“I love those I love and hate those I hate.”
There are several films in the early 1930s that were not too great for several reason: acting (which was still coming into a form since the actors now needed to talk), direction (cameras could now move… well to some degree), editing, and story. Several idols of the silent screen fell from grace during the early sound era. Some of them fell from their voices not being up to par with what the studios and the fans demanded. Some fell because their major popularity faded. No one suffered more from the fall from silent screen grace than John Gilbert. Unfortunately his fall came from his very home studio where they spread vicious lies about him because Gilbert did not want to cooperate. The films MGM gave Gilbert were below what any actor, let alone someone with Gilbert’s acting ability, should ever be given. Redemption was one of John Gilbert’s many completely unfortunate films that he was given so he could fail.
A young woman named Lisa (Eleanor Boardman) has her fortune told by a gypsy in a gypsy camp. The fortunate teller reveals to Lisa that she will meet and marry a dark man. A man named Fedya (Gilbert) sees Lisa and goes to her to try to charm her. Lisa’s fiancée Victor comes over. Fedya and Victor know each other. Victor tells Lisa that Fedya is a good guy but he is very irresponsible.
As the months pass Fedya and Lisa have been secretly seeing each other. Lisa breaks things off with Victor and marries Fedya. After a year of being married Fedya becomes restless. He begins to gamble and stay out until all hours of the night and morning. When their baby is born Lisa has Fedya promise to be good. He promises for the sake of their son. It is not long, though, until Fedya breaks his promise. He even makes a second promise and breaks that one as well. He gambles until he is bankrupt and has to sell the furniture. Lisa leaves her husband. Fedya had written her a letter that they should separate and she agreed but she still loves him. Lisa writes a letter to Fedya and has Victor take it to him. She tells Victor to tell Fedya she is waiting for him to come home.
Fedya goes to a gypsy resort where he meets a gypsy girl named Masha (Renee Adoree). Victor tracks down Fedya to this resort and tells his friend that Lisa wants him to come home. Fedya says that he loves Lisa so much and that he wants Victor to marry her.
Two months later Fedya is living in a cheap room. Masha is taking care of him. Her parents come to take her away. Fedya says he loves her like a sister. Masha loves Fedya more than a sister. Lisa comes during the argument. Fedya is upset she is there. Fedya tells Lisa he wants her to divorce him and marry Victor and forget him. Lisa loves him too much to let him go. Lisa goes home that night and tells Victor that seeing Masha with Fedya has let her move on from him.
Fedya has a letter brought to Lisa and Victor. He wrote them that by the time they read their letters he will be gone. Lisa and Victor think Fedya has killed himself. Lisa has a meltdown. She yells at Victor to get away from here that Fedya was the only man she every loved.
Fedya is not dead he went away with Masha. He reads in the paper that Lisa and Victor are to be married. Fedya talks to an old man in a bar that he had written Lisa a letter that he was going to kill himself. He was about to until Masha stopped him. She made it look like he drowned himself in a river. Another man overhears him and tells Fedya that he is going to blackmail Lisa and Victor to keep him quiet about what he has just heard. Fedya tracks the blackmailer down. The man calls for the police and rats on Fedya that he is defrauding the government pretending to be dead. Fedya is brought to jail. Lisa and Victor are brought before a judge with Fedya. To spare Lisa and Victor embarrassment Fedya takes a police officer’s gun and shoots himself.
Let me just say that there was nothing wrong with John Gilbert’s voice or acting. Gilbert, like most actors and actresses of the time, was over dramatic in some scenes but for the most part he was fantastic. He was charming and handsome. MGM totally screwed him over. Eleanor Boardman was great. I enjoy her acting. It was sad to see her act with Gilbert who was being pushed to the ground when they were in Bardleys the Magnificent together and were amazing. Renee Adoree was only in the film for a short time. Her career suffered from sound because she was French and spoke English with a heavy accent.
Redemption is not a very good film and it is not the fault of the acting. The story is sad, tragic and boring. No wonder the film did not do well audience were left feeling depressed. Redemption is not a film I highly recommend seeing unless you are a fan of John Gilbert or Renee Adoreee or Eleanor Boardman.