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  • lothruin12 December 2006
    Another commenter wondered whether Turner Classics would resurrect this film. I was lucky enough to see that happen this weekend on their Sunday silents. The film is a beautifully done piece; the scenery, costuming and makeup is amazing. The characterizations are darling. John Barrymore does seem to play down his role somewhat, but overall the acting is very well done. The whole movie makes me want to read the French story upon which it is based, as much because of what the movie does say as because of what it doesn't. The subject matter is a fascinating look at what is acceptable in society both of the time the story was written and the time the movie was made. A worthwhile film if you can catch it!
  • lth2517 October 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    When A Man Loves is the story of Manon Lescaut and her lover Fabien des Grieux but the movie takes a somewhat different turn than the famous novel and the operas Manon and Manon Lescaut. The two lovers meet when des Grieux rescues her from the villainous Morfontaine and the two lovers are separated with Manon becoming a courtesan and des Grieux about to go into the priesthood. It is again des Grieux to the rescue when Manon's spurned lover Morfontaine sends her to Louisiana as a prisoner. All ends happily unlike the novel and the operas with lots of swash buckling action scenes in between.

    Dolores Costello is radiant in the film and wears spectacular costumes. John Barrymore is excellent and the two have great chemistry (Dolores Costello was to marry him the following year and they had two children--and they have a famous actress as a granddaughter: Drew Barrymore). It is clear why Drew Barrymore is genetically blessed when watching her grandparents in this film (her grandmother's beauty and both her grandparents acting ability and she also has a strong resemblance to her grandfather).

    Warner Oland (famous for being Charlie Chan) plays Manon's no good brother and Myrna Loy can be glimpsed in a bit part with the women prisoners.

    TCM should show more of these rarely seen gems. This film was excellently restored as well.
  • In an old French cathedral town, during the reign of Louis XV, devoted churchman John Barrymore (as Chevalier Fabien des Grieux) is studying to become a Priest. One May morning, virginal Dolores Costello (as Manon Lescaut) arrives at the musty convent, like "a flower freshly plucked from the countryside"; when Mr. Barrymore sees Ms. Costello, the seeds of romance are firmly planted. Meanwhile, Costello's scheming brother Warner Oland (as André Lescaux) decides to prostitute sister Costello. Barrymore overhears Mr. Oland's plotting, and whisks Costello off to Paris. Eventually, Costello feels the lure of jewels and pretty clothes; and, Barrymore is torn between lust and the Lord.

    Sheer nonsense, but extremely well-produced - firstly, Alan Crosland's "When a Man Loves" is another great opportunity to see star lovers Barrymore and Costello (who would soon marry off-screen). Oland and the man he sells Costello to, Sam de Grasse (as Monsieur Guillot de Morfontaine), head up a delightful supporting cast. Look out for a hilariously over-painted Bertram Grassby (as Le Duc de Richelieu), Tom Santschi sneeringly captaining the convict boat, and pretty prisoner Myrna Loy. The convict ship trip ending, with its swelling Vitaphone soundtrack, and Barrymore going ballistic... all fantastic. Barrymore's performance becomes amazing. Don't desert the ship - keep watching until the exciting ending payoff.

    ******** When a Man Loves (2/3/27) Alan Crosland ~ John Barrymore, Dolores Costello, Warner Oland
  • OK, I admit it, it makes me completely glad they were all guillotined.

    This transitional silent is really a visual work of art. I say transitional because it is one of Warner Brothers first Vitaphone films back when Warners was still using sound just to bring sound effects and synchronized music to silents. No talking was going on yet.

    The location is 18th century France about 20 years before the French Revolution. Our protagonists are a young man of aristocratic descent who is studying for the priesthood, Chevalier Fabien des Grieux (John Barrymore) and the unfortunate Manon Lescaut (Delores Costello). She's unfortunate because she actually trusts her brother (Warner Oland) who has two alternate plans for her - either sell her to the highest bidder to help him continue his gambling habit, or dispose of her in a nunnery. Fabien overhears the brother's plotting, rescues Manon, and the two flee to Paris. Because the brother found an aristocratic buyer for his sister's companionship he won't give up so easy on retrieving his meal ticket. A week after the young lovers have arrived in Paris, he finds Manon and convinces her that it is best for Fabien if she leaves him so he can return to his studies for the priesthood and regain his father's good graces.

    What follows is a remarkable adventure with Fabien first losing and then regaining his faith in Manon, him turning from the studying for the priesthood to gambling as a profession, and a turn of treachery by Manon's discarded former protector/consort that has them both destined for a life of slavery in Louisiana.

    The focus and sympathy are kept on the two young lovers for several reasons. For one, the actors themselves have remarkable chemistry - they were actually married for several years - and also, they are the only two members of the cast that don't resemble grotesque gargoyles. The poor of Paris are shown as disheveled, greasy, drunken, and ready to assault any maiden that crosses their paths. The aristocracy of Paris are shown as decadent, perfumed, powdered and rouged to the point of looking like corpses, and also ready to assault any maiden that crosses their paths. Thus even in pre-revolutionary France the poor and rich seem to have at least one thing in common.

