A young man can only get the woman he loves if he becomes famous and manages to get his picture in the newspapers. He determines to let nothing stand in the way of his doing exactly that, ...
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A young man can only get the woman he loves if he becomes famous and manages to get his picture in the newspapers. He determines to let nothing stand in the way of his doing exactly that, and in the process winds up getting involved with a gang of criminals and a locomotive chase. Written by
This film is often cited for developing Douglas Fairbanks's movie stardom. He starred in two previous films, "The Lamb" and "Double Trouble" (both 1915), but "His Picture in the Papers" is credited with fleshing out Fairbanks's persona for the first part of his career in modern comediesbefore he turned to swashbucklersand for introducing some of the fundamentals and wit characteristic of the formulas for these pictures. It was his first collaboration with John Emerson and Anita Loos, both of whom would support Fairbanks in several of his best early comedies, including "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish" (1916) and "Wild and Woolly" (1917). Even in the Fairbanks comedies where those two are not credited, it may be said that their influence is demonstrated by the adoption of similar vehicles for the star.
Alistair Cooke ("Douglas Fairbanks: the making of a screen character") praised Emerson and Loos for "a willingness to let Fairbanks's own restlessness set the pace of the shooting and his gymnastics be the true improvisations on a simple scenario." Indeed, there is plenty of fast-paced editing heresometimes the shot successions are too quick, I think. The train gag seemed especially choppy. Yet, I generally prefer a bit too quick to some of the lethargic early features. There's an especially good match cut where Doug gets out of bed cut to his purchasing an automobile. Additionally, the scenario provides Doug with the usual romance and a goal (this time, an ironic effort by him struggling to attract publicity), which prominently feature his athleticism, seemingly effortless acrobatics, boyish masculinity, and smile. As in some of his later vehicles (e.g. "Wild and Woolly", "Reaching for the Moon"), he's trapped in a dull office job and effeminizing modern society; in this one, he secretly indulges in carnivorism while trying to sell his father's vegetarian product, and when he kisses a girl, he does so on the mouth, instead of the "sanitary kiss" the Melville character gives by tapping a face with his fingers. "His Picture in the Papers", however, doesn't have as cohesive a scenario as some of Fairbanks's later pictures. The subplot of the girl's father's problems with the weasel gang, for example, should've been dropped.
In ranking Loos the 25th most influential person in film history, Scott Smith ("The Film 100") cites her work on "His Picture in the Papers" and her earlier work at Biograph under Griffith for introducing the role of dialogue cards (or intertitles) and her witty phrases for introducing satire to cinema. "She was the unspoken 'voice' of Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks," Smith said. In one title card, when Melville kisses the girl, it says, "Note the kiss": an example of Loos making a wisecrack directly to the audience. Another card calls attention to the movie being a movie: "Ain't he the REEL hero?" Loos wrote similarly revealing, self-referential winks in Fairbanks's other films. Title cards are especially plentiful in the film's introduction, which slow down the otherwise fast pace of shot successions.
"His Picture in the Papers" isn't the best of Fairbanks's modern comedies, but it's a good introduction to these films and, as somewhat the beginning of them, is historically interesting in tracing the evolution of Fairbanks's screen persona and the characteristics of his vehicles.
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