Today is the anniversary of the release of the Douglas Fairbanks adventure comedy The Mollycoddle (1920).
Directed by Victor Fleming, this is one of the better of Doug’s pre-UA films. He plays a pampered dude who comes from a long line of Western, American He-Men, but was raised in Europe as a rich cream puff. All of his ancestors had fought in battles and tussled with Indians. He on the other hand, wears kid gloves and a pince nez. In Monte Carlo, he meets a group of young Americans and falls for a girl (Ruth Renick). His friends Shanghai him for a joke onto the yacht they’re staying on, owned by a rich American played by Wallace Beery, who turns out to be a bloodthirsty diamond smuggler. He knows there’s a spy on board and is convinced its Doug, but is thwarted in several attempts to kill him. (The spy, we eventually learn, is the girl). Before we are done, the adventure will take us all the way to Doug’s home state of Arizona, where Beery operates his diamond mine, using local Hopi Indians as slave labor. Doug will foil the villain, get the girl, and prove himself worthy of his western ancestors…right down to riding, roping, shooting, fist fights and wearing a ten gallon hat.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy including the work of Douglas Fairbanks don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc