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Sunday, February 6, 2011

A ROMANCE OF THE REDWOODS (1917)


Adolph Zukor, of Famous Players-Lasky, was trying to hold down costs when he tethered top star Mary Pickford to top filmmaker Cecil B. deMille for two pics. They don’t really bring out the best in each other, he revels in the big picture and she shines in detail, but they made do on this likable, if unlikely variant on David Belasco’s GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST, already made by deMille in 1915. Mary’s an orphan traveling West to live with her Uncle, and unaware of his recent death. But somebody’s there to greet her, it’s ‘Black’ Brown, a highwayman who found her Uncle’s body and is now trying to go straight under his fine, honest name. These two seem stuck with each other. Trouble is, Brown can’t quite ditch his thieving ways and Mary can’t quite give up trying to make a new man of him. The once spectacular location footage is only hinted at in current prints, but there are just enough character bits, gags & story twists to keep things lively. Watch Mary do her magic when she discovers a spare bandito ‘kerchief in a pocket or when she saves her man with an indiscreet lie at the climax. The final sub-title really hits it, ‘Boys - I reckon when twenty men have been fooled by one small woman - - they’d better take their medicine.’ That’s our Mary. Be sure to look for character actor Tully Marshall in his relative youth along with deMille regulars like Raymond Hatton & Elliott Dexter as ‘Black’ Brown.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Plot holes abound, but the biggest is how Mary finds her ‘Uncle’ since the imposter has just moved to a new town where no one will know him. Yet, she takes a coach & a guide right to the place.

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