It. tit.: Amici per la pelle; Sog.: John McDermott; Scen.: Paul Schofield; F.: George Schneiderman; Int.: Buck Jones (Bim), Helen Ferguson (Mary Bruce, the teacher), George E. Stone (Bill), Duke R. Lee (sheriff), William Buckley (Harvey Cahill), Edwin Booth Tilton (Dottor Stone), Eunice Murdock Moore (miss Stone), Burt Apling (railway worker), Slim Padgett, Pedro Leone (the outlaw), Ida Tenbrook (waitress), John J. Cooke (old man); Prod.: Fox-20th Century Brand; Pri. pro.: 14 novembre 1920. 35mm. L. or.: 5 bobine. L.: 1356 m. D.: 50’ a 24 f/s. Bn.
Ford was loaned to the Fox Film Corporation by Universal in 1920. Although a step above Universal in prestige, William Fox’s company similarly catered to a relatively unsophisticated clientele with its staple line of sentimental melodramas and bread-and-butter Westerns. Borrowing Ford was something of a coup for Fox, which was hoping to lure more ambitious filmmakers to its West Coast lot. The director was attracted by the prospect of higher production budgets, by the somewhat wider range of material Fox offered him, and, not the least of his concerns, by a higher salary (six hundred dollars a week). After three last films for Universal in 1921, Ford would sign a longterm contract with Fox. The cowboy actor Buck Jones, a likably unpretentious performer who died in Boston’s disastrous Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in 1942, was the star of Ford’s first two movies for Fox. The initial one is a delightful bucolic comedy, Just Pals (1920), which was rediscovered along with several other Ford silents in the Fox vaults during the early 1970s. Jones’s Bim, the town loafer, befriends a ten-year-old drifter (George E. Stone), and they become unlikely heroes in this modestly engaging film that blends Western motifs with small-town nostalgia redolent of such D. W. Griffith films as True Heart Susie and A Romance of Happy Valley. Ford mischievously appropriated some personality traits of his beloved high school English teacher Lucien Libby for the lazy, amiable Bim. Though such rustic Americana already seemed anachronistic as the country entered the Roaring Twenties, on one level a film such as Just Pals offered Ford’s target audience emotional reassurance against changing times. But within that reactionary format, Ford was able to be slyly subversive, directing audience sympathy to two social outcasts, a child and a childlike man, in a fable offering a piquant variation on his “noble outlaw” theme.
(from Searching for John Ford)