The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

132 mins | Melodrama | March 1921

Director:

Rex Ingram

Writer:

June Mathis

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Editor:

Grant Whytock

Production Company:

Metro Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The onscreen title of the film was listed as Vicente Blasco Ibañez’ Literary Masterpiece The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse . The onscreen credit for Loew’s Inc. read "Loew Inc." The picture, which was the first film released after Loew’s takeover of Metro, proved to be the studio’s greatest critical and commercial success to that time, and one of the first silent films to make $1,000,000. A Mar 1921 NYMirror review noted the epic nature of the production that cost “in the neighborhood of $800,000” and necessitated director Rex Ingram having fourteen assistants, fourteen cameramen and a cast that numbered over 12,000. An Apr 1921 LAH stated that the film was in its seventh week and doing “sensational” business.
       Along with the LAH , other reviews commented on the faithful quality of the popular novel’s adaptation by June Mathis and the ideal casting. The Mar 1921 NYGlobe review noted that the adaptation had “done an impossible thing…with incredible skill and fidelity.” Modern sources add Rose Dione, Louise Emmons, John George, Fred Kelsey and Ramon Navarro to the cast of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse .
       In addition to its enormous box office success, The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse was the break-out romantic leading role for young Italian actor Rudolph Valentino (1895—1926), who until then had acted under several variations of his name. From 1914, he had been cast in small supporting roles, frequently as a villain due to his dark “exotic” looks. According to modern history of Metro, when Valentino demanded a hundred dollars-a-week raise ... More Less

The onscreen title of the film was listed as Vicente Blasco Ibañez’ Literary Masterpiece The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse . The onscreen credit for Loew’s Inc. read "Loew Inc." The picture, which was the first film released after Loew’s takeover of Metro, proved to be the studio’s greatest critical and commercial success to that time, and one of the first silent films to make $1,000,000. A Mar 1921 NYMirror review noted the epic nature of the production that cost “in the neighborhood of $800,000” and necessitated director Rex Ingram having fourteen assistants, fourteen cameramen and a cast that numbered over 12,000. An Apr 1921 LAH stated that the film was in its seventh week and doing “sensational” business.
       Along with the LAH , other reviews commented on the faithful quality of the popular novel’s adaptation by June Mathis and the ideal casting. The Mar 1921 NYGlobe review noted that the adaptation had “done an impossible thing…with incredible skill and fidelity.” Modern sources add Rose Dione, Louise Emmons, John George, Fred Kelsey and Ramon Navarro to the cast of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse .
       In addition to its enormous box office success, The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse was the break-out romantic leading role for young Italian actor Rudolph Valentino (1895—1926), who until then had acted under several variations of his name. From 1914, he had been cast in small supporting roles, frequently as a villain due to his dark “exotic” looks. According to modern history of Metro, when Valentino demanded a hundred dollars-a-week raise following the success of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse , the studio refused and placed him in a low budget film, Uncharted Seas (see below), where Valentino met his second wife, Natacha Rambova. After Uncharted Seas , Valentino made one more picture for Metro before quitting and signing with Famous Players-Lasky and moving to Paramount Studios.
       He had enormous popular and commercial successes at Paramount with The Sheik (1921, see below) and Blood and Sand (1922, see below). However, he again faced financial complications when Famous Players-Lasky filed suit against him for refusing to work until his salary demands were met. In 1925 Valentino signed with United Artists, which released two of his films, including a reprisal of his famous “sheik” role in the successful The Son of the Shiek (see below) released in Jul 1926, one month before the star’s death. For more information about Valentino’s untimely death, please see the entry below for The Sheik .
       In 1961 M-G-M made another adaptation of Ibanez' The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (see below). That version, which starred Glenn Ford and Ingrid Thulin, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli, updated the story to a World War II setting.
       Since 1992, following a full restoration by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's Photoplay Productions, the 1921 film has been presented at limited special screenings and on television stations Channel Four in Britain and TCM in the US, accompanied by an original score by Carl Davis. The restoration included many scenes that had been deleted or thought missing since the film's premiere, including original tinting and a single shot of a brief Prizma Color sequence that had been in the original release. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
20 Feb 1921
p. 3.
LAH
23 Apr 1921.
---
Life
24 Mar 1921
p. 433.
New York Globe
7 Mar 1921.
---
New York Mirror
20 Mar 1921.
---
New York Times
7 Mar 1921
p. 8.
New York Times
3 Oct 1926
Sec. 8
Photoplay
1 May 1921
p. 52.
Variety
18 Feb 1921
p. 40.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Rex Ingram's Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir and under supv
Asst dir
WRITERS
Wrt for the screen by
Art titles
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Tech staff
Tech staff
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Los cuatros jinetes del Apocalipsis by Vicente Blasco-Ibáñez (Valencia, 1916).
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1921
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 6 March 1921
Production Date:
1920
Copyright Claimant:
Metro Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
24 March 1921
Copyright Number:
LP16308
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black & white with color sequences
Prizma Color
Duration(in mins):
132
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

