Scen.: John Emerson, Anita Loos. F.: H. Lyman Broening. Int.: Marion Davies (Mary Bussard), Norman Kerry (James Winthrop), Matt Moore (Ted Barnacle), Frederick Burton (Amos Bussard), Amelia Summerville (Mrs. Bussard), Constance Beaumar (Matilda Bussard), Elmer Grandin (John Bussard). Prod.: Marion Davies Film Corporation, Cosmopolitan Productions. Pri. pro.: 13 aprile 1919. Digibeta (incompleto). D.: 39′ a 20 f/s. Bn.
One of Dwan’s first assignments after leaving the Fairbanks company was this delightful romantic comedy, filmed in the winter of 1919 in New York City. Produced by William Randolph Hearst, the film was one of the newspaper mogul’s earliest attempts to impose his mistress, Marion Davies, as a movie star; based on a screenplay by Anita Loos and John Emerson (who had written many of the Fairbanks films), it represents one of the rare occasions when Hearst did not bury Davies beneath ponderous dramatic material and weighty production design but allowed her natural charm and comic gifts to shine through (it probably helped, as Frederic Lombardi reports in his biography of Dwan, that Hearst was out of town for much of the shoot). Dwan’s style now seems fully mature – the film, in fact, anticipates by two decades the fleet, warmhearted comedies that would become Dwan’s specialty in the 1940s – balancing the dynamism of the Fairbanks films with a willingness to anchor his camera and observe his actors in carefully modulated long takes. Davies, as the title character, is a full-fledged Dwan heroine, a strong-willed young woman who must live for a year unmarried in the home of her horribly repressive Boston relatives in order to inherit the fortune left her by her stepfather. But her resolve wavers when she meets a handsome bachelor (Norman Kerry), and, like all good Dwan women, immediately discerns that this is the man of her life. Dwan plays out their mutual attraction in an unusual, daringly sustained low-angle shot that finds the pair sitting on the floor, snugly framed by the legs of a table. Their playful banter is depicted with such articulate ease that the viewer all but forgets there is no dialogue. Presented here is the incomplete (three of five reels) version preserved by the Library of Congress; recently, a complete print has surfaced, which unfortunately will not be available in time for our screening.