Cast & Crew
In San Francisco, Ramon Laredo, a wealthy young socialite, meets Moran, a strong and unconventional girl, on his way to a yachting party. Later, Ramon is drugged, shanghaied, and taken aboard a smuggling schooner bound for Mexico. On board, he suffers from the brutality of Captain Kitchell. Moran's ship, the Lady Letty, catches fire and is boarded by Kitchell's men; Ramon discovers the girl dressed as a man, the only survivor of the crew, and keeps her identity a secret from the captain. Arriving in Mexico, Ramon and Kitchell find a treasure on the beach, and Kitchell plots to gain possession of both the money and Moran, whom he perceives to be a girl. A fight on the schooner between Ramon and the crew and Kitchell and his smugglers results in the captain's subjugation; Ramon takes command, and the ship returns to San Francisco. There, Kitchell escapes and attacks Moran, who is saved by Ramon while Kitchell is drowned. Ramon embraces Moran and announces his plans to marry her.
Charles K. French
Moran of the Lady Letty
Males in the audience, and much of the press, however, found his Latin Lover image to be effete and off-putting. Valentino's follow-up film, Moran of the Lady Letty (1922), a seafaring adventure in the mold of Captains Courageous, was an attempt to recast the star in a more forceful and masculine mold. TCM presents this rarely seen silent in its television premiere.
Moran of the Lady Letty is based on the novel by Frank Norris, whose best-known work, McTeague, was filmed by Erich von Stroheim as Greed (1924). Moran casts Valentino as Ramon Laredo, a pampered aristocrat who is shanghaied in contemporary San Francisco by Captain Kitchell (Walter Long), the brutal commander of a smuggling schooner bound for Mexico. The Moran of the title is a beautiful young woman (top-billed Dorothy Dalton) who's as good a sailor as any man; the Lady Letty is her ship, which is taken over by Kitchell and his men. Ramon, naturally, has fallen for Moran (her name is even an anagram of his), and defends her honor in a brawling showdown with the lustful captain.
Valentino had worked with both Dalton and Long before. Dalton was the star of The Homebreaker (1919), in which Valentino had appeared as a dance extra; and Long also provided menace in The Sheik.
The hero was named Ross Wilbur in Norris' novel, but Monte Katterjohn, who also created the scenario for The Sheik, acknowledged Valentino's ethnic looks and exotic image with the name Ramon Laredo. Katterjohn included an introductory title explaining that this "rich man's son spends the dash and fire inherited from his Spanish ancestors in leading cotillions." Soon enough, however, Valentino morphs from drawing-room dandy into a sunburned sailor in jeans and turtleneck. As a writer for Photoplay helpfully explained, "The blood of the primeval tiger man leaped through him!"
Director George Melford, who also had guided Valentino through The Sheik, did his part to build up his star's manly athleticism in the press, promising in interviews that audiences would "find out what a husky, red-blooded chap he is." Melford claimed that, after the climactic fight on the ship, Valentino "climbed to the very tip of the mast -- just for exercise. The hard-boiled crew of the ship gasped!"
Critical reaction to the new image was mixed, even within the same reviews. Although the critic for the New York Times found Valentino's manly swashbuckling to be convincing in some scenes, he considered that "in others it seems a pity that he ever left the ballroom." The reviewer for Variety wrote that, "As a rough-and-tumble fighting hero, Valentino is a revelation. Physically he looks the part, but it comes as something of a shock, probably because he has so long been identified with roles of a daintier kind."
Valentino himself was said to have disliked the film, feeling that playing an ordinary, contemporary hero diminished his romantic allure. According to biographer Emily W. Leider, he preferred "playing bandits, Moors, East Indians, or romantic foreign and historical characters." So it was back to the more exotic image in such follow-up films as Blood and Sand and The Young Rajah (both 1922).
Director: George Melford
Screenplay: Monte M. Katterjohn, from novel by Frank Norris
Cinematography: Bert Glennon, William Marshall
Cast: Dorothy Dalton (Moran, aka Letty Sternersen), Rudolph Valentino (Ramon Laredo), Charles Brinley (Captain Sternersen), Walter Long (Captain "Frisco" Kitchell), Emil Jorgenson (Nels), Maude Wayne (Josephine Herrick).
by Roger Fristoe