The Romany

Runaway Scottish girl befriended by a Romany chief - Martin Thornton's artistic production of a rather thin gipsy story - Fine acting and beautiful Scottish settings.

To avoid MacDonald, whom her wealthy aunt wishes her to marry, Flora runs away and, meeting with an accident, takes shelter with a band of gipsies. Despite the superstitious anger of his tribe and the jealousy of Valia, the Romany chief insists on carrying out his promise to protect Flora until her sweetheart, Robbie, has enough money to wed. During a thunderstorm, MacDonald attempts to kidnap Flora, but is killed by lightning. Robbie, who has won a big money prize in a sheepdog contest, rescues Flora from a burning caravan, whilst the Romany chief, his self-imposed duty fulfilled, is free to marry Valia and return to his tribe.

Remarkably clever acting and beautifully photographed Scottish exteriors are the outstanding features of this production by F. Martin Thornton, of an original screen story by Eliot Stannard. As a vehicle for racy glimpses of gipsy life, the play serves well, but, as drama, it is thin and artificial. Thanks to Mr. Thornton's excellent direction, in addition to the merits already mentioned, it makes on the whole an attractive, if unequal entertainment.
How a Romany chief chivalrously shelters a runaway Scottish maid from an importunate suitor and thereby incurs the superstitious wrath of his followers and the jealousy of his gipsy sweetheart forms the subject of the story. Ultimately, the undesired suitor is killed in a thunderstorm, while the fair refugee, after behaving vey ungratefully to her protector, pairs off with her true lover, leaving the gipsy sweethearts free to be happy again.
The dramatic interest is fogged to some extent by the uncertainty of several of the leading characters' motives. Whether the Romany chief falls temporarily in love with Flora and, if not, why he breaks with his tribe to shelter an unknown wanderer as an act of pure quixotry (not usually associated with the gipsy temperament) are among the points which need clearing up. Vague, and apparently illogical also, is the behaviour of Flora, the runaway heroine, who, despite a charming perfomance by Peggy Hathaway, is made an extremely unsympathetic character by the action. If she had disclosed to the gipsies the existence of her true lover (as she had every reason to do), nobody would have been jealous, and all the trouble would have been saved. Moreover, her ingratitude to her protector is singularly unconvincing.
Despite weaknesses in the argument of the play, its development introduces numberless incidents of the utmost effectivenss. As the reckless Romany chief, Victor McLaglen gives a superb performance. Hugh E Wright draws a richly humorous portrait of a gipsy 'medicine man' - a characterisation which is a joy in itself, irrespective of its relevancy to the story. Ida Fane's study of the venerable Scottish grandmother is a powerfully dramatic study, whilst Irene Norman, although hardly a Romany type, makes a very pleasing Valia.
Scenically and photographically, the film is an outstanding piece of work, enormously to the credit of Mr Thornton and Percy Strong, his cameraman. Rarely, if ever, has the characteristic atmosphere of Scotland been so faithfully interpreted in screen pictures. The long shots of a Highland valley, with a gipsy encampment in the foreground, and the misty grey mountains looming distantly behind, have an individual quality which is rarely seen in films. There are also many striking effects of sunlight and shadow, besides one of the most convincing thunderstorms yet accomplished.
The titling is good, though the dialogue is occasionally a little stilted. Such a phrase as 'this mad philandering' does not sit well on the lips of a Scottish countrywoman.
As a whole, The Romany should appeal consistently to middle-class and better-class houses. The weaknesses of its plot are more than counterbalanced by first-rate acting, delightful pictorial effects, and such characteristic touches as the scenes of a sheepdog contest. A production of real artistic distinction and strongly British flavour, it must be regarded as yet another noteworthy success for Welsh Pearson.'

TitleThe Romany
SourceThe Bioscope


Romany, The