    The cruel twists of fate could make long stretches of this movie a bit of a downer if it were not for the fun of watching Barrymore in his prime playing - at various times - the protector, the swashbuckler, the broken-hearted when he loses Manon, ecstatic when he gets her back. Plus Barrymore could say more with a roll of his eyes or a gesture than many actors could say with an entire soliloquy. Highly recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    All opera lovers will have no trouble recognising WHEN A MAN LOVES as Abbe Prevost's novel "Manon Lescaut". Massenet set it in opera form as "Manon", Puccini as "Manon Lescaut", and both took about as many liberties as did the screen writers for this film. Those of you who viewed TCM's recent showing probably noticed an oddity in the screen credits. No mention whatever was made of Abbe Prevost! Considering they didn't have to pay anyone for the rights, you would think they could at least have given the old Abbe one credit line. Those "genius" producers, though, hated to give anyone credit in the "good old days" of movie making. Up and coming Myrna Loy has a minor role, for example, but nary a credit.

    TCM deserves credit for finally bringing this gem out into the open. With any luck, it may even show up as a DVD one of these days. It is very well acted and photographed. Silent screen acting mannerisms are frequently annoying when seen today, but that kind of thing is mercifully absent in WHEN A MAN LOVES. The film, like Puccini's "Manon Lescaut", takes us all the way to Louisiana. If you haven't seen the film yet and don't know the story, STOP HERE, or I may be about to spoil the surprise ending.

    Old Abbe Prevost, like Hollywood in the bad old days of the Production Code, evidently thought folks who had led dissolute lives ought to die for their sins. His "Manon" dies in her lover's arms somewhere in the Louisana swamps. Warner's, though, gives them a chance to row off to freedom when their convict ship is taken over by mutineers. They don't exactly disappear into the sunset, more like a fog bank, but maybe sunny days are at last ahead for the unfortunate lovers.
  • boblipton12 December 2006
    Director Alan Crosland and star John Barrymore attempt to recapture the the success of their previous effort, THE BELOVED ROGUE, with this story of debauchery and all-conquering love in the ancien regime, from the novel MANON LESCAUT. It was a popular story, made into a couple of ballets and an opera by Puccini. But despite the sumptuous sets and stuntwork, it lacks the essential verve and generosity of Barrymore's performance in the earlier movie -- but this movie is not about him. The star of the picture is Dolores Costello, who would marry Barrymore a year later. The modern moviegoer should be able to recognize her easily enough. Their grand daughter, Drew Barrymore, has her eyes.

    At first it seemed to me that Barrymore was too old for the role -- a young man studying for the priesthood in his forties? But the very real chemistry of the two stars more than makes up for that.
  • I must admit I've only seen one clip, of this rumored to be picturesque silent, on an old HBO documentary on the 1920s. That was in the early 1980s. This film treatment on the much filmed Manon Lescaut romance story is known to exist. It is not a lost film yet it is almost never seen even though it would presumably be owned by Turner Classics being a Warner Bros. silent. This was the film in which Ethel Barrymore upon seeing commented that her brother John Barrymore basically threw his part away in order for Dolores Costello, then Barrymore's girlfriend and soon to be wife, to standout and shine. Costello was then concurrently starring in Warner's "Old San Francisco"(1927), which had a Vitaphone pre-recorded soundtrack. WAML was John Barrymore's third and final film in a three picture deal with Warner Brothers and it followed the better know Don Juan. WAML had a Vitaphone pre-recorded soundtrack with musical score & sound effects, the same as Don Juan. Vitaphone was the pioneer system where the music, sound effects, speech etc. was recorded on an LP type of wax disc rather than the later standard of film. Byron Haskin, WAML's Cinematographer, said in an interview that this was a wonderful story to photograph and was superior to Don Juan photographically in many respects IHHO. Incidentally director Alan Crosland seemed to be involved with all things Vitaphone & Warner Brothers at this time. He was not only the director of WAML but the aforementioned Old San Francisco & Don Juan as well as the talking film breakthrough The Jazz Singer. Maybe one day Turner Classics will surprise everyone and resurrect WAML, a late silent/major studio obscurity. Perhaps some kind of restoration is in order and that includes the original pre-recorded soundtrack if it exists. I'm sure it's as gorgeous as Don Juan's soundtrack.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a pretty run-of-the-mill film up until about midway through it and seemed like just another period costume drama merged with a romance--nothing particularly special about it despite starring Delores Costello and John Barrymore. However, after a somewhat sappy and somewhat static beginning, the film really jumped into high gear later on in the film. Up until then, Barrymore really seemed like a good-looking guy but also a bit of a "cream puff". However, when his woman was in danger, the film suddenly morphed into a macho action picture--something I never would have suspected up until then! Barrymore, known more as a lover and thespian, suddenly transformed into a Douglas Fairbank-like character who fought with sword or barehanded and was tough and full of fire!! This transformation really helped the film, as early in the film he had transformed from a divinity student to a lover--the rugged "he-man" guy at the end was definitely a huge change!! As for the rest of the film, the production values were definitely top-notch, as Warner Brothers pulled out all stops--sparing no expense on costumes, writing or hiring top actors in Costello and Barrymore. In addition, it's one of the first films that featured a full orchestral score even though there is no spoken dialog. Because of all this plus an excellent script, instead of a turgid costumer (such as MARIE ANTOINETTE--a huge picture that utterly bored me), it's much more reminiscent of great action-adventure films like SCARAMOUCHE. For silent film buffs, this isn't one you want to miss.
  • samhill521516 April 2010
    The story of Manon Lescaut has been retold several times since the good Abbé first wrote it. It's a tragedy with all sorts of moral overtones, what with the Chevalier besotted by his love for the gold digging Manon who nonetheless loves him back in her own way. This film version is somewhat faithful to the original albeit considerably cleaned up for us puritanical Americans. Already a shocker when it was first published in 1731 many of the sordid details, especially Manon's prostitution, was barely hinted at and the tragic ending completely left out. What's left is a period drama with considerable posturing and glaring, great costumes and great production values. The first half is rather slow and drawn out. With Manon's prostitution left out it's a little difficult to evoke the emotions needed to connect a viewer to a show. But once she's arrested and sentenced to the colonies the film takes off with a bang. From then on it's a roller-coaster ride, lots of action, pathos, drama. It never lets up. This part makes the whole thing worth seeing. One last thing: I'm a fan of Drew Barrymore and it was kind of fun to see her grandparents together on the screen. I sure hope she continues the dynasty.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I started watching this by chance and discovered that it was an adaptation of the abbé Prévost's novel Manon Lescaut. It's not particularly faithful to the original, but that doesn't matter - if you want to learn about the novel, read it and not a movie Cliff's notes.

