Charles Grandet (Rudolph Valentino) leads a care-free life in France. He is celebrating his birthday at a club and living it up. His father tells him he wants to send him to visit his uncle and cousin.
At Pere Grandet’s (Ralph Lewis) house it’s his daughter Eugenie’s (Alice Terry) birthday. Her father asks to see her gold. Each year of her life she has been give a gold piece for her birthday. Pere is a miserly man who not only hoards his money but weighs the flour on a scale. Meanwhile, suitors show up to court Eugenie. Pere says they are only after his gold.
Charles arrives with a letter from his father. You can tell by the look on Eugenie’s face she finds Charles quite handsome. Pere reads the letter that says his brother, Victor, is sending his son to him and by the time he reads this letter he will be no more. Their money had been swept away in speculation on the stock market. The next morning there is an article in the newspaper that Victor Grandet has committed suicide. Charles is now penniless.
While Charles is in France Eugenie overhears her father tell the Notary that he’d rather see her dead than married to Charles.
Charles returns and Pere tells him he has devised a way to clear his father’s name from dishonor.
In the evening Eugenie goes to Charles’ room and finds him sleeping. She notices there is no fire in the fireplace and covers him with a blanket. She finds a letter he has written to a woman named Annette. Eugenie is heartbroken. The letter goes on to say that after he has paid his passage to the West Indies he will have no more money left and it would be selfish to ask her to wait for him. It ends with him saying that his father sent him to live with his uncle and his daughter has the face of an angel. She has been his only comfort.
As Pere counts his gold again, Eugenie takes her little stash of gold to Charles. She tells him, “Until today I did not realize the value of money. It is only to bring happiness to those you hold dear.” Charles refuses to take it. She tells him that a cousin in almost a brother and surely he could borrow from his sister. He gives her a case his mother gave to him with his most precious possessions in it. He wants her to keep it until he can repay her.
In the garden Charles tells Eugenie she’s beautiful. Pere receives a letter saying that Victor Grandet’s debts have been bought for 25% of the value leaving Charles some money. Pere schemes to speed up Charles’ departure to Martinique. He also cheats him out of his father’s estate and inheritance. Charles and Eugenie say their tearful goodbyes.
Charles is now in Martinique where he is prospering. He writes a letter to Eugenie. He tells her he has only one thought and that is of the time when he can claim her pledge of love. Charles receives a letter from his uncle telling him that he has arranged for Eugenie’s marriage and that under the circumstance it would be best he not write to her again. His heartbreak fills his face. He tears up his letter to Eugenie.
A year later on Eugenie’s birthday her mother makes the comment that it’s strange how they haven’t heard from Charles since he left. Just like every year her father asks to see her gold. Fear comes over her face and her mother’s face because she no longer has it. He tells her that gold is scarce these days and her gold has increased so he wants to invest it. She tells him she has hidden it and not to force her to bring it out. Eugenie finally tells her father that her gold is gone. He is furious and grabs her and asks who she gave her gold to. He sees a map of Martinique on the floor and knows she gave the gold to Charles. He is now enraged. He drags her upstairs and locks her in her room. In all the commotion his wife has a heart attack and dies.
A month later you see people in the village gossiping about how Pere Grandet has gone crazy and he’s locked his daughter in her room.
The Notary pays Pere a visit to tell him the people are gossiping about him. He tells him that he is the only one in the village who knows Eugenie is not his own child. We also find out that part of Pere’s fortune belonged to his wife through her former husband’s estate. If Eugenie knew she could demand a division of the property. The Notary has drawn up a paper for Eugenie to sign to secure Pere’s future. However, he wants his son married to Eugenie. Pere goes to Eugenie’s room and tells her he can be mad at her no longer. He then gets her to sign the paper. Seems no one reads the things they sign!
As Pere walks the Notary out Eugenie finds letters to her on Pere’s desk that he has been keeping from her. She also finds the letter about Victor Grandet’s being bought. She now knows her father cheated Charles out of his inheritance and her out of happiness with Charles. As Eugenie runs out of the room Pere shuts the door and it locked from the outside. Eugenie goes to the garden to read her letters from Charles and Pere finds he’s locked in the room. What comes around goes around.
As Pere sits in a room consumed with rage and greed he starts to hallucinate. He “sees” a villager tell him that his greed will crush him. He also thinks gold hands are out to get him. Finally a large piece of furniture falls on him and kills him. Eugenie is now left a wealthy woman.
Years pass and the suitors are still seeking Eugenie’s had in marriage. After hearing that Charles has been back for two months and is supposed to marry an heiress, Eugenie announces her engagement to Cruchot. Eugenie goes to the garden to sit and Charles arrives. They have found their way back to each other.
This article was written for the Rudolph Valentino Blogathon. Click here to see a list of all participants.