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The Lady (1925)

The Lady (1925) Norma Talmadge Productions/First National. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Directed by Frank Borzage. Screenplay by Frances Marion. Story by Martin Brown, Photography by Tony Gaudio. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Wallace MacDonald, Brandon Hurst, Alf Goulding, Doris Lloyd, Walter Long, George Hackathorne, Marc MacDermott, Paulette Duval, John Fox. Jr., Emily Fitzroy, John Herdman, Margaret Seddon, Edwin Hubbell. Miles McCarthy. 8 reels. A copy of reels 1 and 3-8 (35 mm., some deterioration) is located at the Library of Congress.

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Unfortunately for her, Norma finds Wallace MacDonald irresistible. The Lady with Norma and Wallace MacDonald

The Lady with Norma selling flowers Norma is reduced to selling flowers in the streets of London while looking for her long lost son.
Review in an unidentified issue of Movie Weekly. The Lady with Norma and Wallace MacDonald
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Still photo from Silent Ladies
Still photo from Dr. Macro's movie scans and and more in the Annex
See also the program for Pauline Frederick's January 1925 performances of the play version at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco on my Pauline Frederick site

Variety Review
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Review from Variety, January 28, 1925


First National picture sold on open market. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck and made from the play by Martin Brown. Directed by Frank Borzage and Norma Talmadge starred. At the Colony, New York, January 25. Running time, 75 min.

Polly Pearl Norma Talmadge
Leonard St. Aubyns Wallace McDonald
St. Aubyns, Sr. Brandon Hurst
Tom Robinson Alf Goulding
Fannie LeClaire Dorris Lloyd
Freckles John Fox, Jr.
Mme. Adrienne Chatellier Paulette Duval
A London Boy Edwin Hubbell
Mme. Blanche Emily Fitzroy
John Cairns John Herdman
Mrs. Cairns Margaret Seddon
Mr. Grave Miles McCarthy
Leonard Cairns George Hackathorne
Mrs. Wendover Marc McDermott
Blackie Walter Long

A fine story, fine cast, with work by the star and director that is both intelligent and straightforward, combine to make "The Lady" take equal rank with the greatest Talmadge efforts.

B.S. Ross brought the picture up for its first-run New York rights, and is said to have guaranteed $25,000 for the privilege. From its start Sunday afternoon it looks as if he'll get out nicely.

"The Lady" is the Martin Brown play produced by Al Woods last year in Chicago and later brought to New York, where it played at the Empire. It's theme is a cut-back from the life of an English woman, Polly Pearl, running a French bar during the time she is a music hall performer, is wooed and won by a rich young dandy, whom she marries and for whom she bears a son. But the father cuts them off, passes out, and she is left alone with her son and no money. So it's any kind of a refuge for her, and she goes into a combination brothel and cabaret run by a Madame Blanche, who soon sympathizes and limits her work to singing for the customers. The wistful part of the story is this woman, down in the world, praying for great things of her son but principally asking that he be a gentleman, because she wanted so to be a lady.

The boy is taken to raise by a clergyman and his wife, when the father of her husband tries to take him from her, and five years of bitter poverty follow. But Madame Blanche dies and leaves her money to Polly Pearl. Polly goes to Marseilles and opens an English bar. Into her place come two British soldiers, one drunk and the other protecting him. The drunkard brings on a fight, and in a brawl both he and his little pal are shot. The drunkard is killed, but the little fellow is only knocked out temporarily. While he's out, Polly discovers he's her son, and when he comes to, tries to assume the blame. But the boy denies her that privilege because it would be ungentlemanly.

Then comes over a friend, who says he'll stick around until the boy is free, while Polly, in an ecstasy, tells him she's so pleased that her son is a gentleman. And the stranger tells Polly that the reason her son is a gentleman is because his mother was a lady.

There's the theme, played as a cutback. Norma Talmadge is first the showgirl, then the cabaret entertainer, the old flower woman of the London street and, finally, as the proprietor of the bar. It is interesting every minute.

The production is elaborate and well handled, while Miss Talmadge does wonders with the title role. Of the cast, everyone in the long list performs well, and not a blunder is discernible.

From the exhibitor's angle there is this much--the picture itself is okay, and with the Talmadge draw "The Lady" is safe.


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The Lady, Talmadge's second Borzage film is perhaps the finest she ever made, though lesser known than some of her more popular films. It is her one foray into the realm of maternal melodrama, a genre which would achieve its greatest popularity in pre-code talkies. These films generally deal with single motherhood, and often involve the trauma of giving up a child, who grows up in ignorance of his or her real parentage. In this film she also aged, though only to a handsome middle age. Though for once in her career her character has been unable to transcend social and economic class barriers, she is revealed instead to have true nobility of soul, and a friend tells her that she is, indeed, a lady. This type of film made superb vehicles for mature stars, and it is unfortunate that Talmadge's retirement prevented her from hitting this cycle at its peak, for given her radiant performance here it seems a genre to which she was particularly well suited.
Print viewed: 35 mm of reels 1, 3-8 at the Library of Congress. The loss of reel isn't too detrimental to the flow of the film, but the remainder has some significant sections of deterioration.

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Last revised, March 17, 2014