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Download The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - The Best Selling Silent Film of 1921


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A Classic Silent Film




The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 1921 American silent epic war film produced by Metro Pictures Corporation and directed by Rex Ingram. Based on the 1916 Spanish novel of the same name by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, it was adapted for the screen by June Mathis. The film stars Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery, and Alice Terry.


The film tells the story of an Argentinean family that is divided by World War I, as some members fight for France and others for Germany. The film also features a famous tango scene with Valentino, who became a superstar and a symbol of the Latin lover after this film. The film is also regarded as one of the first anti-war films, as it shows the horrors and tragedies of war through a humanistic perspective.




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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was a huge success at the box office, becoming the top-grossing film of 1921 and one of the highest-grossing silent films of all time. It also received critical acclaim and won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction. The film is considered a masterpiece of silent cinema and a landmark in film history.


The Novel and the Screenplay




The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, a Spanish writer who was known for his realistic and social novels. The novel was published in 1916 and was inspired by Ibáñez's own experiences as a war correspondent during World War I. The novel was a bestseller in Spain and abroad, and was translated into several languages.


The novel caught the attention of June Mathis, a screenwriter who worked for Metro Pictures Corporation. Mathis was one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time, as she had written several successful films and had a lot of creative control over her projects. Mathis saw the potential of adapting Ibáñez's novel into a film, and bought the rights for $20,000.


Mathis wrote the screenplay for The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, making some changes from the novel to suit the cinematic medium. She condensed some characters and scenes, added some romantic subplots, and emphasized the theme of love versus hate. She also chose Rex Ingram as the director, as she admired his previous work.


The Director and the Cast




Rex Ingram was an Irish-American director who had started his career as an actor and a sculptor. He had directed several films for Universal Studios before joining Metro Pictures Corporation in 1919. Ingram was known for his artistic vision, his attention to detail, and his demanding style.


Ingram accepted Mathis's offer to direct The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but he also made some changes to her screenplay. He added some scenes that were not in the novel or in Mathis's script, such as the prologue with the four horsemen riding across the sky. He also cast some actors that Mathis had not approved, such as Alice Terry as Marguerite Laurier, Ingram's wife and frequent collaborator.


The most controversial casting decision was that of Rudolph Valentino as Julio Desnoyers , the protagonist and the grandson of the patriarch of the family. Valentino was an Italian-born actor who had played mostly minor roles and villains before. Mathis had seen him in a small part in The Eyes of Youth, and was impressed by his charisma and his dancing skills. She thought he would be perfect for the role of Julio, a passionate and rebellious young man who loves to dance and seduce women. Mathis convinced Ingram to cast Valentino, despite his reservations about his accent and his acting abilities.


The rest of the cast included Pomeroy Cannon as Madariaga, the wealthy and eccentric Argentinean cattle rancher who is the head of the family; Josef Swickard as Marcelo Desnoyers, Madariaga's French son-in-law and Julio's father; Bridgetta Clark as Doña Luisa Desnoyers, Madariaga's daughter and Julio's mother; Wallace Beery as Karl von Hartrott, Madariaga's German son-in-law and Julio's uncle; and Alan Hale as Otto von Hartrott, Karl's son and Julio's cousin.


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The Tango Scene




One of the most memorable scenes in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the tango scene, where Julio dances with Marguerite, a married woman who becomes his lover. The scene takes place in a Parisian restaurant, where Julio sees Marguerite for the first time and is instantly attracted to her. He approaches her table and asks her to dance with him, ignoring her husband's protests. He then leads her to the dance floor, where he performs a sensual and captivating tango with her, while the other patrons watch in awe.


The tango scene was a turning point in Valentino's career, as it showcased his talent and charisma as a dancer and a romantic lead. The scene also sparked a craze for the tango in America and Europe, as many people wanted to learn the dance and imitate Valentino's style. The scene also established Valentino as a symbol of the Latin lover, a stereotype that he would play in many of his subsequent films.


