Cast & Crew
Alec B. Francis
In a small village on the coast of England, Theodora Fitzgerald marries elderly millionaire Josiah Brown in order to please her father, Captain Fitzgerald, and her two older, unmarried half-sisters. On their honeymoon in Switzerland, Theodora is taken under the wing of American widow Mrs. McBride, who accompanies Theodora on a mountain climb. When Theodora slips over a precipice while trying to take a photograph, she is rescued by the young and handsome Hector, Lord Bracondale, who earlier had saved her from drowning near the Fitzgeralds' cottage. Fearing her growing attraction to Hector, Theodora flees to Paris with her husband. Hector follows them to Paris and encounters Theodora again while she is dining with her father and Mrs. McBride. The next day, while they are touring Versailles as Josiah rests in their hotel, Hector and Theodora realize that they are in love. Knowing that their love is too strong to allow them to see each other as friends, they decide to part. Brokenhearted, Hector asks his sister, Lady Anningford, to befriend Theodora, which she does. Back in England, Lady Anningford invites Josiah and Theodora to her country estate for a weekend house party. Despite his best intentions, Hector again declares his love. Theodora resists him, however, but sends him a note confessing her feelings, at the same time sending a note to Josiah saying that she will soon join him back in London. Morella Winmarleigh, who loves Hector and had once considered as his future wife, sees Theodora drop the two letters into the estate's mailbox and redirects the letter for Josiah to Hector and the love note intended for Hector to Josiah. After a confrontation between Josiah and Hector, Josiah decides to sacrifice himself for his wife's happiness and accompanies an exploration party to Arabia. His party is attacked by bandits, and he is fatally wounded just as Hector, Theodora, her father, and an escort arrive. Before he dies, Brown wishes the lovers happiness.
Alec B. Francis
Mabel Van Buren
F. R. Butler
Beyond the Rocks
Beyond the Rocks (1922), was based on a 1906 novel by romance novelist Elinor Glyn, who helped catapult Clara Bow to international prominence when the actress starred in It (1927), a film adaptation of Glyn's novel. Beyond the Rocks was also an enormous success and featured Swanson, Paramount's biggest star at the time, in her only starring role with Rudolph Valentino. Even before making Beyond the Rocks, however, Swanson and Valentino were already good friends and often rode horses together in the Hollywood hills. At the time, Valentino was less well known, though the release of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) prior to Beyond the Rocks helped boost his notoriety. The film received an extra publicity boost when Valentino was charged with bigamy for marrying new lover Natacha Rambova before his divorce to actress Jean Acker was official, leading to jail time and a fine for Valentino.
One of the greatest film stars of all time, Valentino was distinguished from other film actors by his exotic, sensual looks which starkly contrasted to the all-American persona of so many other male romantic leads. A favorite of female fans, Valentino was often mocked by men for his exotic clothes and expertise on the dance floor; one Chicago critic even referred to him in print as a "pink powder puff."
Born to a French mother and Italian father in Castellaneta, Italy, he was baptized Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi. When he finally made it to Hollywood after stints as a dishwasher, waiter, professional dancer and gigolo, Valentino was often cast in ethnic or villainous roles because of his exotic looks.
His big break came when he met screenwriter June Mathis who recommended Valentino for her film adaptation of Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Mathis was impressed by Valentino's performance as a gigolo in Eyes of Youth (1919) and recommended the unknown actor for the role of Julio. Valentino's appearance in an erotic tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse remains one of the most memorable introductions of an actor to the screen and made Valentino a star. The Sheik (1921), his first film for his new studio, Famous Players-Lasky, confirmed once and for all the actor's seductive, romantic appeal. Despite being only a mediocre film, Valentino made The Sheik a major hit.
Despite his icon status in the history of Hollywood, Valentino had a rocky career, marked by marital woes and malicious gossip. Valentino's last film The Son of the Sheik (1926) opened to rave reviews but on a promotional tour for the film, the actor fell ill with a perforated gastric ulcer. An infection killed him at age 31 on August 23, 1926. In an astounding media event 100,000 fans swarmed to get a glimpse of his casket, sparking riots and the arrival of police officers on the scene. Two of the honorary pallbearers were Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Charlie Chaplin. Said actor John Gilbert of Valentino, "His loss can never be replaced; there was and can be only one Valentino; a great artist and one of the finest gentlemen it has ever been my privilege to term friend."
