Favorite of the Month John Gilbert stars as Edmond Dantès in Monte Cristo (1922), the film based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas. I was interested in viewing this film as I had already seen The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) which I reviewed when Robert Donat was our Favorite of the Month back in August. Monte Cristo tells the story of Edmond Dantes, who after being sent to prison and thought to be long dead, returns to seek revenge against those who have wronged him.
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Monte Cristo was directed by Emmett J. Flynn, who also directed In the Palace of the King (1923) and Early to Bed (1928).
Also starring in Monte Cristo: Estelle Taylor, Robert McKim, William V. Mong, Virginia Brown Faire, George Siegmann, Spottiswoode Aitken, Ralph Cloninger, Albert Prisco, Al W. Filson, Harry Lonsdale, Francis McDonald, Jack Cosgrave, Maude George, Renée Adorée.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, John Gilbert performed his own stunt in the film where he has to escape from a bag whilst under water, which included cutting the weight which was holding him down.
Monte Cristo was actually believed to have been lost. Luckily a print of the film was discovered in the Czech Republic.
The story is set in France in 1815. Edmond Dantès (John Gilbert) is asked to ensure the delivery of a letter given to him by his slowly dying captain of a French ship as it pulls into port. This he agrees to do, but the fact that the letter was written by Napoleon means the letter makes matters very dangerous for Dantès.
Danglars (Albert Prisco) is the second officer of the ship, and is awfully jealous of Dantès, and would like nothing more than to see him disappear so he can be made captain, instead of Dantès. Fernand (Ralph Cloninger) is in love with Dantès fiancé Mercedes (Estelle Taylor) and would also have the benefit of trying to pursue her should Dantès disappear. A letter naming Dantès as being disloyal to the King finds its way into the hands of the prosecutor, De Villefort (Robert McKim), who is concerned as his own father would be implicated in the matter.
Just as Dantès is due to be married to Mercedes he is arrested, and finds himself locked in a cell on an island. As the years go slowly by Dantès works hard at trying to dig his way out, and he makes contact with Abbé Faria (Spottiswoode Aitken) a fellow prisoner who has also been trying to dig a tunnel. But fate is not on Faria’s side as he suffers an attack of paralysis. But just before he dies, he tells Dantès of a secret location where he knows of buried treasure. Dantès disguises himself in a bag which the prison guards believe to hold the body of Faria, and this is how Dantès manages to make his escape.
Dantès is overjoyed when he discovers the treasure and is determined to get his revenge on the men who put him away. He creates a new identity for himself; The Count of Monte Cristo, and weaves his way back into the lives of the men, who are completely unprepared for his return as they believe Dantès to be long gone.
I cannot decide whether John Gilbert or Robert Donat gave the best performance as the character of Edmond Dantès, for both actors brought their own unique style of the character to the screen. Add to the fact that naturally Gilbert’s version was a silent film, and Donat’s came after the invention of sound.
Silent and sound aside, I did notice and appreciate the fact that both versions of the film were not exactly alike, so it is not true that if you have seen one telling of the story you’ve seen them both, and it’s well worth viewing the silent version to see John Gilbert’s emotional and moving performance as Edmond Dantès.
For me, John Gilbert as Favorite of the Month was enjoyable for two reasons, for not only have I seen and enjoyed some great films by this very much forgotten actor, I have also expanded my knowledge of silent film, which are so worth watching, for they enable the viewer to become totally lost in a very special part of film history.