Released 10/11/25 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Victor Seastrom; Screenplay: Agnes Christine Johnston and Max Marcin, from The Emperor of Portugallia by Selma Lagerlöf; Cinematography: Percy Hilburn; Titles: Marian Ainslee and Ruth Cummings; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and James Basevi; Costumes: Ethel Chaffin; 7 reels (6753', some source say 6849')
CAST: Norma Shearer (Glory), Lon Chaney (Jan), Ian Keith (Lars Gunnerson), Claire McDowell (Katrina), William Haines (August), David Torrence (Eric Gunnerson)
SYNOPSIS: Jan is a poor farmer in a Scandanavian country, struggling for existence on the land he leases from kindly Eric Gunnerson. When Jan's daughter, Glory, is born, he simply says "Another mouth to feed." But he soon finds great happiness in his lovely baby daughter. As Glory grows up, she and Jan pretend to be the Emperor and Empress of Portugallia, a land where everything comes true, and August, a farmer boy, plays the prince. By age eighteen, Glory has become a radiant beauty, and both August and Eric's nephew, Lars, are rivals for her attentions. One day, Eric is killed when a large tree is struck down by lightning, crushing the old man. Lars turns his uncle's business over to a lawyer who is much less forgiving of old debts, and Jan is ordered to pay $300 in back rent within six months. Glory goes to the city to earn the money and Jan becomes increasingly upset when her letters become less frequent and finally stop. On the deadline for paying the rent, Lars comes to Jan and tells him that Glory has paid the money, but Glory does not return home, and no one knows how she earned the money. Months turn to years, and Jan's mind begins to crack under the strain of not seeing his daughter. Every day he waits at the dock for a sign of Glory, but she does not return. The townspeople begin to murmur that such an evil woman dare not return, but Jan is the only one in town oblivious to the gossip. One day, Glory finally returns, but Jan, his mind hopelessly unstrung, now thinks that he really is Emperor, and that Glory is his Empress. The villagers come to the house and demand that Glory leave their town. Despite the scandal, August professes his love for Glory, but she spurns him. Lars, who was responsible for Glory entering her life of sin, taunts her along with the other villagers. Glory is driven out by the townspeople, and as she leaves by the paddleboat, Lars, still tormenting her from the rail, falls into the paddlewheel and is killed. Jan rushes to the boat to join his daughter, but falls into the water and drowns. Glory returns to the town and marries August.
"Notwithstanding that TOWER OF LIES is a sincerely made picture and excellent from the artistic and literary viewpoints, it is too heavy for the picture audiences. When finished the impression left is that one more prostitute has reformed and been forgiven...The acting is aces and the direction masterful. But with all this, TOWER OF LIES can never be anything more than a soggy picture made bearable by the leavening forces of Seastrom, Chaney and Shearer." ---Variety
"THE TOWER OF LIES is a beautiful production with a flash of poignant drama at its end...Chaney and Miss Shearer especially are splendid." ---Moving Picture World
"It seems as if Mr. Chaney had had too much to say about his own performance, for he overacts and his make-up, consisting largely of a rich crop of iron gray hair and whiskers and beard, seem to fit well without looking as if they belonged to him. Mr. Chaney's exaggerated actions and expressions appear to have been contagious, for Mr. Seastrom himself betrays a weakness for overemphasizing a number of points." ---The New York Times
NOTES: Some sources, including different contemporary reviewers, list Shearer's character as "Goldy," "Goldie," or "Glory." The cutting continuity, used by the film editor to assemble the finished print, says "Glory," and this is probably the correct title. No prints of THE TOWER OF LIES exist today.
The film was shot in 53 days at a cost of $185,000, and earned a profit of $271,000.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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