Here come the bride and groom…
Here’s our second post-wedding story in two weeks, and this time we’re going silent with the 1926 film, The Canadian. I had heard of this movie but didn’t know much about it, so when it came time to dive in I was pleasantly surprised.
The film begins with Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan) plowing an Alberta grain field for his friend, Ed Marsh (Wyndham Standing). Ed is an Englishman whose sister, Nora (Mona Palma) has just arrived to join him in Canada. Since he’s got farm tasks to do, Ed sends Frank to go meet Nora at the train station.
Nora’s been living with an aunt, and she’s always been used to the finer things in life, so when it comes to living on a Canadian farm, she’s a wee bit city helpless. She’s also rather a diva. Ed’s industrious wife, Gertie (Dale Fuller), Frank, and the rest of the farmhands watch, perplexed as Nora picks at her food, wipes her fork with her napkin before eating, and pours her milk into a glass when Gertie brings it to her in a dirty mug.
Gertie and Nora clash constantly. Nora tries to help out in the kitchen, but she’s so clueless that she pours an entire tin of rice into a pot and then fills the pot up with water. The obvious outcome would be a Ricky Ricardo-type of situation with overflowing rice, but it doesn’t happen, and somehow everyone is able to eat the stuff without any tummy issues. Gertie gets on Nora’s case so much at lunch that Nora chews her out. Ed talks Nora into apologizing, but then Gertie twists the knife and demands she apologize to the farmhands, too.
This is the last straw for Nora. Fortunately, or not, she hears Frank talking to Pop (Charles Winninger) that day about how he needs a wife now that his own farm is up and running. He doesn’t expect much, just someone who can keep house for him. After this latest dust-up with Gertie, Nora volunteers to marry Frank, who doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing.
Frank and Nora make a beeline for a Justice of the Peace and then head out to Frank’s farm. After an extremely awkward dinner, Nora hides in the bedroom, leaving Frank to sleep on a couple of benches in the common room.
The tension goes on for a few weeks, only bubbling to the surface when Frank wonders why Nora hasn’t kissed him yet (Um, duh? Spur-of-the-moment marriage, anyone?). He makes the mistake of stealing a few besos from Nora, who belts him and then points a shotgun in his direction. It isn’t loaded, but Nora puts it beside her bed anyway. This is, unfortunately, where the film implies that Frank rapes Nora. Nothing is shown, but Frank tearing at the shoulder of Nora’s dress is a pretty direct indicator.
While Frank is in town shopping the next day, Nora packs her suitcase and takes off down the road. She doesn’t get far before she sprains an ankle, and after limping a ways, falls into a dead faint. Frank finds her and brings her home, sitting by her bedside until she wakes up. Nora’s still got a hate on for him, though, so Frank loads the shotgun in case Nora wants to point it at him again. In his favor, he seems genuinely guilty about what he’s done.
Frank and Nora patch things up over the winter, and by the time spring planting rolls around they’re getting along fairly well, although Frank sleeps in the barn. Nora is still learning her way around keeping house, so Frank invites Pop to come help. He knows Nora is trying, so he doesn’t want Pop to tell her he’s there because she needs a lot of coaching.
During harvest season, Ed drops by with a letter for Nora, who is all smiles about her life on the farm, and they’re both amazed to find out their aunt’s estate has left Nora five hundred pounds. Still, Nora puts it on the shelf and seemingly forgets about it until a storm flattens the new wheat crop. Frank says Nora should take that money and go back to England, where she can get a divorce. Except for the fact that both of them now view each other in a different light, this would seem like the easy way out.
I really enjoyed The Canadian. It has its dark points, but overall it’s a quiet film that seems over all too soon. The chemistry between Thomas Meighan and Mona Palma is nicely scrappy. What’s really surprising is how it’s relatively cheerful story, even though it’s based on a 1913 W. Somerset Maugham play, The Land of Promise. He wasn’t exactly the most upbeat or well-adjusted fella to say the least (Read my review of his novel, Of Human Bondage here).
Apparently, Maugham was feeling unusually chipper when he wrote The Land of Promise. If anything, The Canadian is toned-down from the play, which was more of an overt comedy with some sly digs at Canada, such as flowers growing out of maple syrup cans and moose head trophies on the wall. It would be interesting to consider what the movie would have been like if it had incorporated some of Maugham’s satirical elements.
Where does it all land? Well, the ending of The Canadian isn’t exactly shocking, but it’s satisfying, and that’s what counts. It’s not a big epic film with lots of derring-do or crazy antics, but just a redeeming little story about two people brought together by circumstance. While it may be a wee bit predictable, it’s comforting to see how these two characters work things out.
For more looks at matrimony, please visit Annette at Hometowns To Hollywood. Thanks for hosting, Annette–this was fun! Thanks for reading, all, and see you next time…
The Canadian is available on DVD from Amazon.