Monday, March 22, 2010

Gloria Swanson "The Affairs of Anatol" (1921)

"The Affairs of Anatol" (1921) is a silent romantic comedy starring Gloria Swanson, Wallace Reid, and Bebe Daniels. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, this film is about a rich husband Anatol Spencer, played by Wallace Reid, a quixotic young man who is susceptible to young and beautiful damsels in distress much to the dismay of his wife Vivian, played by Gloria Swanson. The story begins with Anatol being married to Vivian for only ten weeks and already feeling that the "honey" is gone from the honeymoon. One night while attending a glitzy Manhattan nightclub with Vivian and a close friend Max Runyon, played by Elliott Dexter, he sees an old childhood sweetheart, Emilie Dixon, played by Wanda Hawley, in the company of a middle aged rich man, Gordon Bronson, played by Theodore Roberts. Feeling that he needs to pull Emilie away from a life where she is the mistress of rich men, Anatol sets her up in an apartment and persuades her to throw away all the jewelry Bronson had given her. Unfortunately, Emilie hides the jewelry from Anatol and goes back to her lover. After putting his marriage at risk by trying to save Emilie's soul, Anatol tries to patch things up by taking a second honeymoon with Vivian in the country. While they are in the country rowing their boat under a bridge, Anatol and Vivian witness a young woman jumping from the bridge in a suicide attempt. Anatol saves the woman and brings her ashore to administer her first aid. What Anatol and Vivian are not aware of is this young woman, Annie Elliott, played by Agnes Ayres, is the wife of a country pastor whose church money she stole to buy a dress.
While Vivian goes to get a doctor, Annie steals Anatole's wallet that has fallen to the ground. When Vivian shows up with a doctor for Annie, she spots Anatol sharing a kiss with her. Lamenting about the lack of loyalty and honesty of the two damsels in distress, Anatol returns to Vivian. Unfortunately, Anatol is soon up to his old tricks. When he finally decides to give up everything for a life in the arms of Satan Synne, played by Bebe Daniels, known as the wickedest woman in New York, Anatol discovers that she is a loving wife who is trying to raise money for her invalid veteran husband. Repentent, Anatol rushes back to Vivian only to find out that she has spent the night with his best friend Max. Is it too late for Anatol?

"The Affairs of Anatol" is the last of the six films Gloria Swanson made with Cecil B. DeMille from 1919 to 1921. The DeMille/Swanson films are considered highly significant for providing modern audiences into the manners and morals of their time. They are really only about three things: sex, women, and clothes. In all of the films, Swanson wears incredible outfits and sleeps in beds of satin and ruffles, and when she sits down, she sits on brocaded chairs. When Swanson takes one of her baths, which became a Swanson/DeMille trademark, she enters a chamber luxuriously decorated with chinchilla rugs and black marble fixtures. The public loved Swanson, but it also loved the clothes, the beds, the chairs, and especially the bathrooms. DeMille always showcased Swanson and had personally chosen her to represent the typical society woman in his exquisite bedroom farces.

Typical of a DeMille film, "The Affairs of Anatol" is visually stunning. The sets are magnificent and the costumes are more extravagant than in the other DeMille/Swanson films. Bebe Daniels as Satan Synne sports a tiara and cape of pearls in the shape of an octupus that stands out from the rest of the costumes. It's a film with wonderful color tints in different scenes. I love how DeMille held the actors in lengthy close-ups at key moments and to clarify the story visually. I found it rather amusing that the first glimpse we catch of Swanson is a framed close-up of her feet being treated to a pedicure. Like the other De Mille/Swanson films, "The Affairs of Anatol" is well directed, brilliantly produced and the performances by Gloria Swanson, Wallace Reid, and Bebe Daniels are simply top-notch. Reid was one of the most popular leading men from the late teens and early twenties. Many historians feel that Reid might not be remembered, however, if he had not become the protagonist of one of Hollywood's earliest and most dramatic tragedies. In 1919, he was injured when a special train carrying a company to a location shooting was wrecked. In order to enable him to keep working until the film was finished, a studio doctor prescribed morphine, and continued the dosage long past the safety point. Reid became an addict, and then started drinking to hide the addiction. He kept on working, making nine features in 1922, but finally collapsed during production, and the truth leaked out. Run-down and ill, Reid contracted the flu, went into a coma, and died on January 18, 1923, at the age of thirty-one and at the top of his fame. "The Affairs of Anatol" is a fascinating early film of DeMille starring two Hollywood super stars of the early twenties.

*It is interesting to note that William Boyd and Polly Moran have uncredited roles in the film.


  1. Silent, Thank you for your wonderful review. Romance and glamour, you know I'm in. What a sad thing to happen to Reid. Also, I loved the pictures you posted with your review.

  2. Dawn, I think you would enjoy this film as well as the other DeMille/Swanson films. Some modern viewers might think they are silly, but they are so fun to watch and the sets and costumes are stunning. DeMille's close-ups are just fascinating.


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