A showcase for the versatile and photogenic Gloria Swanson, THE LOVE OF SUNYA is a standard "women's picture" dressed up with lavish sets, chic costuming, and some unusual effects.
In ancient Egypt, a maiden (Gloria Swanson) dies while attempting to elude the advances of a lecherous priest (Hugh Miller). Centuries later, after many incarnations, maiden and priest meet again. He is now a wandering yogi (Hugh Miller) seeking to expiate his ancient sin. She is Sunya (Gloria
Swanson), a young woman confronted with a difficult decision: Should she leave for Paris with the impresario Paolo De Salvo (Andres de Segurola) to train for a career in grand opera? Or, should she wed the wealthy Mr. Goring (Anders Randolf) and save her father (John Miltern) from financial ruin?
Or, should she marry the man she loves, an aspiring young engineer named Paul Judson (John Boles)? Thanks to the yogi and his crystal ball, Sunya is given the opportunity to look into her alternative futures.
If she goes to Paris, according to the crystal, she will become a famous diva, but she will also become the alcoholic mistress of De Salvo, who will steal from her. Ultimately, her brother (Raymond Hackett), in an attempt to defend his sister's honor, will take a shot at De Salvo and hit Paul, who
is visiting Paris, instead. If Sunya marries Goring, her future will be just as dim. Her husband will tire of her and leave her for a younger woman (Pauline Garon). After becoming the dupe in a trumped-up sex scandal, Sunya will wind up divorced, disgraced, and destitute.
After seeing into her various futures, Sunya wisely decides to follow her heart, marry Paul, and let her brother solve their father's financial problems. The errant priest has redeemed himself at long last.
Wishing to minimize the risks of her first producing venture, Swanson settled on a tried-and-true story which had enjoyed success on both stage and screen. The picture was chosen as the inaugural presentation of New York City's mammoth new Roxy Theater. Opening-night festivities included
selections by a 100-piece symphony orchestra and filmed greetings from President Calvin Coolidge, Mayor Jimmy Walker, and Thomas Edison. THE LOVE OF SUNYA's reviewers were less kind to the movie than to its star. "All the critics agreed that I had out-Swansoned Swanson," the star proudly recalled
in her autobiography.
Swanson knew how to register on silent film. She is particularly striking in SUNYA's Paris segment, especially in her turbaned scene, in which she anticipates the look and manner of her most famous character: Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950). Elsewhere in this segment, she demonstrates her
versatility with a deft and amusing drunk scene.
In some movies of this genre, the heroine must choose between love and wealth; in others, between love and fame. In THE LOVE OF SUNYA, a self-described "drama of invincible destiny," audiences get all three options for the price of two. They are also given the rare opportunity of having their cake
(a two-layered tragedy) and eating it, too (a happy ending). The scenario is old-fashioned enough to maintain that a woman (at least this woman) should opt for marriage over a career--but hip enough to insist that marrying for security (and stubbornly trying to save a hopeless marriage, as Sunya
does) is just as unhealthy as careerism. (Violence, substance abuse.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A showcase for the versatile and photogenic Gloria Swanson, THE LOVE OF SUNYA is a standard "women's picture" dressed up with lavish sets, chic costuming, and some unusual effects. In ancient Egypt, a maiden (Gloria Swanson) dies while attempting to elude… (more)