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Douglas Fairbanks started his film career in breezy little comedies
that stressed his athleticism. REGGIE MIXES IN in a good example. Here
he plays Reggie, a rich young man (he was 33) who oddly gets involved
as a bouncer in a beer hall, a gang of thugs, and a love woman (Bessie
Love). No much sense to the plot, rather a string of events loosely
tied together and all aimed for Reggie to win the girl.
Fairbanks started in films in 1915 and right from the start, refused to play love scenes. So even in this 1916 film, Fairbanks and Love clutch but never kiss. He has a few terrific stunts, however, that keep this film surprising and brisk (at 47 minutes). Co-stars include Alma Rubens (hysterically named Lemona), Joseph Singleton (as the butler Old Pickleface), Lillian Langdon (as the aunt), and Frank Bennett (as Sammy the thug).
Reggie is the perfect character for Fairbanks in these early films because they allow him to polish his acting skills and presage his astonishing career as the swashbuckling superstar of the 20s, a career that combined his great athletic skills with a great sense of fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Douglas Fairbanks' first film "The Lamb" was released he was just
as surprised as the film execs (and D.W. Griffith) when it was a
success. He was contracted to Triangle-Fine Arts and was supposedly
under Griffith's supervision but Griffith was put off by his brashness
and was only too keen to leave him to the writing duo of Anita Loos and
John Emerson (who also didn't get on with Griffith). Anita Loos was the
originator of the wise cracking title and together they came up with an
endearing character for Doug - a sunny dispositioned, laughing at life
optimist. Joining him in "Reggie Mixes In", only his sixth movie, was
the lovely Bessie Love, a D.W. Griffith protégé.
Our hero Reggie (Fairbanks) is just fresh from college (by the look of him maybe 20 years before!!). He has a sweetie, Lemona (Alma Rubens) who has "one eye on him and the other eye on his bank account" but her secret heart really belongs to Sylvester!! While helping a lost child find her way home Reggie wanders into the "beer and beefsteak" part of town as opposed to the "champagne and oysters" section where he resides. He meets sweet Agnes (even sweeter Bessie Love), a new sort of girl for Reggie - poor she may be as well as a dancer at the notorious Gallagher's but she is the comfort of the slums. He moves out of home taking the hapless butler Pickleface with him!! Doug hadn't really hit his stride as an acrobatic derring do but the scenes between him and the dour Joseph Singleton are the best in the movie. Apart from an acrobatic display during the first scene, Singleton's reactionary facial expressions get the most laughs. Pickleface is not meant for the rough and tumble of slum life but Reggie shows inner resilience - during a night at Gallagher's he goes from being a cowardly custard to being offered the job of head bouncer - "My bouncer's a mutt, would you like the job?"!! He now has to deal with the notorious Gas House Gang whose leader wants to make Agnes his personal Jane and, unbeknownst to Reggie, has already vowed to do Reggie in!!
Fairbanks was never a poor boy trying to make good, he was always wealthy from the start and usually requiring a liberal lashing of beer and beefsteak to show him there was more to life than the shallowness of the idle rich!! That didn't mean the movies ended with love in an attic - no way!! In this one there is a convoluted ending where Agnes is seen to inherit money from a long lost uncle so she will be more appealing to Reggie's posh relatives!!
In this 1916 movie, while still working for Triangle and, essentially,
D.W. Griffith, Doug Fairbanks initially plays another idle young man of
the upper class, 'FRESH out of college', as the inter-titles point out
- but by some small incident, he finds himself in a poor neighborhood
one fine day; and falling in love with a poor girl who works as a bar
dancer out of necessity (played by young Bessie Love, who soon was to
become a big star herself)...
And so, without hesitation, he decides to leave his former surroundings - and, together with his faithful servant 'Pickleface' (wonderfully portrayed by Joseph Singleton), dressed in worker's clothes, goes to that bar to look for the girl he'd fallen for at first sight; and is hired as bouncer there! Which very soon gets him in trouble with the leader of the gas-house gang, who's also got an eye on pretty Agnes...
... And, of course, it gives Doug Fairbanks a LOT of opportunities to show his athletic stunts; that's undoubtedly one big part of the entertainment in this wonderfully unusual movie (especially for the female part of the audience...), another one are the many comical sequences; then there's the element of a very early 'pre-gangster movie' - and, maybe most important of all for the time it was made, the breaking down of the 'barriers' between the 'upper' and the 'lower' class; love conquers all!! In short: this is a GREAT movie and a GREAT time document, not to be missed by any real fan of classic movies by any means!
"Reggie Mixes In" is a below average vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks.
It's one of his earliest comedies, from before his turn to
swashbucklers in the 1920s. He plays the wealthy Reggie Van Deuzen, who
apparently was born into money since there's no indication in the film
that he worked for it. Reggie falls in love with a girl from the slums
and so decides to "mix in"; he pretends to be poor, rents a shabby flat
and gets a job as a bouncer at a rough nightclub. There, he mixes it up
with gang members and ends up fighting a gang boss for the girl. It's
not a very good scenario, and the pacing is rather slow and uneventful
for a Fairbanks comedyand it's not funny. Much of the humor is some
knockabout between Reggie and his servant, which wasn't Fairbanks's
usual style. Christy Cabanne wasn't a good director. Three of my least
favorite Fairbanks films ("The Lamb", "Flirting with Fate" and this
one) were made by him, and soon after he made them, Triangle fired him.
In his other early pictures, Fairbanks was beginning more fruitful
collaborations with the likes of Allan Dwan, John Emerson, Victor
Fleming and Anita Loos.
The print/transfer I saw was rather poor, but viewable. It may have been missing some footage, as there are some especially abrupt cuts between a couple scenes; otherwise, this was even more of a slipshod production. Additionally, the subplot of the other woman, Lemona, who's after Reggie's money, doesn't really go anywhere in the print I saw and, regardless, should have been dropped. The film ran about 45 minutes. Perhaps, one point of interest in "Reggie Mixes In" for classic cinema fans is Bessie Love as Doug's leading lady; in the silent and early sound eras, she was also a notable star.
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