Lorna Doone

Talkie of the Week: Lorna Doone

USA 1951, 89 minutes, color, Columbia Pictures. Director: Phil Karlson, Producer: Edward Small, Written by: George Bruce, Jesse Lasky Jr., Richard Schayer, Based on the novel “Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor” by R.D. Blackmore. Cast: Barbara Hale, Richard Greene, Carl Benton Reid, William Bishop, Ron Randell, Sean McClory, Onslow Stevens, Lester Matthews, John Dehner, Gloria Petroff

Plot summary: When John Ridd falls in love with Lorna Doone, he doesn’t only fight the Doone clan to seek revenge for his father’s death but also to help Lorna escape her fate of having to marry another Doone against her will.

Review: Lorna Doone is a worthy adaptation of the novel written by R. D. Blackmore in 1869. Set in 17th century England, the story was cut down to a colorful movie of reasonable length with a beautiful choice of costumes and settings.

Barbara Hale stars as Lorna Doone, the female lead, who does not get as much screen time as the title may suggest, and that’s a let-down if you must look for one. Her portrayal of Lorna is emotionally gripping and excellently adapted to the time and place of the story which makes you long for more of her dilemma, her struggle. On top of that, Barbara Hale knows how to pull off those costumes, rich in color and detail. She practically glows in all of her scenes with on-screen partner Richard Greene, which may suggest a great casting decision or simply refer to her real life pregnancy with son William Katt at the time. Either way, it’s endearing to watch and underlines the romantic storyline with the right mix of heartache and surrender.

Richard Greene supports Barbara Hale’s intense performance with a smooth portrayal of John Ridd, the farmer’s son who seeks revenge for the death of his father and freedom for the woman he loves.

Evidently, Lorna Doone is a film for fans of genre films that come with sword fights, castles and men in tights. It is also a film for everybody who wants to see a decent cast of actors, including a charming male lead and an ever lovely and talented Barbara Hale. It’s a fantastic movie to lean back to and become a child again with a vivid imagination and romance-hungry eyes.

Available on DVD.