Classic Film Guide

Affairs of Anatol, The (1921)

Produced (and directed) by Cecil B. DeMille, "by Jeanie Macpherson, suggested by Arthur Schnitzler’s play of the same name (appreciation of their literary assistance is extended to Beulah Marie Dix and Elmer Harris)", this silent comedy-drama features Wallace Reid in the title role; Gloria Swanson plays his wife Vivian Spencer. The film includes several experiments in color, some scenes are tinted and (at least) two appear to have been shot in 2-strip Technicolor. Monte Blue and Bebe Daniels are among those who also appear in the cast; reportedly, William Boyd and Polly Moran also appear, uncredited.

Though only recently married, Anatol (Reid) is the type of man who feels compelled to save young women from their poor choices (or fate). Naturally, this displeases his new bride Vivian (Swanson), though she passes the time with her husband's friend Max Runyon (Elliott Dexter), who eventually wants more from the relationship. While out to dinner one evening with Max and his wife, Anatol spots an old grammar school sweetheart, Emilie Dixon (Wanda Hawley), with her ‘sugar daddy’, Gordon Bronson (Theodore Roberts). After witnessing Emilie's date spiking her drink, Anatol decides to act. He ‘rescues’ her from him but Bronson laughs and says he'll be ready to ‘pick up the pieces’ later. When Anatol brings Emilie back to their table, he's greeted coldly by his wife, who asks Max to take her home. Soon, Anatol has set-up Emilie with an apartment and educational opportunities (like learning to play the violin). Though his intentions are pure and honorable, she's clearly taking advantage of him. When Anatol finally recognizes this, he tells Emilie that she must toss the jewelry she'd received from Bronson off a bridge, which she only pretends to do. After supposedly cutting her ties to her past, Emilie wants more from Anatol, but he refuses to leave Vivian and leaves. Upon returning later, he discovers Emilie partying with Bronson, and that she had never really thrown away her booty. Anatol is so furious that he fulfills Bronson's earlier remark by breaking and destroying everything he'd bought for Emilie within the apartment (e.g. so that Bronson can pick up the pieces).

Anatol returns to Vivian and pleads (essentially) ‘if ever you see me trying to save another woman, please save me by keeping me from doing so’; she takes him back. Later, at a party, a Hindu hypnotist named Nazzer Singh (Theodore Kosloff) is able to compel Vivian to remove her shoes and stockings; he's made her think that she's about to wade into a stream. This prompts Anatol to interrupt the trance and propose to Vivian that they should abandon their current lifestyle, that returning to a simpler life together is what their marriage needs. Meanwhile, out in the country, poor Abner Elliot (Blue) has just discovered that his wife Annie has spent the church's money entrusted to him on pretty clothing for herself. He tells her that she must go. Distraught, she throws herself off a bridge (e.g. to commit suicide) but lands in the water right next to Anatol and Vivian, who had been canoeing in that very river. The couple rescues Annie, pulling her into their boat and then taking her ashore to attempt to revive her. Initially, they are unsuccessful, then Vivian notices that the girl is only faking it. Anatol, refusing to believe it, tells his wife to take the car to go get help. While she's pretending to be unconscious, Annie finds and steals Anatol's wallet full of cash. At the very moment when Annie kisses Anatol to thank him for his assistance, Vivian returns with the doctor. He then discovers and realizes that Annie, who's returned to her husband with the money (enabling her to ‘kiss and makeup’), stole his money. Vivian, who's had enough (again), drives away leaving Anatol to walk home alone.

Upon returning home, Anatol finds Vivian unwilling to forgive him again. So, he decides he may as well live it up. He goes out on the town and tries to hook up with a creature of sin, the apt named performer Satan Synne (Daniels). But she resists his initial advances until she receives word that her husband, who'd been wounded in the war, needs another expensive operation. Apparently, the reason for her notoriety in this (the oldest) profession is the fact that she'd needed the money to pay for countless surgeries to save his life. Satan is relieved to see that Anatol is still around, and she invites him into her lair. Eventually, he learns the truth yet still agrees to give her the $3,000 she needs, even though she learns from Dr. Johnston that her husband didn't survive. Anatol returns to Vivian, whom he discovers with Max. Coincidentally, Nazzer Singh calls on her again at the same time. Anatol asks the hypnotist if he could put his wife under a trance so that he might ask her an important question. Upon doing so, Max, aware that Anatol is intending on asking his wife if she'd been faithful to him, warns him not to do it. Anatol decides that, regardless, he loves her and wants Vivian back, and tells her so to bring her out of the trance. Based upon Max's reaction, one of relief as he lovingly sniffs the lapel flower she'd given him, the audience is made to know the answer (e.g. that Vivian and he had an affair of their own). The reunited couple embraces as the film ends.

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