Parisian Love (1925) A Silent Film Review

Clara Bow is a Parisian Apache whose boyfriend is taken away by a do-gooder. Determined to show the goody-two-shoes a lesson, she decides to marry him. Yes, that is the plot they decided to go with. Bow’s frequent co-star, Donald Keith, is the purloined boyfriend.

Home Media Availability: Released on DVD.

Gangster Clara!

Clara Bow was one of the hardest workers in Hollywood. Need proof? Well, this film was one of over a dozen features that were released in 1925 alone.

When churning out films at this breakneck speed, it is inevitable that quality will slip. Let’s see if that’s the case with Parisian Love.

Clara Bow is Marie, a Parisian Apache who isn’t afraid to mix it up with the boys. She loves Armand (frequent Bow co-star Donald Keith), a young man of good family who has slipped into bad company. The gang plans to rob the home of Professor Marcel (Lou Tellegen), a wealthy eccentric.

The Notorious B.O.W.
The Notorious B.O.W.

During the burglary, Armand prevents the professor from being murdered. In return, the professor kidnaps Armand, sics the police after the rest of the Apaches and declares that he will make a civilized man out of his prisoner. Armand is really a gentleman, you see. A former student of Marcel’s and thus worth saving.

Um…

In case you were wondering, this snobby Victorian idea that a gentlemen who falls into a life of crime is somehow more worthy of redemption than a common criminal… Well, Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of that attitude in The Pirates of Penzance.

How could anyone find this creepy?
How could anyone find this creepy?

Clara escapes but is worried about Armand. So she takes an undercover job as a maid at Marcel’s mansion. She manages to ward off amorous gentlemen and finally makes her way to Armand, who is recovering from injuries sustained earlier in the film.

The professor should have been likable but he is just so… creepy. His leering expressions are bad enough but his behavior is truly strange. I mean, he presents the would-be burglar as a potential mate to his young friend, Jean (Alyce Mills). Jean, by the way, seems thrilled by this arrangement. Practically unable to contain her glee. She even kisses him, oh, ten seconds after being introduced. Is this how she gets all her boyfriends? Her professor abducts young criminals for her to love? Who in their right mind would go along with this?

I have kidnapped you a new boyfriend!
I have kidnapped you a new boyfriend!

Anyway, Marie sees the kiss, thinks Armand has dumped her and hightails it back to the underworld. Armand sort of looks for her but then gives up and goes to stay in Marcel’s London home.

Marie, meanwhile, plans revenge on Marcel for taking away Armand. She will pose as a convent-raised aristocrat and trick him into marrying her. Of course.

She has a plan. It's a terrible plan but a plan nonetheless.
She has a plan. It’s a terrible plan but a plan nonetheless.

Other than Bow, none of the performances are really notable. Lou Tellegen is always casting goony looks and Donald Keith is bland. The other actors, particularly the ones playing Apaches, overact shamelessly.

And in case you have not noticed, the plot of this film is nuts. The main problem is that the characters are placed in insane situations and then forced to act in a way that no human would. It’s like everyone involved thinks that 2+2=17. The film also manages to be both rushed and rather dull in turn. It’s only 65 minutes long but it is a chore to get through.

Um, Donald, you might want to be awake for this...
Um, Donald, you might want to be awake for this…

The basic problem with the film? (Other than the terrible scenario, I mean.)

It can be summed up in three words: not enough Bow.

Whenever she is on the screen, the film comes alive. However, she is absent for long stretches as the story focuses on Armand. Donald Keith is an okay actor but he does not have the talent or charisma to carry a movie for any length. Since the plot stinks anyway, I would be perfectly content to have the whole thing re-edited so that only Clara’s scenes remain. I guarantee that it would be much more entertaining.

One can safely say that she gets into her part...
One can safely say that she gets into her part…

Donald Keith, by the way, manages to sleep through a kiss from Clara Bow (he thinks he dreamed it) but he is easily awoken by a window being gently opened. At least he knows where his priorities are. Later, he spends precisely three minutes looking for Marie before he decides that all is lost and gives up. Clearly he did all he could. He asked about her in one place, didn’t he? And they said she was out, didn’t they? Looking for Clara is haaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.

I’m not sure he deserves her.

Telling the professor what for.
Telling the professor what for.

A bit of spoiler here: The film might have redeemed itself in tragedy but instead we are treated to a tacked-on happy ending with everyone conveniently annulling and disappearing, as the case may be. Marie even discovers that she is a lost aristocrat. How convenient! The one percenters of the silent era certainly had a way of mislaying their children in exotic locations.

Clara Bow and her effusive personality are the only reasons to catch this film. The plot is stupid, the supporting cast is dreadful and the whole thing looks cheap (which it was). It has value as a so-bad-it’s-good bit of entertainment (after all, it is directed by the man who gave us Reefer Madness) but there are so many better Clara Bow vehicles out there.

Movies Silently’s Score: ★½

Where can I see it?

Parisian Love was released on DVD as a double feature with Down to the Sea in Ships, Bow’s first major role.