The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – 1921 Silent Movie
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse is a silent movie of 1921, based on the novel of the same name written by Vicente Blasco Ibanez. This movie was the top grosser in 1921, overcoming even “The Kid” by Charlie Chaplin. It went on to be ranked sixth in the best grossing silent movie category of all time. This silent movie brought about the craze in tango dancing and started the fashion fad of gaucho pants.
The movie stars Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, Pomeroy Cannon, Wallace Beery, and Joseph Swickard. Direction is by Rex Ingram and the movie was produced by Metro Pictures Corporation. The story is inspired by events of World War I but fictional, and considered the first film taking a stand against war.
The story revolves around Julio played by Rudolph Valentino. He is the classic Latin lover and the favorite grandson of a rich Argentine landowner Madariaga (played by Pomeroy Cannon). The two often end up in drunken merrymaking at bars, and in one such bar, Julio performs the famous tango dance with a woman, which is highly appreciated by the crowd. Shortly afterwards, Madariaga dies and the family breaks up, with Julio ending up in Paris living a carefree life, but has become quite a sensation at dances.
Julio falls for Marguerite Laurier (played by Alice Terry) the young wife of his father’s friend. Their affair is discovered by Marguerite’s husband Etienne, however he agrees for a divorce. All seems great for the couple to marry, but World War I suddenly erupts and plans are put on hold. The war makes Marguerite into a nurse, while her husband Etienne becomes blind in battle. Etienne is attended by Marguerite in the hospital, and at that time Julio comes there. Julio, who up to this time had shirked the uniform, now feels ashamed, and sees the specter of the four horsemen comprising of death, famine, conquest and war. These happenings prompt Julio to join the French Army.
Meanwhile the German Army has captured the castle of Marcelo, who is Julio’s father. A German nephew of Marcelo tries to protect him, but Marcelo is scheduled for execution. However, Marcelo is saved just in time by the counterattack of the French army. Julio’s stint in the army has made him popular, and he is known for his bravery. However, he is eventually killed by his German cousin in the battlefield. Meantime in Paris Marguerite is thinking of abandoning blind Etienne, but she is visited by the ghost of Julio, who advises her to continue her care for her husband. The movie ends with families mourning for their dead, and shows a grim spectacle of the devastation of war.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse became very popular movie at that time. Even though it was dwelling on a heavy theme of destiny and fate, the main attraction was Rudolph Valentino doing the forbidden tango and his portrayal of a Latin lover. This movie shot him to fame and people still remember him for the tango.