R.D. Blackmore‘s classic novel Lorna Doone was brought to the big screen in 1934 for the first time as a talking picture. The thrilling romance was made into a silent film five times before ATP Studios made this production which stars John Loder and Victoria Hopper.
Lorna Doone is a fascinating story, a true classic romance, and this particular adaptation – although quaint – captures the excitement of the tale and the period setting (the English moorlands of the 1600s) beautifully. John Loder stars as John Ridd, a farmer whose father was murdered by a thieving band of rogues known as the Doones. The law has never been able to capture any of the Doones because they live in their own community in a valley hidden away from other villages. One day, as a young boy, John is rescued by a pretty girl near a waterfall. He never forgets her and years later, when he grows to manhood, he catches sight of her again near that same waterfall. Her name is Lorna Doone and she is the adopted daughter of the king of the thieves, Counsellor Doone.
A love blossoms between the two even though Lorna is aware that she could never leave the Doones, especially to wed one of the Ridds. John sees his only chance of marrying Lorna would be to kidnap her before she is betrothed to another member of the rogues….which he does, sparking an all-out war between the families.
Lorna Doone was filmed on location in Exmoor, Somerset, England and this really brings the rural atmosphere of the novel to life. There is a thrilling scene near the end when John Ridd rides on horseback chasing after the vile Carver Doone to fight with him singlehandedly. The music in the film is also lovely. Composer C. Armstrong Gibbs interspersed the dramatic story with lyrical pieces that were inspired by the music of the 17th-century.
A young Roger Livesey has a supporting role as Tom Faggus, a lovable rascal who has his eyes on John’s sister Anne, played by Margaret Lockwood who was making her film debut. Lockwood would play a highwayman herself in one of her most famous films, The Wicked Lady ( 1945 ), which was also set in 17th-century England.
Constance Metzinger runs the website Silver Scenes, “a blog for classic film lovers.”