The War Scenes




The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is also notable for its depiction of World War I and its effects on the characters and the audience. The film shows how the war splits the family apart, as some members join the French army and others join the German army. The film also shows how the war destroys lives, homes, and civilizations, as it portrays scenes of battles, bombings, massacres, executions, and famine.


The war scenes were filmed with a large budget and a lot of extras, creating a realistic and impressive spectacle. Ingram used some innovative techniques to film the war scenes, such as using miniature models, matte paintings, split screens, and multiple exposures. He also used some documentary footage of actual war events, such as the sinking of the Lusitania.


The war scenes were also very effective in conveying an anti-war message to the audience, as they showed the futility and horror of war. The film was released shortly after the end of World War I, when many people were still recovering from its aftermath. The film appealed to their emotions and their sense of humanity, as it made them question the reasons and the consequences of war. The Symbolism of the Four Horsemen




The title and the theme of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are based on a biblical prophecy from the Book of Revelation, where four horsemen are sent to bring calamities to the world as a sign of the end times. The four horsemen are usually identified as Conquest, War, Famine, and Death.


The film uses the four horsemen as a symbol for the four main causes of World War I, as well as the four main consequences of the war. The film suggests that the war was caused by nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and greed, and that the war resulted in violence, hunger, disease, and death. The film also implies that the war was a sign of the moral decay and the spiritual crisis of humanity, and that it was a precursor to a greater cataclysm.


The film also uses the four horsemen as a symbol for the four stages of Julio's life and his transformation as a character. The film shows how Julio starts as a carefree and selfish young man who enjoys life and love, but who is also ignorant and indifferent to the world around him. He then becomes involved in the war, first as a spectator and then as a participant, and he witnesses and suffers the horrors and tragedies of war. He then realizes the value of love and sacrifice, and he tries to redeem himself by helping others and fighting for a noble cause. He finally dies as a hero and a martyr, leaving behind a legacy of courage and compassion.


The Reception and Legacy of the Film




The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was released on March 6, 1921, and it was an instant hit with critics and audiences. The film received rave reviews for its artistic merit, its technical excellence, its emotional impact, and its social relevance. The film also broke box office records, grossing over $9 million worldwide, making it the top-grossing film of 1921 and one of the highest-grossing silent films of all time.


The film also had a lasting influence on later films and genres. The film established Rex Ingram as one of the most respected directors of his era, and June Mathis as one of the most influential screenwriters of her time. The film also launched Rudolph Valentino's career as a superstar and an icon of romance and sexuality. The film also inspired many other films that dealt with World War I, such as All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Grand Illusion (1937), Paths of Glory (1957), and A Farewell to Arms (1932), which was also based on a novel by Ibáñez.


Conclusion




The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a classic silent film that deserves to be watched and appreciated by modern audiences. The film is not only a masterpiece of cinematic art, but also a powerful statement on the human condition and the consequences of war. The film is also a testament to the talent and vision of its creators, especially Rex Ingram, June Mathis, and Rudolph Valentino. The film is a timeless piece of cinema that transcends its historical context and speaks to universal themes of love, hate, life, and death.


FAQs




  • Q: Where can I watch The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?



  • A: The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray from various distributors. You can also watch it online on some streaming platforms or on YouTube.



  • Q: What is the significance of the prologue with the four horsemen riding across the sky?



  • A: The prologue is an original addition by Rex Ingram that sets the tone and theme of the film. It introduces the four horsemen as the symbolic representation of the war and its effects, and it foreshadows the fate of the characters and the world.



  • Q: How did Rudolph Valentino die?



  • A: Rudolph Valentino died on August 23, 1926, at the age of 31, due to complications from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. His death caused a massive public mourning, as thousands of fans gathered outside his funeral and some even committed suicide.



  • Q: What are some other films by Rex Ingram?



  • A: Some other films by Rex Ingram include The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), Scaramouche (1923), The Magician (1926), and Mare Nostrum (1926).



  • Q: What are some other novels by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez?



  • A: Some other novels by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez include Blood and Sand (1908), The Torrent (1909), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1916), and A Farewell to Arms (1929).





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