SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. 'I Will Repay' is adapted from O. Henry's short story 'A Municipal Report', but this film version makes some changes in the story which I consider largely improvements. In O. Henry's original, the (unnamed) narrator is mostly a passive observer: here, named Roger Kendall, he plays an active role in the proceedings and ends up in a romantic relationship with Virginia Rodney: the beauteous Corinne Griffith, playing a character who didn't even exist in the original story.
Kendall, on the staff of a New York City magazine, has been sent to Nashville by his editor to offer a contract to one Azalea Adair, an unknown authoress. She turns out to be Southern gentility, living in genteel poverty and secretly supported by Caesar, a Negro coachman (played by a white actor in blackface) who was previously her family's property. But Miss Adair is also victimised by Steve, her late husband's son by a previous marriage, who bullies her into giving him any money that comes her way.
The story ends happily, with Kendall signing Miss Adair to a contract at eight cents per word: an absolutely huge sum for an author in 1917, as O. Henry could have testified had he not died in poverty seven years earlier. I will give the film-makers some credit for depicting the Negro character Caesar rather more sympathetically here than O. Henry treated him. My rating for this barely plausible but enjoyable yarn: 6 out of 10.
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