Robert Hichens was a prolific author who is now almost utterly forgotten except for his ghost story 'How Love Came to Professor Guildea', which is widely anthologised. The first time I read that story, it quite bored me. Years later, I read it again and was deeply horrified.
'The Voice from the Minaret' is a film based on a Hichens novel which I haven't read. This film is a shallow and bathetic soap opera, which impressed me only for some elaborate (but unconvincing) sets. Maybe if I wait a few years and see this movie again, it will impress me ... as Hichens's ghost story did, the second time round. Somehow, I rather doubt it.
SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. Lady Adrienne Carlyle (Norma Talmadge) is the wife of the colonial governor of Bombay, played by Edwin Stevens in Snidely Whiplash mode. When Lady Carlyle learns that her husband is playing footsie with the Countess La Fontaine (apparently Bombay is knee-deep in bluebloods), she hops the next steamship bound for Southampton, intending to get a divorce in England. Aboard ship, she meets handsome Andrew Fabian, and the two of them start knockin' boots in Lady Carlyle's stateroom. Erm, but it turns out that Fabian is a missionary, bound for Port Said to convert the heathens. No problem: Lady Carlyle jumps ship with him, and the two of them carry on knockin' boots in Damascus. Presumably in the missionary position.
Out of the canebrakes comes a bishop who persuades the two sinners to repent. Lady Carlyle and Fabian, shamefaced, go their separate ways. Then Lord Carlyle conveniently pops his clogs. Happy endings all round, as Lady Carlyle and her preacher-man scurry to the nearest choir loft ... where they can be married without the stigma of a divorce for Lady Carlyle.
What a load of cobblers! Some of the sets feature some impressive chinoiserie, but I never for an instant believed that these characters were in Bombay, Port Said, aboard an ocean liner, or in any place other than a Hollywood set. Talmadge overacts rather direly, and it's only because Edwin Stevens's histrionics are even worse that Talmadge is acceptable at all. The self-righteous and hypocritical ending doesn't help. I'll rate this movie one point in 10, purely for the art direction and some decent photography.
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