The Woman in the Suitcase (Paramount, 1920)
The Woman in the Suitcase (1920) is a very intriguing title for a not very intriguing film.
Mary Moreland (Enid Bennett) is the daughter of a wealthy lawyer (William Conklin) who has been neglecting his wife (Claire McDowell) and staying out late. He claims it’s a business matter – his daughter discovers her name is Dolly (Dorcas Matthews). Mary tries to get to the bottom of the affair, rescue her father, and preserve her mother’s happiness.
There might be enough material here for a two-reeler, but this meager story is spread awfully thin over six reels. Apart from a subplot involving a man Mary hires to pose as her boyfriend to get nearer to Dolly, not much is omitted from the synopsis above.
The film is well photographed, I’ll give it that. Fred Niblo was a prolific director in the silent era, with titles including some of my personal favorites like The Mysterious Lady (1928), with Greta Garbo; Blood and Sand (1922), with Rudolph Valentino; and The Red Lily (1924), with Ramon Novarro and the star of this film, Enid Bennett.
Bennett and Niblo were married and frequently worked together. Overall, the acting is quite good in the film, and I would say that Bennett has a particularly strong grip on her character. There are a few scenes where her motivation seems to turn on a dime, but I attribute that more to poor writing and can’t imagine anyone else could make it more believable. The Woman in the Suitcase has the sort of plot that hinges on happenstance and would be resolved immediately if anyone ever said anything to anyone – but of course, then there’d be no movie.
I don’t think I can say it better than Wid’s Daily did when the film premiered: “the title is a good one” but the production “seldom reaches the entertainment point”.
Side note: with as well established as that puppy is at the start of the film, I was shocked that he doesn’t figure into the ending. I must also give credit for the attractive art titles the film sports, some of them animated.
My rating: I don’t like it.