In the midst of an emotional depression, a man hires a murderer to kill him. But the despair soon passes, and the man must now escape the killer he's hired to end his life.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
Gladys - the Girl
Howard Gaye ...
Roland Dabney
W.E. Lawrence ...
Harry Hansum
George Beranger ...
Automatic Joe
Dorothy Haydel ...
Phyllis
Lillian Langdon ...
Mrs. Kingsley
Wilbur Higby ...
The Landlord
J.P. McCarty ...
The Detective
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Storyline

In the midst of an emotional depression, a man hires a murderer to kill him. But the despair soon passes, and the man must now escape the killer he's hired to end his life. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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9 July 1916 (USA)  »

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The Assassin  »

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1.33 : 1
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When Augy is escaping a Policeman jumping into a car, the camera is visible in the front car window. See more »

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A familiar premise, well handled
7 August 2002 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Douglas Fairbanks is remembered primarily as a swashbuckling hero, the original Robin Hood, Zorro, and Thief of Bagdad, but in his earlier years on screen he appeared in a series of action comedies, and thereby created a template that would be followed by a number of latter-day comedians, notably Harold Lloyd. Young Doug is a bright-eyed and ambitious "go-getter" in these films, much like the character embodied by Lloyd in his great comedies of the '20s. The stories are breezy and light, and usually culminate in a chase of some sort. On occasion, as in Wild and Woolly and The Mollycoddle, Doug starts off as a foolish or downright effete character who must take some hard knocks in order to grow up and win the respect of his peers, his girl, and his audience, the basic formula that Lloyd and Buster Keaton would employ, too.

Flirting with Fate is a good example of this sort of comedy, and while I wouldn't rank it with Doug's best work of the period it makes for an entertaining hour's worth of viewing. Here he plays an artist with financial problems, in love with a girl from a much higher social set. One minor drawback for viewers who don't know what's coming is that the early scenes of plot exposition are slowly paced and short on laughs; the supporting actors play it straight, and we wait in vain for the jolly title cards, sight gags, and satirical touches that abound in the later Fairbanks comedies. It takes a while for the comic situation to kick in, and meanwhile a series of depressing setbacks are suffered by our hero, eventually causing him to make a half-hearted attempt at suicide. We never really believe that Doug is going to go through with it, but the dark tone of these opening scenes may come as an unwelcome surprise for viewers expecting laughs from the outset.

Doug's inability to kill himself brings about a plot twist that gets thing rolling, and it's a twist that may have been familiar even in 1916: Doug (who is uncharacteristically wimpy in this movie) can't face killing himself, so he hires a hit man. Then, of course, his luck changes for the better, and he wants very much to live, only now he must avoid assassination from the killer he hired, who may be disguised. Doug himself dons the world's most unconvincing fake beard and goes to great lengths to elude his assassin. This is where the movie really takes off, and the second half is quite funny. The actor who plays the intended hit man, George Beranger, is terrific, so good he practically steals the show from the nominal star. There are several sequences where Doug fearfully imagines scenarios in which he might get killed, and these deliberately overplayed, melodramatic vignettes -- strikingly performed before black backdrops -- are the highlight of the film, thanks largely to Beranger's burlesque villainy. Douglas Fairbanks would go on to produce far more accomplished films than Flirting with Fate, but those interested in his early work will find this one quite enjoyable, once that crucial twist takes place.


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