As for Gloria Swanson, she became a screen legend in her own right, breaking the mold of the Lillian Gish saints and Theda Bara vamps with her own unique onscreen charisma. She was born Gloria May Josephine Swanson in Chicago and later discovered while taking a tour of Essanay Studios where she started her film career in Mack Sennett slapstick comedies. Swanson became a true screen legend after appearing in a succession of Cecil B. DeMille dramas including Don't Change Your Husband (1919), Male and Female (1919) and The Affairs of Anatole (1921).
Despite phenomenal success as both a producer and star, as in the screen adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's Sadie Thompson (1928), Swanson became a casualty of Hollywood's shift from silents to talkies. Her farewell to the Golden Age of silent film was a starring role as the washed-up silent actress Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's corrosive portrait of the film industry, Sunset Boulevard (1950). DeMille called her "THE movie stars of all movie stars. She had something that none of the rest of them have."
In Swanson on Swanson, the actress humorously recalled of the filming of Beyond the Rocks and the Hays Office's censorship, "One of the first stipulations of the office was that kisses should run no longer than ten feet of film. So we shot each kiss twice, once for the version to be released in America and once for the European version. Poor Rudy could hardly get his nostrils flaring before the American version was over. Only Europeans and South Americans could see Swanson and Valentino engage in any honest-to-goodness torrid kisses. American fevers were now controlled by a stopwatch."
Long thought to be lost, Beyond the Rocks was rediscovered in 2003 at the Netherlands Filmmuseum with Dutch inter titles (including a title that translated to "Golden Shackles"), where it had been donated along with 2000 cans of film by a film collector. The English inter titles were restored with the help of a list of the original English inter titles and a 32-Page continuity script housed at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Director Martin Scorsese has called the rediscovery "a precious gift" and added, "It was rare for two silent stars of the magnitude of Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson to appear in a film together the ideas of pairing stars became more of a common practice with the coming of sound."
The film discovered in the Netherlands is the export version, and features the prolonged kisses described by Swanson in her autobiography.
Beyond the Rocks director Sam Wood went on to a successful career, helming such prestigious pictures as Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943). In one of his less popular appearances, Wood named names at the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, which might have played a part in film history's memory of Wood as a workman director rather than a true auteur.
Director: Sam Wood
Screenplay: Jack Cunningham, based on the novel by Elinor Glyn
Cinematography: Alfred Gilks
Music: Henny Vrienten (restored version)
Cast: Gloria Swanson (Theodora Fitzgerald), Rudolph Valentino (Lord Bracondale), Edythe Chapman (Lady Bracondale), Alec B. Francis (Captain Fitzgerald), Robert Bolder (Josiah Brown), Gertrude Astor (Morella Winmarleigh).
by Felicia Feaster
Beyond the Rocks
Beyond the Rocks - BEYOND THE ROCKS - A Once-Lost 1922 Silent Film is Rediscovered and Remastered on DVD!
Joop Van Liempd was an eccentric fellow who loved movies. You can see footage of him mugging for the camera on his bicycle in Holland. A friend of his with a clutter problem says that Van Liempd was even worse. Among his jumble of curios was a collection of films. His friend shows us some of the floorspace where Van Liempd stored his movies: an unremarkable corner in a very large room unsuited to the preservation of film.
The room is still there, but the clutter is gone, sold at an auction after Van Liempd's death. Frido Troost, a photographer, wanted to buy some of Van Liempd's photographs. But he could only get the photos if he also bid on the old films, which he discovered were actually in pretty good shape. He left the identification and restoration of the films to the historians at the Netherlands Filmmuseum.
The process of examining the films was slow and painstaking. Workers had to wear masks because the dust from the old and decaying film was toxic. Most of the films in the collection turned out to be either unrecoverable or unremarkable.