At the end of the 19th century, cattle and sheep trader Julio Madariaga leaves Spain for Argentina to make his fortune. Within several years, Madariaga has amassed a wealthy empire, as well as a reputation that inspires both devotion and fear. Madariaga’s daughters, Luisa and Elena, each marry foreigners: Luisa, Frenchman Marcelo Desnoyers and Elena, German Karl von Hartrott. Madariaga favors Marcelo, and yearns for his son-in-law and daughter to bear him a son and heir. Meanwhile Karl, who married Elena against Madariaga’s wishes, fathers three sons, and when Luisa at last becomes pregnant, he hopes that the child will be a girl so his sons will inherit the family's wealth. The Desnoyers welcome a son, however, who is named after his joyous grandfather. Young Julio grows up as the apple of his Madariaga’s eye and is repeatedly promised that he will one day inherit the family fortune. As a young man, the charming Julio develops a reputation as a pampered libertine who finds amusement in tangoing with wealthy patrons at a dance bar, to the disappointment of Marcelo. Upon Madariaga’s eventual death, his will discloses that his fortune will be divided equally between Luisa and Elena. Satisfied, Karl immediately announces his intention to move his family to Germany where his sons may receive a proper education. Not to be outdone, Luisa declares that Julio and his sister Chichí would fare better in Paris. Marcelo initially hesitates, however, having fled to Argentina when, as a young Socialist university student in Paris, he left France rather than take up arms against German invaders. Soon, though, Marcelo ... +


