Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Son of India (1931)

Ramon Novarro plays another exotic lover in Jacques Feyder's Son of India. Through an arresting series of events, he becomes a ragged pauper, then a rich prince in Bombay. American tourist Madge Evans soon enters the picture and the movie becomes a tragic tale of love fighting against racial boundaries and prejudices. (Would the love story be transpiring if Novarro wasn't rich? I doubt it.)

Son of India features some impressive sets and action scenes; how often do you get to see Novarro buried alive in the same film as a rampaging elephant? The entire film held my interest, even when the romance became increasingly saccharine. Unlike many of her films, Madge Evans gets a more demanding role in this one.

Son of India is packed with the usual MGM character actors, including Marjorie Rambeau as a snobbish aunt, Conrad Nagel as Madge's sister, and C. Aubrey Smith and John Miljan in smaller roles. Ann Dvorak's even on the screen for a minute or two as a seductive dancer.

The movie ends far too quickly (not helped, when watching on Turner Classic Movies, by their loud and abrasive promo following). I'm surprised they didn't cut Novarro off in mid-sentence!

This was Feyder's last American film. Later in the '30s, in France, his movies laid the groundwork for the Poetic Realism film movement. His artistry was vivid, though, even in his American films.

Son of India isn't available on DVD.

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