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Film / The Circle (1925)

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The Circle is a 1925 film directed by Frank Borzage, starring Eleanor Boardman (The Crowd).

Back in the 1890s, stuffy Lord Clive Cheney is married to Catherine, but Catherine has fallen under the spell of family friend Lord Hugh Porteous. Catherine casts her family aside, running away with Hugh, abandoning not only Clive but their toddler son Arnold.

Fast forward thirty years. Lord Clive never remarried; and his son Arnold has grown up to be even stuffier than his father. Arnold is now married to lovely Elizabeth (Boardman), who has invited her mother-in-law and Lord Hugh to visit for the first time in three decades. Elizabeth, like her mother-in-law, is bored of and impatient with her husband. Elizabeth, like her mother-in-law, has a handsome dashing suitor in the person of family friend Teddy. Elizabeth, like her mother-in-law, is considering running away. But this time Lord Clive has a trick up his sleeve.

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A 20-year-old MGM starlet named Lucille LeSueur appears briefly in the opening scene as young Catherine. Soon after, MGM staged a nationwide contest to give the young actress a new stage name, and she was eventually christened Joan Crawford.


Tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: After Arnold's pathetically weak attempt to win Elizabeth back, she asks Teddy what he'd do if she left him. He says he'd punch her in the face. A turned-on Elizabeth says "You brute" and kisses him.
  • British Stuffiness: Elizabeth describes her husband as "an old woman." He tries to talk her out of leaving him by saying "You might force me to do something rash—and I'd dislike that frightfully."
  • Call-Back: Teddy says that if Elizabeth ever left him, he'd hit her, namely he'd "blacken one eye...and close the other!" She gets aroused and says "You brute!" Later, during the final confrontation between Teddy and Arnold, Arnold says these exact words to Teddy and then makes good by punching him in both eyes. Elizabeth says "You brute!" again, and goes home quietly.
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  • "Dear John" Letter: Honestly, pinning your Dear John letter to the pajamas of your toddler child is a poor choice.
  • Generation Xerox: The exact same Love Triangle in the new generation and the old.
  • High-Class Glass: Arnold wears one and it helps establish him as a stuffy upper-class lord. Hugh does as well but unlike Arnold he's cranky and prone to cursing.
  • Kubrick Stare: Arnold shoots one of these when he sees Teddy and Elizabeth canoodling.
  • Not My Driver: Teddy and Elizabeth are surprised to find that the man driving them away is not the regular chauffeur, but Arnold.
  • Open Secret: Elizabeth and Teddy aren't very subtle. They whisper into each other's ears right out in the open where Arnold can see them.
  • Parental Abandonment: Catherine doesn't even see her son for 30 years.
  • Time Skip: 30 years from the opening to the main story.
  • Verbal Irony: Clive is showing off some antique guns to Hugh. He says "the former owner used them on a bounder who tried to run away with his wife." As he is saying this Catherine is packing her bags upstairs.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Catherine leaves her husband for another man, and thirty years later Elizabeth almost does the same.
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