Lorna Doone (1922)
Directed by Maurice Tourneur father of Jacques this silent film version of the R. D. Blackmore novel features Madge Bellamy in the title role.
The film begins by introducing us to the notorious Doone family a band of outlaws with their own hidden camp that terrorize the roads in a particular area. Young Lorna (Mae Giraci) meets a boy John Ridd at the water fountain in town. When he hears that she’s riding with her mother through the Doones’ territory she gives her his knife which has his name carved in it. Later when their carriage is attacked Lorna is taken hostage while her mother is left for dead by the seaside. Young John (Charles Hatton) witnesses the attack but can do nothing to prevent it. However he vows to one day seek revenge against the Doones.
Fortunately for Lorna she is “adopted” by Sir Ensor Doone the leader of the Doone clan who’s protection of her from the others is the way he has chosen to seek redemption since he’s too old to continue to participate in the raids in any case. Lorna (Bellamy now) lives in peace in their hidden conclave. Meanwhile John (John Bowers) has grown up strong on the farm with his mother (Irene De Voss uncredited) and cousin Ruth (Norris Johnson) who secretly loves him. Since Sir Ensor is aging he meets with his counsellor (Jack McDonald) to make arrangements. His counsellor feels that his son Carver (Donald MacDonald) would make a good match for Lorna. However when Sir Ensor sees that she is horrified at the prospect of marriage to such a rough thug he doesn’t press the issue.
Out one day playing with a log in the river John falls into the raging torrent and is carried over a waterfall near the Doones’ camp. He awakens to find himself staring up at Lorna who once she learns his name retrieves his knife gift such that he now knows who she is. She apparently convinces him that she’s in no danger and actually helps him to escape before Carver sees him but John tells her how to signal him if she ever needs his help. When Sir Ensor is near death Lorna suspects she may need John so she sends a friend (Joan Standing) to signal him. Sure enough Carver begins to move in on Lorna but John who dives over the waterfall this time arrives in time to rescue & take her away.
One would think that John and Lorna would live happily ever after at this point. However Sir Ensor had arranged for a proper lady the Countess of Brandir (Gertrude Astor) to take responsibility and give Lorna a proper upbringing (with his dirty money?). John comes to visit her and even ends up saving a royal child from conspirators before his crude improper behavior embarrasses him such that he runs away. However true love conquers all and Lorna relinquishes her title to return and marry John.
*** SPOILERS ***
John’s cousin Ruth is jealous of Lorna and goes to the Doones’ conclave to tell Carver who goes to the wedding and shoots Lorna just before she says “I do”. Enraged John rushes to the fortified hideout to enact his revenge. Fortunately for him he is followed by all the upstanding citizens in the town who’ve finally had enough including Ruth who is sorry for what she did. The townspeople mount a frontal assault on the Doones’ encampment while John leads some of the men around back to attack them from the rear. They vanquish the Doones and a sad John returns home to find much to his surprise that Lorna wasn’t killed after all … and they lived happily ever after.