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Foolish Wives

(silent 1922 b 108')

En: 5 Ed: 4

Three con artists use counterfeit bank notes and try to swindle money from an American diplomat and his wife.

The princesses Olga Petchnikoff (Maude George) and Vera Petchnikoff (Mae Busch) have leased a villa near Monte Carlo with their cousin Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin (Erich von Stroheim). Cesare Ventucci (Cesare Gravina) with his half-witted daughter Marietta (Malvina Polo) brings them counterfeit bank notes.

Andrew Hughes (Rudolph Christians) and his wife Helen Hughes (Miss DuPont) arrive in Monte Carlo. While Andrew goes to a diplomatic meeting, Sergius contrives to meet Helen on the hotel terrace. He offers to protect her and her husband from predators. The next day Sergius accompanies them and shows he can shoot birds. Helen tells Andrew that she got orchids from Sergius, and he takes them on a boat. Andrew tells Helen that he is not jealous.

Olga remains behind as Sergius and Helen go for a walk and get lost in the rain. He carries her to a rowboat which sinks. Sergius carries her in a marsh. Hours later Olga calls Andrew and says his wife is safe. Sergius has taken Helen to the home of a poor woman, and he tells Helen to sleep. A monk asks for shelter too, and Sergius tries to hide her left hand. At dawn Sergius returns Helen to her hotel. Olga advises Helen to tell her husband that they were all at an inn. Andrew finds Helen in bed and asks if she is reading Foolish Wives again.

The maid Maruschka (Dale Fuller) asks Sergius when he is going to marry her. Sergius goes to the house of Ventucci, sees Marietta sleeping, and pays him. Ventucci shows him a knife and says he will defend Marietta. Sergius tells Maruschka that he needs funds to marry her. She admits that she has saved 2,000 francs. Sergius pretends to cry, and she gives him her money.

In the evening the cousins, Sergius, and Helen gamble. Helen is ahead, and Sergius persuades her to risk it to win 100,000 francs. She wins, and the cousins invite her and Andrew to play poker. She declines, but he says yes. Helen reads a note from Sergius to go to his villa. Sergius tells Maruschka to prepare for a guest. Olga and Vera play poker with Andrew. He leaves early and finds that Helen is not in their rooms.

Sergius welcomes Helen, and Maruschka spies on them. Sergius tells Helen that he desperately needs 90,000 francs, and she hands it to him. Jealous Maruschka locks them in and starts a fire. Sergius and Helen escape the flames out on a balcony and shout. Fire engines come. Sergius and Helen jump into a net. Olga and Vera complain to Sergius about the fire. Andrew reads the note and finds Sergius in the gambling hall. Andrew hits Sergius and tells him to leave Monte Carlo with his two cousins.

Later that night Sergius climbs into Marietta's window. Olga and Vera are arrested and have their blond wigs removed. Ventucci drags the body of Sergius and throws it into a manhole. In the final scene Andrew shows Helen the end of the book as the wife prefers her noble husband to counterfeits.

This melodrama reflects the desperate tricks used by former aristocrats or those who imitate them to maintain a lofty standard of living.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

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