Cast & Crew
William Collier Jr.
"Hero wins ranch of girl's father but falls in love with her and gives her the deed. He leaves to hunt for gold. Girl's father commits suicide and girl seeks hero. Town is attacked by outlaws but repulsed by people of the town. Heroine's brother is wounded and sentenced to hang for forced part in attack but rescued by hero. They return to the ranch where he marries the girl." ("Motion Picture News Booking Guide," in Motion Picture News, 15 Mar 1930, p106)
William Collier Jr.
James Bradbury Sr.
Tide of Empire
Among those whose ranchland is trampled by the horde of opportunists is Spanish-born Don José Guerrero. His Rancho Chico is a bucolic spread presided over by Don José's daughter Josephita (Renée Adorée), who is loved by the peons for her beauty and generosity. Her brother Romauldo (William Collier, Jr.) is not so gracious, and endangers his father's empire with his youthful profligacy.
Among the "foreigners" (so-called because the territory wouldn't become an American state until 1850) is Dermod D'Arcy (George Duryea), an irrepressible optimist with empty pockets. Another Spanish cattle baron, Montalvo (Gino Corrado), admires D'Arcy's horsemanship and asks if his horse might represent his ranch in a race at the upcoming fiesta. D'Arcy consents. The ranch-owners place high wagers on the race, and when D'Arcy's horse, "Pathfinder," wins, Don José must sign over ownership of Rancho Chico.
D'Arcy, who has been unsuccessful in his efforts to woo Josephita, now finds himself in possession of her family's ranch. He gallantly offers to return the property to the Guerreros, but not before Don José dies, apparently of grief. Josephita still rebuffs D'Arcy. But when Romauldo falls in with a band of stagecoach robbers, D'Arcy realizes he has a chance to protect the wayward youth and earn Josephita's gratitude and affection.
Peter B. Kyne, upon whose novel Tide of Empire is based, specialized in Westerns, and was the author of The Three Godfathers, most famously filmed in 1948 by John Ford.
Tide of Empire was made at the very end of the silent era, and was released with a remarkably sophisticated Movietone soundtrack of synchronized sound effects and music (by William Axt).
While most filmmakers of the early talkie era were quick to abandon the silents, Dwan continued to work in that form, perhaps because he so often filmed in remote locations. After Tide of Empire, he made the silent pictures The Far Call and Frozen Justice (both 1929). Even after making the transition to sound, Dwan was careful not to neglect his gift for non-verbal storytelling. He told interviewer/filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, "Around that time I got in the habit of running my talking pictures with the sound turned off. I had to know whether or not we were still making motion pictures -- if it was moving."
To give Tide of Empire a bit of visual panache, Dwan employed an early zoom lens known as a Zoomar lens, which was used several times in shots of the sprawling, torch-lit boom town. The first time it is used, the camera zooms out from a stagecoach as it rides into town. The concept was solid, but the zoom didn't occur until the riders were already in the midst of the shanties. Dwan later recalled, "The effect was all wrong...you didn't see them approach the town. In fact, the town must have approached the horses since it looked like the stagecoach stood still all the time, or was galloping on a treadmill."
Amid the chaos of the boom town, look quickly for an unbilled celebrity cameo. The drunk who tumbles from a saloon is none other than Buster Keaton, who had recently joined the MGM payroll to make The Cameraman (1928). According to Dwan, the stunt "wasn't part of the scene at all...He did the stunt to amuse the Talmadge girls -- he was married to Natalie Talmadge -- who were on the set."
Originally, the part of Josephita was to be played by rising star Joan Crawford. A series of costume and makeup tests were photographed in preparation for filming. But, upon the success of 1928's Our Dancing Daughters, she was taken off Tide and steered toward roles that would cultivate her persona of a Jazz Age flapper (such as Our Modern Maidens, 1929). The role of Don José's daughter went instead to Renée Adorée (The Big Parade, 1925), who had frequently played rustic beauties (though usually of French extraction).
Boyish leading man George Duryea later changed his name to Tom Keene, and appeared under that appellation in such films as Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958) and Tension at Table Rock (1956). Toward the end of his career, he changed his name yet again and billed himself as Richard Powers.
Director: Allan Dwan
Screenplay: Joseph Farnham and Waldemar Young
Based on the novel Argonauts by Peter B. Kyne
Cinematography: Merritt B. Gerstad
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons
Music by William Axt
Cast: Renée Adorée (Josephita Guerrero), George Duryea (Dermod D'Arcy), George Fawcett (Don José Guerrero), William Collier, Jr. (Romauldo Guerrero), Fred Kohler (Cannon), Gino Corrado (Carlos Montalvo).
by Bret Wood