Friday, February 4, 2011

Gilbert-o-Rama #5: Desert Nights (1929)

Ah, Jack, how we've missed thee!

"The diamonds are mine...and you'll be mine when I want you."

When this film was released, in 1929, the world had already been taken over by talkies, and as such, Jack Gilbert's last silent was instantly regarded as outdated.  Jeanine Basinger recounts in Silent Stars that most reviews consisted of "No Dialogue!"  It's a damn shame because this is one of the most spirited and fun of Jack's films.   The storyline is simple:  thieves (Ernest Torrence and Mary Nolan), posing as visiting arisocrats, kidnap the manager of a diamond mine (Gilbert) and take him along as hostage.  Deep into their trek through the desert, they realize they are lost and out of water - and suddenly are dependant upon their hostage to show them the way to survival.

Jack plays it to the hilt in this picture, and I don't believe he ever looked better: virile, devil-may-care, a downright handsome and amusing bastard.  When he gazes at Mary Nolan he practically devours her with his eyes.  For her own part, Nolan is a lovely and amiable costar - and quite beautiful; if you know nothing of her backstory, it's definitely worth a read.  Ernest Torrence is the rock of so many silent movies - his performance is solid and downright menacing at times.

Desert Nights (also known as Thirst) is a briskly paced picture with a satisfying (if expected) ending, and I definitely recommend catching it.  This kind of work is what Jack deserves to be remembered for, not the disaster that followed (His Glorious Night was looming on the horizon).

I give this one: 

1 comment:

whistlingypsy said...

I saw this one last August when TCM’s Summer Under The Stars honored John Gilbert. I agree with you the film gave him a chance to play a character he was ideally suited for (and one he apparently seemed to enjoy). His sound pictures such as THE PHANTOM OF PARIS and DOWNSTAIRS show that he was more than a pretty face. He would have had a much different career if he had been allowed to explore more of these complicated characters.