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Friends and Lovers

(1931 b 68')

En: 5 Ed: 4

This story poses the question whether two men can remain friends after they discover they are in love with the same woman.

Captain Roberts (Adolphe Menjou) brings Alva (Lili Damita) home late to her husband Colonel Sangrito (Erich von Stroheim), who knows they have not been to the opera but were alone. He asks the captain for 5,000 pounds and has him write a check. The next day Captain Roberts is leaving for two years in India; but before he goes, he asks Alva to get a divorce. Sangrito gives his wife a share of the money and says he will not let her go. He reads a letter the captain sent to her, and she says she will not write to him; he uses his influence over her to make her do so.

In India Lieutenant Nichols (Laurence Olivier) reports to Captain Roberts for duty, saying he is in love. Roberts proposes the toast: "To war, whiskey, and women." The captain and Nichols discover they are both in love with Alva and quarrel. Roberts orders Nichols to lead the troops against some marauding bandits. Later he gets on his horse to go after him. In London Sangrito beats Alva to make her obey him, and the servant shoots him. The wounded Nichols and Roberts burn the photograph of Alva, and Nichols thanks the captain for saving his life. Then Roberts burns an unopened letter.

Back in London Captain Roberts and Nichols meet Alva's fiancé and Alva at a dinner party. Nichols asks if two men in love with the same woman can remain friends when they still care about her. They vowed to be true friends. Later Alva explains to Roberts that to her Nichols was only a boy she knew before she met him. Then Nichols tells Roberts of his own jealousy and retires. Alva comes to Roberts' bedroom, and Nichols finds them embracing. He picks up a gun and shoots, but Alva deflects his aim. When the hosts come in, she explains that she came to his bedroom uninvited. The hostess urges her to leave, and she departs. At the end Roberts runs after her and goes with her in the car.

These army officers manage to remain fairly good friends in spite of their mutual jealousy, though in the end friendship between men cannot overcome the love for a woman. The predatory Sangrito is destroyed by his own violence. Underlying it all is the difficulty military men have in finding normal sexual relationships when they are isolated by imperial colonialism.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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