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A novel by Leo Tolstoy provides the source for the rowdy and romantic silent-era adventure, The Cossacks, presented to today’s audiences in a superb print and with a colorful orchestral score by Robert Israel. john Gilbert, the screen’s famed “Great Lover,” portrays Lukashka, son of a Cossack Chieftain. Mocked for his peace-loving ways, the young Cossack proves he’s made of sterner stuff when he outrides and overwhelms enemy Turks who’ve escaped with his village’s horses. Yet greater tests of his courage and prowess await Lukashka. He also faces a romantic rival - a czarist prince intent on marrying Lukashka’s beloved (played by Renee Adorée, Gilbert’s costar in The Big Parade). Applauded by The New York Times’ Mordaunt Hall for its “earnest attention to the atmospheric detail,” the film is rife with celebration, ceremony and, above all, amazing trick-riding performed on galloping steeds by real-life Cossack horsemen.
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MGM co-starred Gilbert and Adoree to capitalize on their successful pairing in “The Big Parade.” George Hill directed most of the picture, with Clarence Brown coming in to finish it. Though most of the contemporary reviews were positive and the film features some exciting action sequences, Gilbert was unhappy with it and it marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the MGM silent star.
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