I saw Frank Lloyd‘s Children of Divorce for the first time in Rome, NY when I attended this year’s Capitolfest. Of the many films featuring Gary Cooper screened that weekend, Children of Divorce was one of my favorites. So I was thrilled when Flicker Alley announced that its 50th release would be a world premiere restoration of this movie on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Children of Divorce tells the story of three childhood friends – all children of divorce – who get caught up in a love triangle as adults. Kitty (Clara Bow) was raised by a five-time divorcee (Hedda Hopper) who ingrained in her daughter the notion that the only way to get ahead in life is by marrying rich. Jean (Esther Ralston) manages to hold dear what really matters in life. She longs for a marriage based on love and values that will last. And Teddy (Gary Cooper) who lives a frivolous life where his every whim is granted, but still manages a sincere effort to change for true love.
Teddy and Jean fall in love and are serious about forging a life together, so serious in fact that Teddy actually gets a job for the first time in his life in order to prove himself to Jean. Their union is a certainty until party girl, Kitty tricks Teddy into marrying her during a night of drunken revelry – even though she is not in love with him and knows Teddy and her close friend, Jean love each other.
Time passes and unhappiness only grows for the three whose friendship survives even betrayal. But an important life lesson is learned far too late by Kitty. It’s love, not money, that makes life worth living.
Children of Divorce is a well-realized, elegant drama, which offers more than one meaningful social message and terrific performances. Although, I warn, you may be distracted by a young Gary Cooper who is simply stunning. Esther Ralston is quite good as Jean, but it’s Clara Bow’s performance that’s particularly memorable. Bow brings dramatic chops to compliment her usual exuberance in this one. Plus she’s dressed in gorgeous Travis Banton designs.
Children of Divorce is also shot beautifully. There’s one particular sequence toward the end of the movie that takes my breath away where Kitty is walking through doors toward her bedroom and the camera pans back slowly adding to the determination of a life-altering decision (no spoilers).
Flicker Alley has a lot to celebrate. Not only did it choose to present the little-known Children of Divorce, which has never been available on home video before, as its 50th title, but it does so with style. I urge you to visit the Flicker Alley site for details about the restoration, which was labor-intensive. As a fan I can tell you it was all worth it because the movie looks amazing. There are a few moments in the film where some damage is apparent, but it doesn’t distract. Instead, these serve as reminds of how important it is to save these movies before they’re lost forever.
The Children of Divorce dual format, deluxe edition includes the Clara Bow: Discovering the ‘It’ Girl documentary, which is quite moving. Plus you get a souvenir booklet wherein you can read about the terrific new score by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra – among other details about the release.
This is now a valued member of my movie collection. It’s exquisite.
PS – you might want to visit Classic Movie Hub for a chance to win a copy of this Children of Divorce deluxe set.
Read the section in Josef von Sternberg’s autobiography where he explains how he reshot (uncredited) almost half the film because the studio thought it was going to be a failure. His biggest challenge was to match his footage’s style to the existing one.
I read that in a Paramount book, but with few details. I’m afraid reading von Sternberg’s bio requires two years. 🙂 In any case, it’s a stunning film and he no doubt shot that scene I love with Bow walking through those doors.
Along with you at Capitolfest, I saw and loved the film and just ordered it today! I would like to mention that I also bought from Flicker Alley the 1919 film BEHIND THE DOOR. I had a chance to see this film just a couple of years ago at Cinefest in Syracuse and all I’ll say is it’s very shocking! I am excited to own both.
I’ve never seen BEHIND TGE DOOR, but can’t wait to. 🙂
Oh my…how young Gary Cooper was…
I’m going to put this one on my list – sounds good.
Aurora, JvS’s book doesn’t take THAT long to read. lol It’s a bit on the unorganized side but worth reading.