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Film / The Mating Call

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The Mating Call is a 1928 drama directed by James Cruze, starring Thomas Meighan, Renee Adoree, and Evelyn Brent. It was produced by Howard Hughes.

Leslie Hatton is a farmboy somewhere in Flyover Country. While home on leave from World War I, he marries his sweetheart, Rose (Brent). He comes home for good after the war ends only to find out that in his absence, Rose's parents annulled the marriage (apparently she was underage) and she wound up marrying wealthy businessman Lon Harrison. Les is broken-hearted.

Unfortunately for Rose it turns out that Lon is a total creep. He's cheating on her with pretty young blonde Jessie Peebles, the judge's daughter, and if that's not bad enough, he belongs to "the Order", a Fictional Counterpart of the Ku Klux Klan. Rose attempts to seduce her old boyfriend, and nearly succeeds, but Les eventually rejects her, claiming he got married in France. That leaves him needing a wife to back that lie up, so he goes to Ellis Island and finds one Catherine, a war refugee (Adoree), and her parents.

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Tropes:

  • Awful Wedded Life: Les and Rose hate each other and he cheats on her constantly.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Apparently one could just waltz into Ellis Island in 1918 and pick a wife up on the spot. Les marries Catherine right there at customs and takes her and her parents home.
  • Driven to Suicide: Poor Jessie flings herself into the lake after Lon rejects her, but not before slipping a packet of their letters into Marvin's pocket.
  • Fanservice: In addition to the skinnydipping scene, Catherine is shown in a semi-transparent slip immediately afterwards. And then there's Rose getting down to her underwear as she tries to seduce Les.
  • Fictional Counterpart: No, not the Klan, "the Order"—they're totally different because they wear black robes, not white, although they do burn crosses. This was the era when the Klan was a major force in American politics, although by the late 1920s they were on something of a downhill slide.
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  • Kangaroo Court: The Order runs one, in which they dispatch floggings as punishment for stuff like beating your wife.
  • The Klan: Well, "the Order." Oddly, they don't seem that concerned with terrorizing black people, instead having set themselves up as some sort of idiotic kangaroo court dispensing justice to local miscreants.
  • Marriage Before Romance: Things start out rather distant—after Catherine cringes at his approach the first night home, Les sleeps on the couch—but by the end they're in love.
  • Match Cut: From Les's legs treading the floor as he paces, after finding out about Rose, to Les's legs churning as he pushes his plow in a field.
  • One Head Taller: Les being so much bigger than tiny little Catherine certainly adds another element to the scene where he looms over her as he asks her to enter into a citizenship marriage.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Rose douses herself with a basin of water, then pretends that she tripped and fell while carrying the basin, in order to seduce Les.
  • Skinnydipping: The most memorable scene in the movie has Les going looking for Catherine, only to find her swimming nude in the lake. It's shot from a medium distance, but it's still obvious Renee Adoree wasn't wearing any clothes. This sort of thing was surprisingly common in the silent era but would go away when The Hays Code was enforced in 1934.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Lon is having an affair with Jessie, and he doesn't seem to care very much that Rose knows about it.
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