Thomas Meighan shines in “The Mating Call,” a 1928 silent film that casts him as Leslie Hatten, a World War 1 vet who returns home to find his marriage annulled and his town ruled by a KKK-style group called “The Order.” His former wife, Rose, played by Evelyn Brent, marries the leader of the Order, Lon Henderson, a philandering businessman played by Alan Roscoe. But the unhappy Rose appears at Leslie’s door when Leslie returns from the war. She’s determined to start an affair with Leslie, but the hooded henchmen of the Order barge in to stop it.
In the first part of the movie, which takes place in Europe, Leslie pines openly about Rose with his fellow soldiers. In a flashback, he marries her at the end of his leave, but his unit ships him out right after he gives Rose her first marital kiss. After the war, Leslie returns to find the truth, but resolves to have nothing to do with Rose. He finally rushes off to Ellis Island and marries a young Eastern European woman, Catherine (Renée Adoreé), moments before the immigration authorities deport her.
Leslie, a man with a strong character, seems ready to give in to Rose just before he marries Catherine. Even though the Order may object to Leslie’s marriage to Catherine, an Eastern European, they are more interested in meting out justice for petty and major crimes. Their justice always involve a kangaroo court, with punishments that include whippings and, presumably, hangings. When a woman is found dead on Leslie’s property, the Order drags him off to meet a hooded judge and he faces the harsh penalties.
The story for the film resembles “The Canadian,” from 1926. In that film, Meighan’s character marries an English woman, takes her to an Alberta ranch, and then must learn to live with her. Renée Adorée’s Catherine finds herself attracted to Leslie, but he’s as clueless with her as he is with Rose. Adorée’s nude swim created a lot of controversy at the time, but it’s not very revealing.