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Monday, June 30, 2008

JUST PALS (1920)

This modest Buck Jones rural dramedy(a five-reel feature) was John Ford's first pic @ Fox Studios. The print is in reasonable shape and the film turns out to be a real charmer. Jones was pushed ahead @ Fox to keep Western superstar Tom Mix in line, but under Ford he comes across as a far more natural actor, with a modern style and brooding good looks. He’s the scapegrace in a small rural town whose life is turned about when he falls for the local schoolmarm & also finds himself unexpectedly in charge of a runaway kid hobo. Ford's use of landscape and train settings are so charged with character and drama that the ensuing melodramatic improbabilities seem not contrived, but inevitable. Indeed, the first half of the film may have influenced Chaplin's THE KID/’21, but then the plot piles up as Buck has to save the boy from reward hunters, his girl from a charge of raiding the local memorial fund and himself from a lynch mob! All in 50 minutes! D. W. Griffith remains Ford’s model, but his own voice is already unmistakable.

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