Classic Film Guide

When a Man Loves (1927)

This silent version of Abbé Prévost’s much filmed romance drama Manon Lescaut features Dolores Costello, as Manon, opposite top billed John Barrymore as Chevalier Fabien des Grieux. It was directed by Alan Crosland and the story was adapted by Bess Meredyth (A Woman of Affairs (1928)).

Warner Oland plays Manon's opportunistic greedy brother Andre; Sam De Grasse plays Comte Guillot de Morfontaine, to whom Andre sells Manon. The recently priested Des Grieux overhears this transaction and helps her to escape to Paris, falling in love with her and pawning his shoes' buckles to buy her a locket. Holmes Herbert plays his saddened friend Jean Tiberge. Eventually she's returned to Morfontaine, who lavishes her with jewels such that Manon learns to love the good life of wealth until Des Grieux returns to her life, and then she to his. When Des Grieux's father refuses to support them, Manon's brother teaches Des Grieux how to cheat at cards; this leads to a game with the King of France, the lecherous Louis XV (Stuart Holmes), whose slimy Le Duc de Richelieu (Bertram Grassby) had convinced him that Manon could be won. Caught cheating, Des Grieux escapes, but Manon is imprisoned. But Des Grieux kills her jailer Morfontaine, and then races to the coast where he boards her convict ship and leads a mutiny against its captain (Tom Santschi) and crew. The two lovers then escape in a lifeboat of their own and sail into the moon set.

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