Starring: John Barrymore, Dolores Costello, Warner Oland
Directed by: Alan Crosland
Cat Out of the Bag Alert! This review contains some spoilers for this film!
Synopsis: Chevalier Fabien des Grieux (John Barrymore) has foregone his title to study to be a priest but his plans change when he sets eyes on the beautiful Manon Lescaut (Dolores Costello).
Cat Burglar (Scene Stealer): This silent film features an adorable long-haired tabby kitten named Fifi who is present throughout most of the first two thirds of the film.
Fifi is first seen in the lap of the lovely Manon as she rides in a carriage with her brother (Warner Oland) and Comte Guillot de Morfontaine (Sam De Grasse).
As the scene progresses, Manon reaches over to get a basket and the kitten jumps to the floor. Manon can’t find the kitten and de Morfontaine takes advantage of the opportunity to lift her skirt with his cane, revealing Fifi.
When the carriage arrives at the inn, Manon has again lost the kitten but sees her on top of the carriage. There is a gasp-worthy moment as Fifi tumbles from the top of the carriage and is about to fall but catches herself. One of the men present lifts the kitten down and hands her to Manon.
As Manon walks into the inn with Fifi in a basket she exchanges a love-at-first-sight glance with Fabien. She then looks a little apprehensive.
Manon’s brother accepts money from Morfontaine for his sister, much to her dismay, but Fabien offers his services. It is clear they already have feelings for each other and Fabien goes to kiss her hand but kisses Fifi instead.
Fabien and Manon run to Paris where they end up staying in a low-class boarding house. Fifi lies in bed with Manon as she sleeps fitfully during the storm.
Fifi takes another notable tumble as she is playing on a table in the background when Fabien’s friend Jean Tiberge (Holmes Herbert) comes looking for him.
Fifi then sneaks into Manon’s case as her brother is packing it. He has tricked her into leaving Fabien.
Manon leaves Fifi with instructions that Fabien should take care of her until she can return. Manon thinks she is only going to be away for a few days.
Fabien is crushed, thinking Manon has left him for a rich man. He wanders the streets of Paris looking for her, carrying Fifi, where he is ruthlessly ridiculed. Even Fifi seems depressed in these scenes, no longer playful.
Entering a tavern, Fabien tries to shield Fifi from a man’s second-hand smoke.
Fabien is even thoughtful enough to order some milk for Fifi when he wants nothing for himself.
Fifi does not appear again until a year later when Fabien and Manon have reunited. Manon even mentions that Fifi must be a beautiful adult cat by then. She is only seen in one scene in bed with the couple, and that part of the film appears to have been damaged. Fortunately stills exist of the scene. But Fifi does not seem as important as before, with Fabien even bringing Manon a monkey instead.
Final Mewsings: A cat needs just as much love when they grow up.
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