    What I particularly liked about this movie was the lengthy end, the revolt of the prisoners on ship and their take-over of the ship. It's filmed very well, and becomes very exciting.

    Part of the credit for the success of this movie is the music. I get the impression, since the movie was made in 1927, that the score was composed and recorded then, and more or less added to the movie using the Vitaphone process, which synced records to movies. The music definitely heightens a lot of the scenes here.
  • French nobleman Fabian des Grieux (John Barrymore) is training for the priesthood. However, he comes to the rescue of the beautiful Manon Lescaut (Dolores Costello), whose brother André (Warner Oland) is trying to sell her to Comte Guillot de Morfontaine (Sam De Grasse).

    This is pretty long for a silent film at 110 minutes, but it goes by very quickly. Barrymore is excellent (if a tad melodramatic), and Dolores Costello is radiant. Warner Oland is entertaining as the slimy brother, and Sam De Grasse is good as the villain. There's a good sword fight, and the production design and costumes are fantastic. An uncredited Myrna Loy can be seen briefly towards the end.

    First time viewing. 4/5
  • Warning: Spoilers
    " . . . have no souls," says the title character of the always eponymous Warner Bros. epic, WHEN A MAN LOVES. In less than two hours, Warner Bros.' prophetic prognosticators warn America about three major enemies: 1)The South, 2)France, and 3)The Romans. These savvy seers remind us to expect nothing by Trouble from the so-called "Louisiana Purchase" (cooked up by a serial rapist of enslaved Black Women, which provides Present-Day America with the bulk of her current "Red State" Curse). WHEN A MAN LOVES documents how nearly all of Today's Red State Residents are spawned from a French Penal Colony gene pool comprised of Rapists, Murderers, and Prostitutes. (France itself is such a round-heeled push-over, quickly overrun in TWO World Wars by Germany, because its entire "culture" is based upon misogynistic human trafficking, resulting in a stew of STD's fit only for a Petri Dish.) If there's anything more despicable than French Dressing, WHEN A MAN LOVES concludes, it's Roman Candles. Though seminarian "Fabien" ranks tops in his class, he's able to break ALL Ten Commandments at least once by the end of this film. IF more folks had seen this Warner Bros. high alert clairvoyant warning flick when it first came out, perhaps EVERY dude of Fabien's "calling" already would be on an electronic tether, as well as the probable offenders' registry.
  • Although most of what he does is in pursuit of the lovely Dolores Costello, much of the action actually consists of The Great Profile seeing off the competition at swords point in his pursuit of said fair lady.

    Marcelle Corday is unjustly uncredited but memorably chic in the earlier scenes as haughty hotel maid Marie.
  • Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
    When a Man Loves (1927)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Silent melodrama about a man (John Barrymore) studying for the priesthood when he falls in love with a woman (Dolores Costello) whose brother (Warner Oland) has sold her for prostitution. This film is beautiful on the eye but the story is pretty lacking, which makes it rather difficult to sit through the 110-minute running time. The costume design and sets all look extremely well especially a torture dungeon used on a ship towards the end of the movie. Both Barrymore and Costello, who would be married the following year, are very good in their roles but Oland comes off rather bland. Myrna Loy has a cameo but I wasn't able to spot her. The screenplay is all over the place but as I said earlier the story never gets too thrilling or dramatic so it left me rather cold. This is another early Vitaphone film and the movie was released two weeks before The Jazz Singer. There isn't any spoken dialogue but there's several sound effects, which are pretty silly especially some of the effects used during a thunderstorm.