At the end of the 19th century, cattle and sheep trader Julio Madariaga leaves Spain for Argentina to make his fortune. Within several years, Madariaga has amassed a wealthy empire, as well as a reputation that inspires both devotion and fear. Madariaga’s daughters, Luisa and Elena, each marry foreigners: Luisa, Frenchman Marcelo Desnoyers and Elena, German Karl von Hartrott. Madariaga favors Marcelo, and yearns for his son-in-law and daughter to bear him a son and heir. Meanwhile Karl, who married Elena against Madariaga’s wishes, fathers three sons, and when Luisa at last becomes pregnant, he hopes that the child will be a girl so his sons will inherit the family's wealth. The Desnoyers welcome a son, however, who is named after his joyous grandfather. Young Julio grows up as the apple of his Madariaga’s eye and is repeatedly promised that he will one day inherit the family fortune. As a young man, the charming Julio develops a reputation as a pampered libertine who finds amusement in tangoing with wealthy patrons at a dance bar, to the disappointment of Marcelo. Upon Madariaga’s eventual death, his will discloses that his fortune will be divided equally between Luisa and Elena. Satisfied, Karl immediately announces his intention to move his family to Germany where his sons may receive a proper education. Not to be outdone, Luisa declares that Julio and his sister Chichí would fare better in Paris. Marcelo initially hesitates, however, having fled to Argentina when, as a young Socialist university student in Paris, he left France rather than take up arms against German invaders. Soon, though, Marcelo agrees to the move, and the Desnoyers settle in Paris. Over the next few years, Marcelo devotes himself to purchasing antiques, Luisa frets over Karl’s increasing social renown in Germany, Chichí grows sophisticated but arrogant and Julio struggles with art studies while continuing his interest in dancing. When Chichí accuses Marcelo of being miserly to Julio, thus threatening his education, her father insists that his son is living a life of debauchery. One day, in need of money, Julio visits his home, where Marcelo entertains two good friends, Senator Lacour and attorney Etienne Laurier. While Luisa secretly gives Julio a valuable necklace to pawn, Lacour’s reserved son, Rene, attempts to court the lively Chichí. When Etienne’s much younger wife, Marguerite, arrives to join her husband, Julio is smitten. Having seen the handsome young man perform at the Tango Palace, Marguerite, to Laurier’s annoyance, is flattered by his attentions. Soon after, Marcelo moves his valuables into a castle he has purchased on the Marne near the village of Villeblanche and takes Luisa and Chichí to visit. Julio, meanwhile, continues his erratic art studies as well as dancing and is delighted when Marguerite begins visiting the Tango Palace regularly. Fearful that their growing attraction will be reported to Laurier, Julio asks Marguerite to his studio, vowing to keep her visits above board. The couple eventually falls in love just as news reaches France of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Although the Desnoyers take little notice of this, Julio’s secretary, Argensola, visits the mysterious neighbor who lives above the art studio, and the Stranger predicts that the murder will bring great disaster to the world, particularly between the French and Germans. When Marcelo, Luisa and Chichí return from Villeblanche, Laurier relates Julio’s indiscretions with Marguerite and insists on taking Marcelo to confront Julio at his studio. Stunned when Laurier and his father announce themselves while he is entertaining Marguerite, she hides, but when Laurier spots her gloves, then angrily challenges Julio to a duel, Marguerite collapses. After Marcelo pleads with his friend not to provoke a scandal, Laurier calls off the challenge and agrees to divorce Marguerite. Spurred by the Archduke's assassination, war breaks out across Europe. The Stranger tells Argensola of Saint John’s revelations of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who are now loose across Europe; the first is Conquest, the second War, the third Pestilence and the fourth, Death. Although middle-aged, Laurier joins the French army, while Marcelo worries that his past will come to light. Marguerite surprises Julio by joining a nursing unit, but she admits to relief that, as an Argentinean, he is not required to enlist. As the war continues, Marcelo sends Luisa and Chichí to the safety of Bordeaux while he returns to Villeblanche with only the lodgekeeper, his wife and daughter. Although weary French forces struggle to hold back the German army from that region, the village is soon overrun, and Marcelo’s castle is commandeered for German headquarters. Finding two of Karl's sons, Otto and Heinrich, with Lt. Col. Von Richthosen’s staff, Marcelo pleads for help, but Otto reminds him that it is a time of war. Meanwhile, Julio tracks Marguerite to a medical rest home outside Paris, where she reveals that Laurier has been blinded and is recovering there. To Julio’s dismay, Marguerite avers that the war has changed all of their lives, she realizes that she must remain with Laurier. Declaring that he is through with being regarded as a coward, Julio proclaims his love for France and his intention to fight for her. Back at the castle in Villeblanche, while the German officers enjoy a drunken dinner, Von Richthosen attempts to force himself on the daughter of the lodgekeeper, who attempts to intercede but is bayoneted. The next day, a despondent Marcelo watches as French forces return to drive the Germans from Villeblanche. After a day of heavy fighting, he is able to return to Paris, where he is reconciled with Julio after learning that he has enlisted. Following four long bloody years of conflict, the French and British forces are uplifted by the arrival of American forces. Near Paris one day, an exhausted Julio runs into Rene at a Salvation Army camp. The two later meet Marcelo, who is pleased to hear of his son’s exploits. Before returning to the field, when Julio asks about Marguerite, Marcelo confides that she loyally has remained with Laurier, but is clearly unhappy. As the war nears its end, Marguerite decides to leave Laurier to return to Julio. That same night, beyond the trenches in “No Man’s Land,” Julio and Otto confront each other but as each hesitates to shoot, they both are struck by a cannon shell. Back in Paris as Marguerite packs her belongings, she senses the ghost of Julio, who tells her to remain with Laurier. Later, in Germany, after Karl learns that Otto, his last surviving son, has died, Elena blames him for leaving Argentina. Some days later, when Marcelo, Luisa, Chichí and Rene visit Julio’s grave, the Stranger joins them. When Marcelo, kneeling at his son’s grave, asks if he knew Julio, the Stranger looks at the vast sea of military graves and replies that he knew them all. Helping Marcelo to his feet, the Stranger cautions that, although the Four Horsemen have galloped away, they will continue to return to the world until love between men reigns at last. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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