Released 10/21/21 by Goldwyn Pictures Corp.; Director:Wallace Worsley; Screenplay: Ruth Wightman, from the novel, The Purple Mask by Gouverneur Morris; Cinematography: Don Short; 6 reels (5,883'); Print Source: Turner Entertainment
CAST: Leatrice Joy (Lillith), John Bowers (Forrest), Lon Chaney (Farralone), Hardee Kirkland (Morgridge), Edwin N. Wallack (Chemist), Raymond Hatton (The Man Who Has Lived Too Long), Roy Laidlaw (Doorkeeper)
SYNOPSIS: A secret society consisting of Morgridge, Forrest, Farralone, a chemist, and a doorkeeper, meet to decide the fate of "The Man Who Has Lived Too Long," a rich man decided to be of no value to society. The members vote for death, and Forrest and Farralone head off to give the decision to Lilith, one of the most devoted members of the society. Forrest tells Lilith of his love for her, but her only interest is their cause. At a meeting later that day, the chemist is explaining his death device...a cigar case that will explode within three minutes when the monogram plate is turned. Lilith deals cards to the solemn group, and Forrest is given the Ace of Hearts, the card that selects the member who will carry out the execution. Lilith finds new admiration for Forrest, and asks him if he would have more courage if she married him. He enthusiastically agrees that he would, and a few hours later, Farralone finds the couple returning home, married. Farralone secretly loves Lilith and he stands outside her apartment for hours, griefstruck over losing her to Forrest. In the morning, Lilith and Forrest have found new love in their hearts, and she begs him to discard the bomb and flee with her, but he says it is a matter of honor, and he must fulfill his duty. Lilith relates the events of the past night to Farralone, who promises her that if Forrest fails in his duty, he will help the couple escape, but that if Forrest is killed, Lilith must marry him. At the cafe where Forrest is to place the bomb, he sees a young couple in love sitting next to the seat where the bomb is to be placed. Unable to kill the innocent couple, he leaves the cafe, and returns to the secret council chamber to report his failure. Forrest and Lilith are ordered to leave, and Morgridge calls a meeting to discuss how the couple will be executed. Farralone, keeping his promise, sets the timer on the cigar case to explode. Some time later, Forrest, Lilith, and their baby are living in the mountains, convinced that Farralone has somehow succeeded in preventing their death; however, one day Forrest finds the Ace of Hearts stuck in the bark of a tree. Rushing back to the cabin in a panic, he sees Morgridge approaching; one of his arms is missing, and he walks slowly with a cane. Morgridge tells Forrest not to fear, that Farralone's sacrifice to save the couple taught him that love is a greater force to improve the world than destruction.
"An excellent product from many angles...The picture is done in splendid, dignified style and has as its featured actor, Lon Chaney...The picture story carries with it a fine love story and an uplifting moral of self-sacrifice." ---Variety
"It must be said of Gouverneur Morris' stories that they usually carry original ideas even though the author is inclined to overstep the mark in his search for novelty...Yet Morris for the sake of adding the romantic note, and giving his story some appeal, has robbed it of its reality. And probably, fear of the censors, that they might condemn the tale as unwholesome, compelled the author to watch his step. The action drags considerably though the lapses permit Lon Chaney and the other players to reveal some colorful character studies." --- Motion Picture News
NOTES: THE ACE OF HEARTS was the second of 4 films Chaney did for Goldwyn between his tours at Universal and MGM, and it is clearly the weakest of the lot. The supposedly climactic card game, where he who gets the Ace of Hearts will commit the murder, feels like it goes on for hours, and the mixture of mystery and romance throughout the entire film falls flat. Both Chaney and Worsley would do better things together in the future.
© 1997,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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