When a Man Loves

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When a Man Loves
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Crosland
Written by Bess Meredyth (adaptation/scenario)
Based on Manon Lescaut 
by Abbe Prevost
Starring John Barrymore
Dolores Costello
Music by Henry Hadley
Cinematography Byron Haskin
Frank Kesson
Edited by Harold McCord
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. (as Warner Brothers Production)
Release dates
  • August 21, 1927 (1927-08-21)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

When a Man Loves is a 1927 American silent historical drama film directed by Alan Crosland and produced and distributed by Warner Bros.. The picture stars John Barrymore and Dolores Costello in the oft filmed story of Abbe Prevost's Manon Lescaut.

The film was the third feature from Warners to have a pre-recorded Vitaphone soundtrack. Many of the same people who worked on the previous year's Don Juan worked on this picture (i.e. Alan Crosland, Bess Meredyth, Harold McCord, Byron Haskin).[1]

The UK release title of this film was His Lady.[2]


Chevalier Fabien des Grieux, who has forsworn the world for the church, falls passionately in love with young Manon Lescaut when he encounters her en route to a convent with her brother André. The lustful Comte Guillot de Morfontaine offers André a tempting sum for Manon, and learning of their bargain, Fabien takes her to Paris, where they spend an idyllic week in a garret. André finds her, persuades her to leave Fabien, and tries to force her into an alliance with Morfontaine--then rescues Manon from the advances of a brutal apache. Fabien, crushed to believe that Manon has become Morfontaine's mistress, is about to take his vows but is deterred by her love for him. King Louis sees Manon in Richelieu's drawing room and wins her. The rejected Morfontaine orders her arrest and deportation, but he is killed by Fabien, who joins Manon on a convict ship bound for America. After inciting the convicts to mutiny, he escapes with her in a small boat.


Premiere Vitaphone short subjects[edit]

When A Man Loves premiered at the Warners' Theatre in New York City, New York on August 21, 1927.

Title Year
Quartette from "Rigoletto" 1927
Van and Schenck "The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland" 1927
Charles Hackett of the Chicago Opera Company Sings "Questa o quella" and "La donna è mobile" from "Rigoletto" 1927


This film yields a lot of John Barrymore's influence. It re-teams him with Dolores Costello from The Sea Beast of 1925 presumably at his insistence. The film is the third and last film in his first Warners contract having been preceded by The Sea Beast and Don Juan. He and Crosland would re-team once again at United Artists to make The Beloved Rogue, another French costume story that was selected because of the popularity of When a Man Loves. This film version of When a Man Loves repeats the ending of The Sea Beast, that is supplanting a happy ending rather than the tragic ending of the source material.[3]


When the film was being played in the theatre, people were so amazed that the sound was coming from the speakers, not an actual orchestra. A New York Times reviewer said that he and probably the rest of the audience forgot the fact that there was actually no orchestra in the theatre. At the end of the film, The Vitaphone Symphony Orchestra was revealed to the audience for about 15 seconds.

Home media[edit]

On June 16, 2009,When a Man Loves was released on DVD from Warner's Archive Collection. This was the film's first home video appearance anywhere.[4]


  1. ^ The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1921-30 by The American Film Institute, c. 1971
  2. ^ British titled novelization of the film
  3. ^ John Barrymore, A Bio-bibliography by Martin Norden, c.1995
  4. ^ When a Man Loves at silentera.com database

External links[edit]