early talkies with good direction by Victor Sjöström. I believe this was the last film he directed in America, disheartened by the American studio system ever since he had to tack on a feel good ending to 1928's "The Wind".
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