For my birthday, a friend gifted me a collection of 60 movies that span from the 1930s to the 1990s. So here we go!
Based on the romance novel by Barbara Cartland, A Hazard of Hearts stars a very young Helena Bonham Carter as unfortunate Serena Staverly who is won in a gambling game by the mysterious and broody Lord Justin Vulcan. (I still cannot get over that our hero’s name is Vulcan! It’s such a romance novel name.)
Here’s the plot: Serena’s dad played by Christopher Plummer for the first 10 minutes of the movie has a gambling problem. At his usual game at his cousin the pastor’s house, Lord Staverly’s honor is impugned by the the evil Lord Wrotham. Staverly feels FORCED to put his house and daughter’s hand in the pot just so he can prove that Wrotham isn’t awesome. He loses then commits suicide. All the other gentlemen bystanders can’t help but feel something is wrong about gambling a young girl in a poker game, but no one does anything about it until the mysterious Lord Vulcan wins the pot from Wrotham.
Instead of just dissolving the terms, Vulcan goes to claim his house and check out this girl. (Don’t worry! We later find out the mysterious Vulcan is an honorable man just not obviously due to mysterious circumstances.)
“Gee, I bet she has a wooden leg,” his friends tease. But then they find out Serena is YOUNG and BEAUTIFUl and therefore to be PITIED. What else can they think when the girl comes to meet them in her nightie?
Like all period heroines, Serena doesn’t tell Vulcan to get the f@#$ out of her house. She recognizes that she must uphold her dishonorable father’s honor and submits to Justin’s command. The house is sold and she is off to live with his mummy at Mandrake Hall.
From there, viewers learn how Vulcan can up his brooding intensity to Level 30, how his mummy is the fashionable version of evil incarnate, how highwaymen can be timely, how Helena Bonham Carter never gets flushed even when swooning, and how men are only attractive when they’re manhandling the ladies, unless said man is the villain in which case it’s always unattractive.
Tangent: I recently skimmed through Michael Kimmel’s Guyland in which he discusses how the Guy Code encourages unmanly behaviors like gambling away young girls in a dice game at your cousin the priest’s house. There are three main cultures in the Guy Code: of entitlement, protection and silence, and all three were on full display in that gambling scene. Even Vulcan showers in it when he zips over to Serena’s house to claim her.
What would the movie industry do for plots without the Guy Code?