THE FORBIDDEN CITY
starring Norma Talmadge and Thomas Meighan
MOTION PICTURE
January, 1919

There is one startling fact about "The Forbidden City." Eugene O'Brien does not play the hero to Norma Talmadge's San San, and not only is San San the loser, but the picture public, as well. Aside from the absence of Mr. O'Brien, we miss also a something (is it a spark of sincerity?) from the work of Miss Talmadge. However, even when she is obviously acting and not living her part, as she usually does, this little actress is more interesting than nine-tenths of the picture stars. The Talmadge seems to be trying to imitate Nazimova, for which there is no need; Norma herself is all that is necessary. The story of "The Forbidden City" is unusual. It is the double history of a Chinese maiden who sins against her religion because she marries an American, and that of the daughter who escapes from the tragic fate of her mother and finally marries the young American she loves. Thomas Meighan appears opposite Miss Talmadge.


THE FORBIDDEN CITY
starring Norma Talmadge and Thomas Meighan
PHOTOPLAY
January, 1919

Norma Talmadge's large October vehicle might be described as "Madame Butterfly" turned inside out, and then turned outside in. For what happens to Toy's mother is what happened to Cho-Cho-San, only more so; and what happened to Toy is not at all what happened to Cho-Cho-San. The love of the Mandarin's daughter San-San for John Worden, the Consulate secretary, results in her death in the "alley of flashing spears," while her half-breed baby is reared to be a palace plaything and by-word. But Toy, the child, has her own idea of things, and escapes to Manila where she meets her lieutenant, and the rest is love and difficulty -- and love. While, for sheer dramatic opportunity, "The Forbidden City" does not compare with some of Miss Talmadge's recent plays, as a thing of beauty, it is beyond all of them, and the star's portrait of a Chinese girls is so perfect that director Franklin throws that perfection fairly in your face on an almond-eyed close-up. Always, Norma Talmadge is an artist. In one or two details the play misses its celestiality by an odd margin -- notably the scene in which the Pekin palace guard, to overcome an unwary foe, resorts to a barroom wrestling match, a thing about as unlike the Chinese character as anything that may be imagined. Your Oriental moves more subtly and certainly: an overturned flower pot, the plunge of a knife, strong strangling fingers . . . and the outward course of events flows so serenely that even passers-by cannot tell murder has been done. Tom Meighan enacts a man of varied years in Worden, the Consulate secretary who loved Toy's mother, and Reid Hamilton is the young lieutenant.


Video source: Unknown Video

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