Luckily, one of the better-preserved movies still had Dutch intertitles. Luckily, some of these titles included the names of the characters. And luckily, the characters' names hadn't been changed in the Dutch translation. Using the names of the characters, the workers searched the Internet to see if they could find a match. To everyone's surprise, they discovered that the reel they had been examining was from a long-lost film - Beyond the Rocks! It took a few years for the other reels to turn up because Van Liempd's estate was so scattered. But eventually, the rest of the movie surfaced.
Beyond the Rocks is a well-made and entertaining romantic melodrama. Rudolph Valentino plays a dashing nobleman who happens to save a woman (Gloria Swanson) from drowning, shortly before her wedding to an older, rotund businessman. But fate throws them together again as she and her new husband honeymoon in the Alps. She goes hiking with friends and, in a surprisingly effective series of special effects, she falls off a rock ledge. Valentino happens to be hiking, too, and he saves her again. This time, they start making eyes at each other.
Their story of doomed love is refreshingly mature. If this movie were remade today, the husband would be a buffoon or a lout so that the audience could root against him. In Beyond the Rocks, he is a good man, which makes the love triangle bittersweet and tragic, a delicious combination that's hard to find at the movies these days.
On its own merits, Beyond the Rocks may not be a masterpiece, but it is a well-produced film with a well-told story by actors at the top of their game. And, as Martin Scorsese explains in a brief introduction, when Rudolph Valentino worked with Gloria Swanson in 1922, it was something of a novelty. Pairing two studio stars in the same movie wasn't a common practice until a decade later.
The movie looks and sounds very good, especially considering its physically punishing life history. A featurette on the DVD explains some of the effort that went into the restoration. First the movie was stabilized -- older films have a tendency to jump within the frame. Dust and scratches were removed digitally One expert explains that this process has to be supervised because computers don't always recognize what the dust is. In one case, part of a dog's leg was "removed," mistaken by the computer for a speck of dirt. A human had to intervene on the dog's behalf.
There are two scenes where the film was unrecoverable. In both cases, the restorers opted to leave in the damaged and obscured footage. Surprisingly, these scenes are two of the most powerful. Because film is stored in rolls, the decay happens in a regular pattern. As you watch these scenes unfold, a slow, repetitive, hypnotic change happens to the very picture itself, as though Fate is trying to tear apart the lovers on the screen.
The intertitles that survived were Dutch, so, using the shooting script found in a vault in Hollywood, new English titles were added. Surprisingly, two frames of a Dutch intertitle remain on this DVD, surely a glitch in the mastering process.
Finally, a new, modern-sounding score was composed by Dutchman Henny Vrienten. Nobody would mistake the music for 84 years old, but the breathy trumpet, European accordion, and moody soundscapes fit the movie very well.
Ironically, if Beyond the Rocks hadn't had such a dramatic story of survival, it might have fared less well in the long run. If it had been available but forgotten, it might never have been restored, remastered, or had a new score composed. Instead of touring the nation and getting a loving DVD release, it might have faded in a vault until it was gone for good. And that would have been a shame.
The Beyond the Rocks disc also comes with a bonus feature, the 1919 melodrama, The Delicious Little Devil, also starring Rudolph Valentino but in a supporting role. The female star of the film is Mae Murray and the director is Robert Z. Leonard, who went on to become one of MGM's most prolific directors, specializing in high-gloss A titles like Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941).
For more information about Beyond the Rocks, visit Milestone Films. To order Beyond the Rocks, go to TCM Shopping.
by Marty Mapes
Beyond the Rocks - BEYOND THE ROCKS - A Once-Lost 1922 Silent Film is Rediscovered and Remastered on DVD!
No copy of this film, the only pairing of silent legends Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson, is known to exist.
Beyond the Rocks was the only film in which popular silent film stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino acted together. Although for many years the film was thought to be lost, in April 2004 the Nederlands Filmmuseum announced that its staff had discovered original nitrate reels of the picture within a large film collection donated to the museum by a Dutch collector. The picture was subsequently restored, and in 2005 played at the Cannes Film Festival, the London Film Festival and several other international venues.
The nitrate print found at the Nederlands Filmmuseum bore Dutch subtitles; however, the original, English-language text of the films intertitles were recreated for international showings and its subsequent DVD release.
Re-released in United States January 13, 2006
Re-released in United States January 13, 2006 (New York City)